The Players: Robyn Gayle

Call them the Group of Seven, they are the silver backbone to the Canadian team that aims to win a medal this summer at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011. They are the seven players that won a silver medal at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Canada 2002, still with the team today and still getting along famously 10 years later.

Call them the Group of Seven, they are the silver backbone to the Canadian team that aims to win a medal this summer at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011. They are the seven players that won a silver medal at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Canada 2002, still with the team today and still getting along famously 10 years later.



“It is hard to put your finger on it, we even try to figure it out ourselves sometimes,” said Robyn Gayle, a Canadian fullback and one of those seven youth medalists with an eye on a medal at the big event this 26 June to 17 July in July. “We have a healthy competitive nature which is great because we are all getting better together. Carolina (Morace) has come in and asked for more and we continue to reach new levels.”



Gayle was the second-youngest player on Canada’s team at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in 2002, then an U-19 competition in the inaugural year for the biennial event. She is still only 25 years old, a graduate from the University of North Carolina and a hopeful for her second FIFA Women’s World Cup this summer at Germany 2011.



Like many of the Canadians in the Morace camp, Gayle is just starting to hit her peak in the months leading up to the opening match on 26 June against, of all teams, the two-time defending champions Germany. Bothered by a nagging injury these past few years, she is finally hitting her stride in training.



“I feel great, as an individual I feel really great,” said Gayle in reference to her original injury from four years ago in college. “With the team, we feel so confident about the group, so we are really looking forward to (the FIFA Women’s World Cup).”



As for Canada’s expectations for the group stage and beyond, Gayle is certain the team’s best performance will be there. Canada faces Germany on 26 June, France on 30 June and Nigeria on 5 July.



“My only hope will be that the work, the chemistry, all the time, sweat and tears in preparation will be very visible when we step on the field (in Germany),” said Gayle.



Gayle has come along way from her earliest start in the sport. She says she knew she wanted to be a soccer player from the time she was four, although it wasn’t until she turned 10 that her mom allowed her to play with the local team Mississauga Dixie Hearts. Up until that point, she was only allowed to sneak out with her older brothers Omar and Li-R, often taking on the role of goalkeeper and once losing a pair of baby teeth on a kick by Li-R.



Gayle said it was if everything just aligned itself. Watching one of her brother’s games, she was invited to try out for the local Mississauga U-13 team and her mother finally gave the, “well, I guess you can go and try out.” Gayle made the team and never looked back. Somewhat of a “raw” talent, she started out as a “fast and little” striker that eventually converted into a midfielder and then fullback where she plays today.



Fifteen years later, she is now on the cusp on what could be one of Canada’s best performances ever at a FIFA Women’s World Cup. Who knows, maybe if the stars will align themselves once more, Gayle and her long-time teammates can turn that once-upon-a-time silver into a FIFA gold medal.



The Group of Seven



Gayle and current teammate Carmelina Moscato have known each other and played together for 15 years. They were both part of that Mississauga’s U-13 team that Gayle first joined as an underage player. In 2002, they were both part of the Canadian team that claimed silver at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Edmonton, AB.



Gayle and Moscato are just two of the seven active national team players that own a FIFA silver medal in their collection. The other five players are Christine Sinclair, Brittany Timko, Candace Chapman, Melanie Booth and Erin McLeod.



That strong, long-serving Canadian core extends beyond the group of seven “silver” players. Diana Matheson was a Gayle teammate at the 2001 Canada Summer Games where they both a gold medal for the province of Ontario. Matheson went on to make the Canadian FIFA Women’s World Cup team that finished fourth in 2003.



In 2003 when Gayle won a silver medal at the Pan American Games, Gayle’s youth teammates included Josée Bélanger, Stephanie Labbé and Rhian Wilkinson. A year later at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Thailand, Gayle’s new teammates included Jodi-Ann Robinson, Sophie Schmidt and Emily Zurrer.



As for Gayle’s first match with the full national team on 25 June 2006 in Toronto, ON, well, she replaced Wilkinson in the 71st minute in a 3:1 victory over Italy. McLeod, Booth, Sinclair, Timko and Matheson were all also teammates on that day. So too was Andrea Neil, the one-time Canadian legend that turned assistant coach in 2009.

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