In “Bend It Like Beckham,” the 2002 comedy about a young British woman trying to balance her Indian upbringing with her obsession with soccer, the main character spends what time she can holed up in her bedroom watching Manchester United games on television, her walls covered in posters of her favourite player, David Beckham.
The set was like a scene out of Ann-Carolyn Lang’s childhood, she realized this summer when watching the movie for the first time in a long time, aghast that her girlfriend had never seen it. Growing up in Germany, Lang’s walls were covered in posters of the country’s soccer stars, like Bastian Schweinsteiger and Philipp Lahm.
All the imagery featured male players, she realized all these years later.
“We have great female players but they’re not elevated to that same level or status and we’re far from the point where every girl in Canada has a poster of a soccer player on her wall,” Lang said.
So she set out to change those visuals for the next generation. In August, Lang approached friend Mandela Smith, a concept artist and animator she met on their middle school’s soccer team, about creating posters of female players for a whole new wave of athletes.
The program took on new meaning this fall for Lang, who had planned to play in League 1 Ontario Women, a semi-professional league for women age 17 or older, before the coronavirus pandemic put those plans on hold. As part of the league’s player advisory group, she aligned the poster campaign with league commissioner Carmelina Moscato’s initiative to get more women into coaching. And so Elevate was born, promoting the visibility of Canadian female athletes while raising money to fund five C-level coaching licences, worth about $6,000, to help start a handful of L1OW players on their coaching journey.
Canada has 7,086 licensed female soccer coaches in the country, according to the 2019 FIFA Women’s Football Member Association Survey Report. That’s second in the world behind the United States, but accounts for just 19 per cent of the licensed coaching pool in Canada. Federal data from 2015 found only 25 per cent of Canadian coaches in all sports are women.
Lang herself has never played for a female coach despite……….
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