Without a move to varsity on the horizon, the team still succeeds in flux
You probably haven’t heard of the Gee-Gees men’s soccer team—but that doesn’t bother them.
They’re a team that’s under competitive club status at the University of Ottawa—one step short of varsity—a level that they hope to achieve at some point in the future. However, for now, they are comfortably dominant at their level.
While the team doesn’t compete in official conference competition against any other universities in the province, they do play plenty of exhibition matches against top teams and have seen favourable results.
Players on the team have to foot some of the bill for playing expenses. The $500 the students put forward pays for their share of full kits, warm up attire, and travel, a price that would vanish if the team were granted varsity status.
Although the team is understandably concerned about its status, they are more worried about fielding a quality team and providing opportunity for male soccer players at the U of O to don the garnet and grey.
Since soccer is the world’s sport, the team prides itself on being one of the most diverse athletic teams at the university.
“We have about five or six languages currently spoken on the team, five or six different religions,” said Dave Piccini, one of the team’s head coaches.
“We’ve got a very diverse base with which we draw from, which I think is representative of the multicultural fabric of our school and the diverse fabric of our city.”
The team has witnessed a recent explosion in popularity in prospective players. They are holding another round of tryouts in September, which will bring the tally of players vying for a spot to over 100 for this year alone.
Even though fourth-year captains Michael Bastianelli and Nicholas Faubert don’t have to worry about making the roster, they are still determined to see the team take the next step to varsity one day.
“It’s definitely good to see those (tryout) numbers,” said Faubert. “It’s tough not having the field time and the facilities to really help us grow as a program. We’ve seen that we can compete with top-tier colleges and universities. We just need that one more step which is a few more practices if we had the field time.”
The team currently receives five hours of field time per week, which is something that is provided to them by Sports Services.
“The mentality in the club is really positive considering what we are given,” said Bastianelli. “Soccer is something that brings a large fan base … what we have right now is still entertaining enough for students to come watch and I encourage them to do so.”
Piccini lauded Sports Services for the help they provide on an operational level. However, the competitive club system still hampers programs like men’s soccer and rugby, ones that would likely see the easiest transitions into varsity teams.
With significant success playing against Ontario University Athletics (OUA) clubs, as well as teams from Quebec and the United States, the Gee-Gees men’s soccer team will have to keep their current status for the time being.
From the U of O’s perspective, it has always been a game of dollars and cents. Sports Services is only allotted money to support the varsity teams in their current lineup and, barring any significant investment either internally or externally, the team’s status will remain unchanged.
This season, the team will participate in a more organized league against colleges from Quebec, along with their regular gamut of exhibition games. The team’s ultimate goal is clear, but Piccini knows it will take time.
“Obviously playing in the OUA would be a dream come true, and being ‘Canada’s university,’ I think it’s something we should absolutely strive for.”
The team is still finalizing their schedule, which will be posted on their social media @GeeGeesSoccer on Facebook and @GGmensoccer on Twitter.