Canada eager to host World in Langley
Photo credit: 2013 WWC Finland
By: Ameeta Vohra
Team Canada has a very special opportunity as they host the 2017 International Federation of American Football (IFAF) Women’s World Championship from June 24-30 at McLeod Stadium in Langley, British Columbia.
Quarterbacks coach Saadia Ashraf knows firsthand the magnitude and experience of playing in this event as she led Canada to silver medals at both the inaugural 2010 and 2013 tournaments.
“When you get to represent your country in your favourite sport, it’s a huge honour,” she reflects. “That was very important for me and again just to be able to do that, it was like a dream come true.”
“It was amazing in both 2010 and 2013 to go to your camp and be able to play in the tournament and not have to worry about anything but football. It was such an amazing experience to be able to live that. It’s something I will cherish forever and I think all the women involved in both 2010 and 2013 and this coming summer will have an experience they will never forget.”
Field a mix of youth and experience
Six teams will be competing for gold in Langley, BC. Among the teams are Canada’s chief rivals and two-time defending gold medalists, the United States as well as previous bronze medalists Finland. Making their first appearances are Great Britain, Australia and Mexico.
“It is definitely exciting to play new teams,” Ashraf added of the entries. “It’s exciting to see what the rest of the world has to offer.”
“In terms of Team USA, they are going to be good, and we of course expect that.”
The US have the advantage as they can draw from a larger population base and deeper pool of female players.
“They do have an advantage there (in terms of player pool) but I think with the right coaching and the right strategy we can compete. I am excited to see Great Britain and Australia. I know there’s athletes from all over the world and I am excited to see what they bring to the football field.”
As for Team Canada, Ashraf says the squad has the skill level to compete for gold on home soil.
“There’s a lot of athletes on this team and I think we could do something special,” she assessed. “We have to be able to find the right play calls to get the best out of everybody as much as we can.”
“We have to exploit their talents – great speed, quickness, great hands on offence. We have to find a way to dig in and have to get them to preform to the best of their ability.”
Ashraf’s experience to help next generation of Canadian QBs
For her part, Ashraf will be working with two quarterbacks who will be vying for the starting position. She is familiar with both of them – Aimee Kowalski (Regina Riot) who played alongside Ashraf at the 2013 world championship and Maude Lacasse who Ashraf coaches on the Montreal Blitz.
Before and during the championships, Ashraf’s goal is to help both players adjust to playing on the big stage on home soil.
“I want what’s obviously best for the team; I think they both have qualities that will definitely help the team,” Canada’s quarterback coach explained. “Not everyone understands what it means to be a quarterback; sometimes people forget that they take a lot on their shoulders.”
“Just my experience with playing and knowing I was never perfect, I made mistakes. You’re at the top spot and sometimes you get blamed for the game or whatever happens on the field. I think knowing that and understanding really what it feels like, the highs and lows will help these young women understand to try to not feel as much stress.”
One area Ashraf’s working on with both pivots is their mental game.
“It’s not easy being a quarterback. It’s not easy trying to carry a team on your shoulders,” she says. “The only way a quarterback is successful is if surrounding players are helping her.”
“You have to find that fine line of, ‘I know I am an important person on this team but at the same time I have to keep everybody moving, keep everybody positive,’ so I think playing experience will help the quarterbacks out trying to understand that part of the game.”
Home field advantage
With the national team hosting the world during Canada 150, it is a unique opportunity for the team to make history by feeding off the energy of the home crowd.
“I think it’s going to be really interesting to play on Canadian soil,” Ashraf expressed. “I’m hoping we get a lot of supporters out.”
“It’s easier to travel around Canada. If we can get people to come and travel out there to come see their family and friends playing out there. Hopefully, we will get a lot of people and support out. I think it’s going to be really special. This team is really fortunate to be playing in front of their home crowd. I think it’s going to be a great experience. The energy on the field is going to be electric and I think it’s going to be an experience to remember.”
If history repeats, Canada and the U.S. could matchup in the gold medal game for a third-straight time on June 30. Behind a hometown crowd anything can happen. A Canadian gold medal victory on the eve of Canada Day would make the 150th celebration that much more meaningful.
About the author
Ameeta is a freelance sports and news journalist based in Halifax. During her career, she has covered many sporting events including the 2016 Rio Summer Olympic Games, Vanier Cup, Uteck Bowl, Football Canada Cup, CFL Draft and NCAA Signing Day, Follow her on Twitter @vohra_ameeta
This post is also available in: French