Surf and turf: OOE athletes travel to Hawaii for the beautiful game

By Lorne Abugov

If you polled Old Ottawa East residents about their views on Ottawa’s winters you might expect to find a fairly even split between those who “love it” and those who “leave it.”

Two OOE women, Diane Cartier of Bower Street, a leave it, and Melinda Newman of Mason Terrace, a love it married to a leave it, discovered a novel way to escape the icy blasts of an Ottawa January this year by engaging in two of their shared passions – international travel and women’s soccer.

Cartier and Newman were both part of the Ottawa Golden Cleats women’s 50+ soccer team that competed from January 17th to 20th in the Mayor’s Gold Cup 2019 tournament in Honolulu, Hawaii, which attracted adult men’s and women’s teams from Canada, Japan, Australia and the U.S. mainland.

The Golden Cleats placed fourth at the Honolulu tournament, and their work ethic on the field ensured that all four of their games were nail-biters, including a 2-1 win over one of the host Honolulu teams and a narrow 1-0 loss to a talented team from Portland, Oregon. In the end, a combination of intense heat, key injuries and a very short bench of substitutes kept the Golden Cleats from a podium placement.

Cartier, who has been playing soccer since she took up the sport at age 20 in Calgary, got involved with the Cleats, a Gloucester- and Cumberland-based team, about 11 years ago when she relocated to Old Ottawa East from Barrhaven.

“When I moved more centrally, I decided that I wanted to play soccer with more of a Francophone team in order to learn French, so that’s why I got connected with the women from Gloucester,” recalls Cartier.

Since then, it’s been one soccer travel odyssey after another, as she and her teammates represented Canada at a series of master’s tournaments around the world. The Cleats’ first big trip was to Torino, Italy for the World Master’s Soccer Tournament in 2013. Since then, the team has played in Nice, France, in Auckland, New Zealand and in Las Vegas, and they are hoping to get to Japan in 2021.

“What keeps me involved with the Golden Cleats are two things – I really enjoy playing soccer and the same with traveling. Being on this team is a great opportunity to see parts of the world that I’ve never been to before, to play great soccer and to be with a terrific group of women who have similar interests.”

The Golden Cleats’ team manager, Charlene Sexton, regards Cartier as one of the core players on the team.

“Diane is one of our most seasoned players. She’s just an amazingly skilled player who has really good touch with the ball. She distributes her passes very well and she never gives up. She’s very competitive. She’s also very vocal on the field, and she’s really a key person in the center midfield for us.”

Came to soccer late in life

Unlike Cartier, Newman came to soccer later in life, after spending many hours on the sidelines watching her three youngsters play the sport. She took the plunge herself in 2003, at the age of 50, joining a group of mostly soccer moms at a skills training program operated by the Ottawa Internationals Soccer Club. The women made tremendous progress that first summer and many decided the following year to form their own recreational soccer team.

“That first season was a struggle,” says Newman. “Our team scored more goals on our own net than in our opponent’s net, and we went winless, losing 15 games – though we got one tie. What a cause for celebration that was!”

“Our first two games were so bad that the referee had to instruct us on the rules and how to do a throw in! Some of our players weren’t in the best physical shape. Five or six of them pulled quads and hamstrings in those games, to the point where after, at a team meeting, we decided to name ourselves Code Red because we resembled a medical emergency,” Newman recalls.

Photo by Lorne Abugove

Photo by Lorne Abugov

 

More women playing soccer

Today, she remarks, the situation is quite different. She is one of only three remaining “originals” from the summer of 2003 who continue to play the beautiful game. Along with her close friends and teammates, Heather Sherrard and Judy Robertson, Newman’s passion for soccer has skyrocketed, in step with her skills and ability. Like Cartier, she has also played soccer internationally at tournaments in Nottingham, England and in Las Vegas and Nashville.

More adult women than ever are taking up the sport of soccer in Ottawa. In OOE alone, Cartier and Newman often play with and against other neighbourhood soccer enthusiasts, including Mason Terrace resident, Julie Greene and Lori Gandy, who lives on Mutchmor Road.

The Hawaii tournament marked Newman’s first invitation to play with the Golden Cleats, and according to their team manager, she was a very welcome addition to the squad.

“Lindy is so impressive, she’s like the energizer bunny. She plays outside midfield on the wing and she never stops running. She is fearless playing against women twice her size and half her age, and she always wins the ball.”

“We’ve all improved tremendously over the years, but for Lindy to be playing that well at the age of 65, she’s just an incredible role model for the rest of the team.” says Sexton.

On their return to snow-bound Ottawa, both Cartier and Newman were right back at it again.

Their indoor spring league kicked off at the RA Center dome on February 4th and they embarked on 10 weeks of Monday evening games and Saturday afternoon training sessions. Said Newman, “We’ve got to be ready for outdoor soccer when the season begins in May!”

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