Canada Soccer

Pioneer Donnelly begins last competition

Posted on 9 October 2009 in ↳ Jubilee Trophy

There is a quiet legend on the roster of British Columbia's Surrey United Soccer Club, one of eight teams participating in this year's BMO National Championships Jubilee Trophy competition. Geraldine Donnelly, better known as Geri, is a pioneer of Canadian women's soccer, a 43-year old midfielder who could have been inducted into The Soccer Hall of Fame five years ago.

"She has been a great role model, not only for the team, but for all the younger players in the club," said Martin Fodden, Chairman of the Board of Directors for Surrey United Soccer Club. "She has had phenomenal success, kept herself in very good shape with very high standards, and always maintained a professional approach to the game."

Donnelly has announced that she will retire after the 2009 BMO National Championships in Saskatoon, SK. She will make one last run for a national championship before hanging up her boots on Monday 12 October.

"It's time," said Donnelly. "It's been a long haul and I am looking forward to retiring."

Donnelly's international career ended in 1999 after Canada's second participation at the FIFA Women's World Cup. Had she retired then, she could have been inducted into The Soccer Hall of Fame in 2004 after the required five-year waiting period. Instead, she has soldiered on at the club level, helping Surrey United win six-straight provincial titles from 2004 to 2009.

In the last five years at the BMO National Championships, she has won three bronze medals (2004, 2005, 2008), one silver medal (2007) and one gold medal (2006 at home in Surrey). She hopes to retire on a high note with one more Jubilee Trophy championship to her credit.

"We're still looking forward to getting to the final," said Donnelly. "This is our sixth time here and we have only won it once. We are eager to get back to that final match."

For those that don't know Donnelly, she was an original member of Canada's women's national team back in 1986. She scored the first two goals in program history, a 2:1 victory over USA on 9 July 1986. She went on to make 71 appearances for the national team, "retiring" in 1999 as the Canada's all-time leader in appearances. She participated in two FIFA Women's World Cups (Sweden 1995 and USA 1999) and won one CONCACAF Championship (1998). She also won Canadian Player of the Year honours in 1996, an award that was only first introduced in 1993.

In 2002, she was presented the Aubrey Sanford Meritorious Service Award in recognition of her outstanding service in the growth and development of soccer in Canada.

"She is a quiet leader, but very much (a person to whom) people look for her experience and direction," said Fodden, who also serves as Surrey United's assistant coach. "She just leads by example and people follow suit."

Donnelly is more than twice the age of many of the younger players in this tournament, including a pair of teenagers that represented Canada last November at the inaugural FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup New Zealand 2008 (Halifax City's Nkem Ezurike and North London's Shelina Zadorsky). Donnelly is even older than her head coach Jeff Clarke, a former national player himself who didn't make his first international appearance until 1997.

"The younger players are all full of energy and they want to go 90 miles an hour," said Donnelly. "I just hope to settle them down and compose them. That (composure) is perhaps the one thing that the youth is missing."

Donnelly has but one long weekend left in her storied career, a weekend that she hopes will end in gold come Monday in the Jubilee Trophy final. With retirement, she will close the book on one of football's most remarkable careers.

"She is a tremendous player, a great club person and we love her," said Fodden. "As the tournament goes on, I am sure we will see Geri at her best. She is very determined and she wants to end her career on a good note."

Back to news list

Proud partners of Canada Soccer