A Soccerlude Story: The CanWNT Ottawa Connection with Stepover Podcast

We recently caught up with Josh Lemoine the host of Stepover Podcast. Here is that convo…

First of all, a little about you. How did you get into following soccer?

I’ve been playing soccer as long as I can remember, but I didn’t start following the sport closely at the professional and international levels until my mid-20’s. I’ve always been someone who needs that local connection to get into following a sport, and I got that when I moved to South London and started following the local club Crystal Palace. Then I moved back to Ottawa in 2014 as Ottawa Fury FC was just starting in the NASL, and following them is what sucked me into the greater soccer community.

What drew you to watching the women’s game when so many naturally gravitate toward the men’s game? 

I wouldn’t say I gravitate more towards either the men’s or women’s side. I’m a fan of the sport no matter who is playing it. Like I said, having that local connection helps drive my interest, and I’ve been in a position to talk with many players, men and women, from the Ottawa area who have dreams of playing professionally, or have managed to sign pro contracts against heavy odds. It’s always been a difficult path for Canadian players to reach the pro ranks. Without a domestic pro league, it remains that much harder for women. The female players I’ve spoken with have such an enormous drive to succeed, it’s impossible not to find that compelling and want to follow their journeys.

Women’s National Team Celebration Tour
23 October 2021 – Ottawa, ON, CAN
Canada Soccer by Martin Bazyl
Janine Beckie signing autographs for Fans

Who are some of the biggest soccer names to have come out of the capital city?

The first name that always comes to mind for me is Charmaine Hooper. She was one of the first true stars of the women’s game, and she started out here in Ottawa as a Nepean Hotspur. Her brother Lyndon also had a great professional and international career. There are other retired legends like Kristina Kiss, Paul Dolan and Jamar Dixon all from Ottawa. Current players like Vanessa Gilles and Jonathan David are legitimate world-class talents who haven’t even reached their peak yet, and then there are up-and-coming players like Clarissa Larisey, [fomer Atlético Ottawa player] Antoine Coupland, Margot Shore and Gabriel Bitar. It feels like we’re entering a golden age of players from this region.

Women’s National Team Celebration Tour 23 October 2021 – Ottawa, ON, CAN
Canada Soccer by Martin Bazyl  Team: Erin McLeod Gabrielle Carle Sophie Schmidt Jordyn Huitema Kailen Sheridan Jessie Fleming Janine Beckie Nichelle Prince Vanessa Gilles Evelyne Viens Desiree Scott Adriana Leon Jayde Riviere Deanne Rose Quinn Shelina Zadorsky Kadeisha Buchanan Allysha Chapman Stephanie Labbé Christine Sinclair

Looking ahead to this summer’s World Cup, what players from Ottawa are in contention for a spot on Canada’s squad? 

They say 71% of the Earth is covered by water, and the rest is covered by Vanessa Gilles. Gilles is a world-class defender, and when healthy, she’s been a lock on the national squad. She’s proven she can defend against the best attackers in the world and can contribute some offence as well. She recently moved to Olympique Lyon on load, which is arguably the best women’s club team in the world. The other player from the capital who might make the squad is forward Clarissa Larisey, who recently moved to BK Hacken, a top club in Sweden. Larisey has quickly moved up from playing NCAA to professional teams in Iceland and Scotland, and now to Sweden. She wins wherever she goes, and in 2022 she made her national team debut. Sweden’s league is considered stronger than Scotland’s, so moving there will only help her argument that she should be on the World Cup roster.

You spoke with Clarissa Larisey on your podcast in March 2021, what was your big takeaway from that interview?

What struck me most from my chat with Clarissa was the determining factor. It was obvious she was on another level in that regard. At the time, she was still finishing college in Memphis, but I had no doubt her drive was going to propel her to a pro career, and probably an appearance on the national team. What I didn’t see coming was her winning national titles in two countries (Iceland and Scotland) within 18 months of turning pro, and scoring at such a pace that she’d get the callup from Bev Priestman over some players in more established leagues. She’s earned everything that has come to her so far.

Ottawa seems to have a great track record for producing top talents, why do you think that is?

I think when you come from Ottawa, as a soccer player, you come with a chip on your shoulder. The soccer ecosystem in this country is improving, but most eyes are still on players from the bigger cities. Parents from Ottawa still have to drive their kids to Toronto to improve their chances of getting noticed. It means a lot of quality players unfortunately still get missed. I believe that is starting to change, especially with Atletico Ottawa’s presence in the city, but the players who do make it have an ingrained sense of determination that I think often sets them apart.

Women’s National Team Celebration Tour
23 October 2021 – Ottawa, ON, CAN
Canada Soccer by Martin Bazyl
Christine Sinclair

How great was it for you personally to be able to watch the Gold Medal team when they came to TD Place in September 2021?

It’s always thrilling to see your national team play, but it was particularly special to be able to cheer them on, not just to victory in that game, but also to thank them for everything that team has done. The WNT/XNT has carried the torch internationally for this country for decades now, and it makes me smile to think how many kids were inspired to take up the sport thanks to winning that gold medal. I hope the team felt that appreciation from the fans.

Women’s National Team Celebration Tour 23 October 2021 – Ottawa, ON, CAN
Canada Soccer by Audrey Magny – Team: Christine Sinclair, Stephanie Labbé, Allysha Chapman, Kadeisha Buchanan, Shelina Zadorsky, Quinn, Deanne Rose, Jayde Riviere, Adriana Leon, Desiree Scott, Evelyne Viens, Vanessa Gilles, Nichelle Prince, Janine Beckie, Jessie Fleming, Kailen Sheridan, Jordyn Huitema, Sophie Schmidt, Gabrielle Carle, Erin McLeod

And finally, for those that may be new to the sport and/or CanWNT/XNT, what’s one big storyline they should pay attention to at the World Cup?

The Americans are the two-time defending World Cup champs, and favourites to win again. I think that will be the driving story of the tournament: can the Americans be stopped? Canada proved it can be done when they upset the US at the Tokyo Olympics, but it will take another monumental effort by someone to prevent a World Cup three-peat.

Hope you enjoyed this article! All part of Soccerlude – a celebration of the beautiful game. Join us this season at TD Place for an Atlético Ottawa match and you’ll be glad you did! Click the image below for the latest offer…