The 2020 Olympics have been monumental, with Canadian athletes bringing in 24 medals – the most in the country’s 120 year Olympic history. 1 of the 7 Canadian gold medals went to the Women’s National Football (Soccer) Team (CWNT) who defeated Sweden in an exciting penalty shootout on August 6th. The team featured two Brampton locals, Kadeisha Buchanan and Ashley Lawrence, and their success is sure to be instrumental in bringing women and girls back into football in the post-pandemic era.
Melanie Bradley, the General Manager of Brams United Girls Soccer Club in Brampton says that ~25% of girls have not returned to sport since the pandemic. However, with 4.4 million people watching the final, she is hopeful that people will come back to playing the sport that they love. She spoke from first hand experience, after seeing the hope this sparked in youth at the finale watch party held in Caledon. The club is putting together various different efforts and initiatives to support this recovery – including changing some of the size and lengths of the programs to accommodate social distancing concerns. They have also made it a point to refund families in the case that restrictions cut off the season halfway through. Ultimately, Bradley and her team have been working around the clock to shift strategy as restrictions and guidelines change throughout the pandemic, keeping parents and players engaged throughout.
However, for the game to truly grow around the world, Cathy Senior, the President of Brams United, says that it is our responsibility to watch the game year-round and not just during the Olympics or World Cup. Bradley elaborates by highlighting the incredible talent displayed throughout the year in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). Following this win, they are hopeful that Toronto can one day be home to a NWSL franchise, and bring even more attention to the sport.
According to Senior, The City of Brampton is, and always has assisted sports at every level. Bradley and Senior both agree that the City’s contributions in maintaining the pitches, training facilities, as well as reaching out to help have been crucial in keeping clubs like Brams United up and running for all these years. In fact, following the gold medal victory, Mayor Patrick Brown and the City of Brampton hosted a celebration event in City Hall to commemorate the award.
At the event, it was announced that both Buchanan and Lawrence will have a football field in Brampton named after them. A great honour to the athletes, the Olympic Champions said that the reception since the victory has been surreal, and thanked the city for putting their support. Buchanan and Lawrence’s role on the roster has been a huge inspiration for Canadians everywhere, and we may be witnessing the start of many years of international success.
Brampton is a city rife with talent, and with the support of grassroots organizations like Brams United helping to build future leaders and superstars, there is no limit to how far our talent can go. The success achieved by Buchanan and Lawrence on the world’s biggest stage will inspire future players to mimic their success on fields across Brampton for years to come.