Family played an important role for Sue Brand in her journey to Canada Soccer’s Women’s National Team. Born in Edmonton when her father played for the Edmonton Canadians in the old Western Canada League, she got to win five National Championships playing alongside her sister Anita with the famous Edmonton Angels. She was 17 years old when she won her first national title in 1983 and 21 years old when she made her debut for Canada in 1987.
“I think at one point our whole family was playing soccer, the kids and the adults, but the biggest thing was my sister because she was always there for me,” said Brand. “She brought me onto the Angels and she was such an amazing player. I really looked up to her and she was a great inspiration.”
Brand is one of eight legends who has been inducted to the Canada Soccer Hall of Fame in 2021. Marking the 35th anniversary of Canada Soccer’s Women’s National Team, the eight legends represent Canada’s landmark first decade in international football from the original selections in 1986 through to Canada’s first participation at the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ in 1995. The eight inductees are Sue Brand, Annie Caron, Carla Chin Baker, Janet Lemieux, Luce Mongrain, Suzanne Muir, Cathy Ross and Sue Simon.
Brand joined her 21-year old sister Anita Saiko (her married name) on the Angels after they won the inaugural Canada Soccer’s National Championships Jubilee Trophy in 1982. The two sisters helped the Angels win five more national titles over the next six years.
“The group of girls that we had there with the Angels made a huge difference for me, I was just happy to be there,” said Brand. “Our commitment and love of the game really was a big thing. Through all the training we did, we were always there and very committed. We worked well together as a team.”
When Canada Soccer organised its first Women’s National Team selection camp in July 1986, four Angels were selected and three ultimately accepted the invitation to travel to Minnesota for the North America Cup. Lemieux, Simon and Angels’ captain Tracy David all played for Canada while Anita Saiko turned down the invitation to return home.
One year later, Sue earned her spot on Canada Soccer’s Women’s National Team for the 1987 North America Cup. She played in the last match of the July tournament against a Chinese club (not a full international) then made her international “A” debut five months later in December against Hong Kong at the World Invitational Women’s Tournament.
Playing primarily left back, but also when needed at either centre back or right back, Brand played in 20 of Canada’s 24 international “A” matches from 1987 to 1991 including the 1987 World Invitational Women’s Tournament in Chinese Taipei, the 1988 International Women’s Football Tournament in China PR, and the 1991 Concacaf Women’s Championship in Haiti. She also played for Canada in Canada, Denmark and Bulgaria.
“My coaches Stuart Brown (of the Angels) and Neil Turnbull (of Canada Soccer’s Women’s National Team), they were very supportive and they believed in me, so I owe them a lot,” said Brand. “They were a big part of me making that team and believing in me to be there.”
The biggest crowd she faced was the opening match of the 1988 International Women’s Football Tournament, a test tournament for the FIFA Women’s World Cup which was still three years away. The match was played against the hosts in front of 45,000 fans at the Tianhe Sports Center in Guangzhou, China.
“Standing at the centre field, wearing the Canadian jersey and listening to the national anthem, it was such an amazing field,” said Brand. “The one match in China, there was 45,000 fans in the stands and I think I’ve seen a picture where I have the biggest grin while everyone else was so serious. It was just so surreal that I was standing in front of all those people.”
After playing in two world invitational tournaments, Canada missed the inaugural FIFA Women’s World Cup because their region Concacaf were limited to just one entry which was taken by USA at the 1991 Concacaf Women’s Championship. Brand retired from the elite level after that tournament to start a family, but continued to play classics football thereafter.
“I was proud to be a pioneer and I would tell each and everyone of the young soccer players to dream big, work hard, live in the moment, and just enjoy the game to the fullest.”
Thirty years later, Brand is remembered as one of Canada’s best.
“It’s something I never ever thought would have happened, I was just happy to be on the Edmonton Angels playing with my sister,” said Brand.
CANADA SOCCER HALL of FAME:
I am deeply honoured to be inducted into the Canada Soccer Hall of Fame alongside my fellow inductees. I am extremely grateful that I had the privilege to play for the Edmonton Angels SC and represent Canada Soccer’s Women’s National Team in the game that brought so much joy to my life.
I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the tremendous importance that Stuart Brown, my coach with the Angels, played in developing me as a soccer player. He taught me accountability, he taught me teamwork, he taught me discipline, and most of all, he taught me to believe in myself, all of which were the stepping stones that empowered me to achieve my full potential and go on to play for Canada.
Neil Turnbull and Sylvie Béliveau, my coaches with the National Team, also played an important part of my journey. Their devotion and effort to make me and my teammates better did not go unnoticed. Thank you for challenging us to be better!
I have an amazing sister that I played with on the Angels team. Anita, you inspired and mentored me to become the player I became! Thank you! To my parents, thank you for always supporting me and instilling the love of the game in me. To every teammate that I have ever stepped on the field with, thank you for your sacrifice and dedication. Know that you had an impact on me as a player and as a person. I cherish every memory we had together!
Finally, Canada Soccer, it is a privilege to be acknowledged and I am forever indebted to be inducted with other Hall of Fame Honoured Members that have made the game what it is today. It is humbling and I am proud to be part of this special club. Thank you!
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