Why European football clubs are opening camps in Canada

TORONTO  – There is growing international interest in Canada’s young soccer players as European clubs like FC Barcelona open training camps across Canada.

“We think here in Canada there’s a lot of passion for soccer.  When we started the project we saw a lot of people interested in soccer,” said Francisco Cervera of FC Barcelona in Canada.

European coaches and camps have come to Canada in the past but soccer experts believe we will likely see more international clubs open training camps across the country in the next few years.

“As the world gets smaller and soccer gets a more global brand,  I think it’s becoming more frequent,” said Bobby Lennox, the executive director of Grassroots Development with the Ontario Soccer Association.

Many in the soccer community believe the international interest shows the untapped level of talent in Canada.

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“You have a local kid from Scarborough, Jonathan de Guzman with the Dutch national team and players like that have set the trend and tone and now all these teams out there are like, oh they want to find the next de Guzman,” said Leslie Fitzpatrick of Toronto Skillz FC.

The Ontario Soccer Association believes interest in the sport is growing, especially given the recent success of the Canadian Women’s National Team and the expansion of  MLS in Canada.   There are 380,000 registered players in Ontario and nearly 850,000 registered Canada Soccer members in Canada.

“It’s an opportunity for the clubs to establish a strong foothold in this country to not only develop future talent for their clubs but also basically cultivate business opportunities generate more revenue,” said Vijay Setlur, a sports marketing Instructor with York University’s Schulich School of Business.

The OSA says the international attention to Canadian players is a complement to our national soccer scene than competition.

“Our clubs do a wonderful job, our academies do a wonderful job but we can always learn to improve.  I think it’s an opportunity for coaches to learn as well,” adds Lennox.

Homegrown talent hope it will help improve Canada’s chances of gaining another spot on the World Cup stage.

“By these clubs establishing academies in North America, specifically in Canada, they’re basically providing a bridge between elite level soccer and the major club teams,” said Setlur.

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There are many soccer camps to choose from. When it comes to soccer camps, the OSA has a warning for families.  “Make sure it’s a credible organization,” says Lennox.

Here are three tips for choosing a soccer camp:

  • Do your homework:  research the organization, speak to club coaches and technical directors
  • Visit the camp before you sign up:  what type of environment is it?  Is it a positive and safe environment for your child?
  • Check the player to coach ratio:  The OSA says 10:1 (Ten players to 1 coach) is appropriate for coaches to look after the children safely.

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