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Karina LeBlanc
Gender Female
Ethnic Canadian
Job Canadian Footballer
Desc Karina LeBlanc is former Canada goalkepeer and current head of CONCACAF women’s soccer

Affiliation

Org Canada Women National Team

2016 05 07 Retrieve

[Former Canada goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc described the scenes in the locker room after losing to USA in stoppage time at the end of extra time in the semi-finals at London 2012] We finally got to the locker room. In the locker room, there weren’t many words. It was just sobs and silence and sobs. And looking across the room and saying ‘I’m so proud of you’ without saying the words. Some people were stretching and some people were just sitting there staring blankly ahead. And then Christine (Sinclair) brought us in. Christine’s not much of a talker. She’s a leader by example. She’s a leader that she just does and you follow. She said, ‘I’m so proud to be Canadian and I’ve never been so proud of this team.’

2017 02 11 Retrieve

[Karina LeBlanc talks about the second edition of the FIFA Female Leadership Development Programme] For me, just freshly coming out of the game, the programme’s helped me to identify within myself my own leadership skills. These women helped me see that in 18 years playing for my country, there were so many things I learned in the sport of soccer that can help the next generation, but can also help myself. These women have empowered me to believe that I have a voice, I have a force

2018 10 05 Retrieve

[Karina LeBlanc is trying to grow the women’s game throughout Concacaf. when asked to describe her role in a recent phone interview] Wow. Every day has been different. The goal is trying to understand our region. All of our difficulties, where we can grow, where we can have wins, where we can make the women’s game better other than just participation, how to get more women in the game. There are so many things

[LeBlanc look at how far things have come since she first became a player for Canada in the mid-1990s] In Canada, we had eight people to a game. By the time I retired we had our games sold out at a home World Cup. It was a World Cup that was the best ever. So I’ve seen the game grow. There is still a ways that we can go, but we’ve come far from when I first started

The challenges vary from all 41 [41 nations in Concacaf]. That’s the beautiful challenge is to get all 41 of those teams playing more games. When you play more games and you have these competitions, these players have something they’re working towards

This is one of the things we’re talking about. How do we get more games? Is it a different format for the tournament? Is it us creating more competitions? Is it having more leagues within each country so that they can be at the level … so that when we do put these tournaments together, that teams can go to them and they’re not getting blown out

[One Concacaf issue that goes beyond soccer is travel] Sometimes you have to go to another country to go to another country, to go to a country that’s right next to you. That is a problem for the men’s game too. That’s the exciting part of my job, is how to we solve that exact problem that you brought up. We want all 41 of these teams to be growing their women’s games

From the meetings I’ve been in, I’ve only felt support. Concacaf from the top down said, ‘we want to make our women’s game better. We want to compete against the best in the world.’ We do have some of the top teams in the world already, but now it’s about making the teams better so that all of our teams are making the top better

2019 05 04 Retrieve

[Karina LeBlanc recalls her FIFA Women’s World Cup experience as hosts at Canada 2015 with FIFA.com] We had a World Cup here and it blew us away every time we drove to a game and saw a sea of red, and seeing men and women wearing our jerseys, it wasn’t just the girls. I remember being excited because you wait your whole life for this moment and it’s finally there. I remember the stadium being packed. You prepare for what it will be like, but you remember the world is watching and that you’re doing what you love. It’s just special

2019 07 09 Retrieve

[LeBlanc told us she started playing soccer because it helped overcome some shyness issues] Nobody ever believes that I was the shyest kid in the room. I think the statistic is that 76 percent of girls play football because they want to be connected to friends

[What will be the lasting impact of the Women’s World Cup?] I wore this shirt [that reads ‘game-changer’] intentionally. I think everyone will leave this World Cup feeling that much differently about the women’s game. I think if you’re a player, you got to play in the biggest and deepest and strongest World Cup, but even if you’re a fan, I think everybody has had a moment where they were wowed

From everyone I have spoken to, whether it has been people who’s watched the game for the first time or never watched a game or have been fans for many years, this has been a World Cup that has created moments for people that will make it memorable forever

[What was your favorite Women’s World Cup moment] Because of my job, my favorite moment was the Jamaica team scoring because that moment meant so much to those girls. They wanted to come here and make their country proud and change the conversation in their island, but what they did was change the conversation in all Caribbean islands. You can see the joy that came from scoring that goal. For me, I remember playing in a World Cup and what it’s like to be on a team that you score a goal, but imagine scoring the first-ever goal for your country and knowing that a region is watching you. Speaking to the girls before the tournament, I told them ‘be your own hero’. Be the person you always wanted to be, but know that so many people are watching and they want you to be their hero. In that moment when they scored, I got choked up because they were their own hero. That goal was more than winning or losing, it was a goal to celebrate everything they have been through

As a Canadian, I thought my team unfortunately lost too soon. They were playing their best football ever and I’m proud of them for that. Again, they are heroes in Canada, so I’m proud of them for that

The France-USA game was the one for me that I haven’t missed playing until that moment. You hear the music … you hear the [American] Outlaws, but then you hear the French fans. Everybody wanted to be there because this game was labeled the epic game. We didn’t want this in the quarterfinals, it could’ve been the final, and it lived up to all of that. No matter who I talked to after, they were like, ‘wow, that was a moment’

I walked with the American Outlaws, which was weird for me because I’m like, ‘OK, I’m Canadian’. But they were so welcoming. We were supposed to walk up to the stadium and meet the French and walk down the main path together, and the French police were organizing that. That’s women’s football, because you unite the world. Everyone is here and they’re passionate about their country but also passionate about the women’s game. And it’s a peaceful game.

[What are the next steps for women’s soccer to grow?] I think it comes down to changing the mindset of the powers of the game and using athletes that have been through stuff as the power, showing their story so that parents understand what football can really do for their daughters. If I say it 50 million times, it’s not as valuable as a current player saying ‘this is how the game changed my life’. So we need to change the perception, and we need to build foundations and make sure football is not seen as a cost, but as an opportunity – a solution for health, obesity issues, for girls that don’t feel connected – beyond the field. That’s how we grow participation

FIFA came up with a strategy, we [CONCACAF] came up with our strategy about a month ago. But for the president to say he’s going to invest $1 billion, that’s huge … This can actually be the place where we make our biggest change

Commercial dollars are going up, attention is going up, the participation numbers are going up – everything is going up. This is the time for women’s football to blow up, and it’s not that it hasn’t before, but now people are getting behind it