Soccer Hall of Famer Candace Chapman paved the way for others to follow

Candace Chapman, who won more than 100 caps for her country, has been named to the Canada Soccer Hall of Fame. (Juan Karita/AP)

One of the most decorated members of the Canadian women’s soccer team is headed to the Canada Soccer Hall of Fame.

Candace Chapman, who patrolled the middle of the Canadian team’s defence for over a decade, will receive the honour next month during a friendly between Canada and Germany at Hamilton’s Tim Hortons Field.

Chapman, 35, made her senior team debut as an 18-year-old in 2002 during the Algarve Cup. She went on to appear in 114 matches for Canada, scoring six goals, and winning an Olympic bronze medal in 2012. More important than that, she was a mainstay of a program that saw many changes during her tenure. Her poise and durability proved to not only be an asset for her teammates and coaching staff, but she also paved the way for the centre backs currently on the squad and those making their way through the Canadian youth system.

Chapman is embracing the next chapter of her soccer career as a coach, and is giving back to the sport through camps and academies.

She recently sat down with Sportsnet to chat about her career, the hall of fame, and what the future holds.

Sportsnet: How did you find out about your Canada Soccer Hall of Fame induction?

Chapman: I received a call from someone at the Canadian Soccer Association, and honestly I was not expecting it. I knew I was a nominee, but there were some great nominees who are also my good friends. I think anyone in the 2018 class would have been a great fit.

Looking back, what are some of the fondest memories you have of your teammates?

I got to play with Charmaine Hooper, Andrea Neil, and of course some current great ones, Christine Sinclair and Diana Matheson. I have had both ends of the Canadian women’s soccer program where we were just building our foundation to where we won a bronze medal. It has been quite an amazing journey for me.

We had some great leadership when I came in there. Andrea, Charmaine, Amy Walsh, Isabelle Morneau. I came in as a newbie trying to soak up everything that I could from those guys.

And you are the first inductee from the historic 2012 Olympic bronze medal team. How do you look back on that moment and the impression it has left on Canada’s sports landscape?

Yeah, I think back on it and it feels like a dream. It is incredible to me. When I walk by the medal in my apartment, and I still cannot believe that it actually happened, from where we started to then hold up a bronze medal. I think it has put Canadian soccer on the map and you can tell, the future is really bright with the players that we have coming into our program, those young players.

As a centre-back, you played a position that is so important, but perhaps not often in the spotlight. Do you ever wish you had played somewhere else on the field?

[laughs] Who does not want to be the top scorer, right? I think that position suits my personality really well. I did play other positions growing up as a kid, a striker, in the midfield and also as a fullback. I have had my share of playing different positions on the field, but I think as a centre-back on the international level, it fit both my skill set and my personality. It worked out well.

I look at Kadeisha Buchanan now, and I see a lot of you in her, with her style of play. What do you think about this current crop of centre-backs, such as Buchanan, Shelina Zadorsky, and Rebecca Quinn?

I have actually heard that from a couple of people, about Kadeisha, and to me, that is an honour because she is a great player. I only wish that I had the chance to play with her back there. But, those three that you mentioned, they are all really strong, and we are only going to continue getting better in that position.

What are you up to these days?

I am actually a full-time coach. After my playing career, I had the opportunity to get involved with the technical staff on the Canadian youth national team, and that helped my transition from being a player into my new role, this new chapter in my life. John [Herdman] gave me that opportunity, and I learned a lot from Bev [Priestman]. It has been really positive.

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Do you miss playing at all?

Of course! I 100 per cent miss it, but when I think of myself playing for 90 minutes, I think, ‘Yeah, I am a little too old for that now’ [laughs]. It was really hard when I finished playing, but stepping off the field, I gave myself the chance to step off the field and see if coaching was what I wanted to do to stay in the sport. It is a great fit for me. Being on that sideline now and coaching my players is something that I think I am going to do for a long time. I have my own performance coaching company (https://www.90plusperformance.com/) that focuses on soccer and individual training. That has been my transition and hopefully going forward, that will be what I do for awhile.

You will be honoured next month before Canada’s friendly versus Germany in Hamilton. It must mean a lot for you to be able to do that in your home province.

I am actually really happy that it is in Hamilton. I know a lot of my family and friends will be happy too that they get to come out there and celebrate with me. Hamilton is actually a place where I started my youth career, with the U-19s, training at the old Ivor Wynne Stadium. Hamilton is a pretty special place for me. It is full circle that I am celebrating this accomplishment there.

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