July 14th, 2024

First two women honoured in builders section of Canada Soccer Hall of Fame

By The Canadian Press on March 8, 2024.

Longtime administrators Christine O’Connor and Leeta Sokalski have been named to the Canada Soccer Hall of Fame, the first women to be added to the builders section.

O’Connor and Sokalski helped grow the game in Manitoba and B.C., respectively. They will be honoured May 4 at Canada Soccer’s annual awards banquet.

“This is an important milestone for our sport as we honour the first two female builders inducted to the Canada Soccer Hall of Fame,” Canada Soccer president Charmaine Crooks said in statement. “Christine O’Connor and Leeta Sokalski were pioneers for the women’s game in the 1980s, but they grew into remarkable leaders across multiple decades and they’ve left a lasting legacy for our sport from the local game to the national level and beyond.”

O’Connor was president of Manitoba Soccer from 2010 to 2012, during which time she helped lobby Winnipeg to become a host city for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. She also had a lengthy administrative career at the club, league and provincial level and was honoured as a Manitoba Soccer life member.

O’Connor is a member of both the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame and Manitoba Soccer Hall of Fame. She was the first woman on the Manitoba Soccer board and served as the first president of the Manitoba Women’s Soccer League.

She also served as the Canadian women’s national team’s first tour manager from 1986 to 1990.

Sokalski served as president of B.C. Soccer and later as a member of the Canada Soccer board, but also played a major role with the Metro Women’s Soccer League in the early 1980s, which grew to 72 clubs across as many as five divisions.

Sokalski was B.C. Soccer’s president from 1987 to 1990, treasurer from 1990 to 1998, board member in 1999-2000 and vice-president from 2000-01 to 2001-02. She was on Canada Soccer’s board of directors from 2003-04 to 2005-06 and also was on Canada Soccer’s women’s advisory board.

She was later honoured as a B.C. Soccer life member.

The Canada Soccer Hall of Fame honours athletes, coaches, referees and builders of the game in Canada. Since 2000, the Hall has welcomed 142 players, 13 coaches, 10 officials and 45 builders as honoured members.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 8, 2024.

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