Skip to main content

An official with Soccer Nova Scotia says the recent success of Canada’s men’s national soccer team will help get more kids playing soccer in Nova Scotia. 

“Now we’re seeing a team that’s competing and beating some of the best teams in North America… Canada’s being taken seriously on the world stage now,” says Matt Holton, Soccer Nova Scotia’s director of performance pathways. 

The recent success of Canada’s men’s national soccer team is drawing renewed attention to the pivotal role immigration has played for the squad. 

National men’s team coach John Herdman highlighted that in a post-match press conference on Jan. 30, 2022, after a 2-0 win over the U.S. 

“I’m an immigrant here to Canada,” he said. “We’ve got a high immigrant population, many of those people have come from football countries and, you know, the national team have been beaten up for so long, so I think there’s a lot of people that can now rally around the sport they love and pull a red jersey on at the same time and just be proud that we’re talking about football in this country in a way that we’ve got stars now. 

“We’ve got young, star players that are going to be around for a long generation.” 

While success is nothing new to the national women’s team, which has medalled at the past three summer Olympics, including gold last summer in Tokyo, the men’s team hasn’t been to the Olympics since 1984 and only went to the World Cup once, in 1986. 

Holton says Nova Scotia hasn’t really had representation on the national male side. 

“We’ve always done particularly well on the female side,” he says. “We’ve always had good representation on national rosters, at a youth level, and we still see that.” 

However, he thinks that will change, in part because of the presence of the Halifax Wanderers FC, who compete in the Canadian Premier League (CPL). 

In the past, if young men hadn’t made it to a professional academy with one of the Canadian Major League Soccer (MLS) teams by the time they were 17 or 18, that was it for their pro soccer hopes. 

“Maybe you didn’t get spotted by one of the MLS clubs, but we’ve got a club right in our city and you’ve got that to aspire to… more kids are staying in the game because they see a genuine pathway for themselves,” Holton says. 

Holton says the province’s immigrant communities have long been a key part of the sport’s popularity in the province. 

“If you come from a country that loves soccer, then when you move you’re going to try to find that environment in your new country,” he says. 

Holton immigrated to Canada from England in 2007 and says that since he’s arrived, he’s noticed strong interest in the game from Nova Scotia’s immigrant communities. 

He says youth soccer registrations in Nova Scotia have rebounded and are back above pre-COVID numbers. He credits that to parents wanting their kids to be active, as well as the success of the men’s and women’s national squads. 

“If you’ve got a national team or some kind of role models or heroes to look up to, it’s tangible,” Holton says. 

Richard Woodbury

Richard writes for both local and national publications and his work has been published by Reuters, Metro and Enterprise Magazine.

Leave a Reply