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Fri Nov 19, 2021, 07:07 PM

Sydney Leroux's mother says abuse and bullying in Canadian soccer drove daughter to US

Sandi Leroux remembers the yelling the most.

The mother of Sydney Leroux has a story to tell about her daughter’s experience climbing the ladder of Canadian soccer’s elite player programs before she switched allegiance to the United States, with whom she won Olympic and Women’s World Cup titles.

Leroux says the toxic training environment in Vancouver forced her daughter to make a choice as a teenager between quitting soccer entirely or moving to the US to pursue a career in her father’s country of birth.

The gatekeeper to success in the Canada women’s program at that time was the now-infamous disgraced coach Bob Birarda, who was quietly released from his dual role as coach of the Vancouver Whitecaps and Canada Under-20 women’s teams in 2008 after allegations of abuse.

As Sydney’s prodigious talent was more widely noticed, Leroux recalls Birarda contacting her to say her teenage daughter should join training sessions with his pay-to-play private academy – a two-hour drive from their family home. Leroux said her daughter wouldn’t be able to make it and explained: “I am a single mom and I work full time.”

“‘Do you know who I am?’” Leroux recalls Birarda shouting at her. “He started listing who he was and who he had coached. He was like … a bully. By the time we left Canada, Birarda had control of everything. He had the Whitecaps. He had the U-20s women’s team. It was crazy how he took over everything.”


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