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  • Tuesday, June 13, 2000

    Charmaine Hooper returns to national soccer team

    By NEIL DAVIDSON -- Canadian Press

     TORONTO -- She's back.

     Charmaine Hooper, who leads Canadian women with 36 international goals, has been recalled to the national team for the women's soccer Gold Cup later this month in the U.S.

     The outspoken midfielder-forward from Nepean, Ont., was unable to join Even Pellerud's squad at the Algarve, Nike or Pacific cups because of stress fractures in both legs. But she is back in action with the Chicago Cobras of the W-League and has four goals and two assists in four games, including a hat trick in her return to action, despite the fact Hooper says she's still healing.

     "It's still a little bit sore." Hooper said Tuesday from Chicago.

     Hooper wears an electronic device called a bone growth stimulator, which helps blood flow in her legs, and is taking calcium and Vitamin D.

     "She's been doing terrific, she really has," said Cobras GM Betty Krueger. "I think she'll continue to improve because she always does.

     "She's still Charmaine, what can you say? I don't think she would say she's 100 per cent yet but 95 per cent of Charmaine is better than just about everybody so we're thrilled to have her back."

     Hooper joins a Canadian team that is flying high after beating China and going 4-1 at the recent Pacific Cup in Australia.

     The Canadians open round-robin play at the Gold Cup against Mexico in Foxboro, Mass., on June 24 before heading to Hershey, Pa., to play China on June 26 and Louisville, Ky., to take on Guatemala on June 28.

     Other countries at the tournament are Brazil, Costa Rica, Trinidad and Tobago and the U.S.

     Hooper, Canada's second-most experienced women's international with 61 caps, was vocal in her criticism of former national coach Neil Turnbull at last summer's World Cup, saying she wouldn't play for him again.

     She also complained of poor preparation for the World Cup and attacked Turnbull's coaching style. Soon after she lost her government funding, with the Canadian Soccer Association citing "inconsistent play (at) the international level."

     Hooper was a constant thorn in the Canadian Soccer Association's side.

     But Hooper says she had heard good things about the new program under Pellerud.

     "Everything seems to be going quite well. I'm kind of excited about going back."

     Asked if she thought she would ever be back with the national squad, Hooper said: "It wasn't really a concern for me at the time, whether I was or I wasn't, wasn't really a big deal.

     "For me the more important thing was just to get the program off he ground because it had just stagnated for over a decade. It hasn't really gone anywhere.

     "And I think I have other options outside the national team, so that wasn't really a concern for me."

     One option is the WUSA, the new women's pro league under construction in the U.S. Given her international success, Hooper is expected to be invited to play. She hopes to land in New York, close to friends and family back home in Canada.

     "And also I think New York has a big West Indian population so I think I'd have some fans there," she added.

     With the national team, Hooper expects to play in the midfield with Pellerud having success up front with Silvana Burtini, Christine Sinclair and Christine Latham in a 4-3-3 formation.

     Sinclair, 16, has been a revelation. She scored six goals in just five games at the Pacific Cup to raise her total for Canada to nine in 11 internationals.

     World Cup schedule: Canada's next home games in World Cup qualifying play will be in Edmonton, Winnipeg and Toronto, the Canadian Soccer Association confirmed Tuesday.

     Mexico faces the chilliest reception, in a game scheduled for Nov. 15 at Toronto's Varsity Stadium. Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium will host Trinidad and Tobago on July 16 while Panama will play at the Winnipeg Soccer Complex on Oct. 9.

     The Canadian men advanced to the semifinal round of qualifying in CONCACAF after defeating Cuba 1-0 on aggregate in a two-game playoff.

     In other news, Edmonton's Jim Fleming was voted to another two-year term as president after the association's weekend annual general meeting in Alliston, Ont.

     Also elected to the association's executive committee were Clive Wilkinson and Angus Barrett. Stan Adamson was named to the board of directors.

     A special general meeting of the association was called for Nov. 18 to deal with the recently released "Blueprint for Canadian Soccer" which calls for the national association to increase its take of soccer fees from local levels.



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