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Ottawa TFC Telegram: Community pulls together to pull off soccer season that produced new heights

By Ottawa Sports Pages, For Ottawa TFC Soccer Club

It was a year that featured a groundbreaking new championship and an alum who won the biggest prize in sport, but Ottawa TFC should also get a trophy in its growing case for simply having a mostly normal soccer season in 2021.

“It was long, and there was definitely nothing relaxing about the COVID period whatsoever,” comments Ottawa TFC General Manager Pavel Cancura. “But it’s been so good to get everyone back on the field, for sure.”

There was a pile of competitive success on the pitch, including a first Ontario Provincial Development League title with the Ottawa TFC U17 girls.

“A few years back, we were excited to have our first OYSL teams, and then going in those leagues where we really struggled,” Cancura highlights. “It’s nice to see the progress of the club.”

Another sign of that evolution came from the Ottawa TFC U14 girls, who narrowly missed the playoffs. After their final game, it wasn’t, “alright, have a nice winter, see you in the spring.” Their coach gave them the next day off, and they were back at it the day after with their regular routine of 5-day-a-week training.

“The kids want to do it too, which is pretty cool,” Cancura underlines. “Tell the kids that there’s a day off and there’s almost a collective sigh of frustration.”

Olympic champion and club product Vanessa Gilles was part of the first generation that began training at the rate that’s now become enshrined in Ottawa TFC’s renowned after-school academy. Getting the players together to watch the Olympic final was another moment that showed the growth of the club’s girls’ soccer program alongside the Canadian women at the top international level.

“Everyone was just going ballistic,” Cancura recalls. “I don’t think you would have seen that years ago.”

Having Gilles return to the club with her gold medal in September was of course an unforgettable experience.

“Again, I was floored. Everyone showed up,” Cancura recounts. “Poor Vanessa was signing autographs and taking pictures for hours, after it was dark.”

The enthusiasm for soccer has certainly translated to the grassroots level, with record registration for U4-U9 winter sessions.

“We have a really blossoming rec program,” Cancura notes. “People are coming in droves.”

Having such a large volume of players return to soccer was a major high point of the season, as was the exceptional response from club staff, leaders and volunteers to bring soccer back, since that can’t be done at the snap of a finger.

“They really stepped up,” Cancura details. “We were a skeleton crew this summer, and with the coaches we had, we were basically saying, ‘Can you just run three times the stuff that you used to, and you know, do it with a smile, and can you do it for less money than the original job paid you?’

“The staff certainly deserve a lot of credit because if people don’t roll up their sleeves and do a whole heap of extra work, then the season doesn’t happen.

“There are a lot of those kind of untold stories on the inside about how all these dedicated people kept this club going. This was a year where we did a lot together as a community.”

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