It wasn’t just any old game. For Josh Sacobie, it meant the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.
“That was special,” Sacobie said of his participation at the eight-nation world football championships in Austria. “Ever since I was a young kid I wanted to do two things. One was to play professionally and one was to represent my country. And I got to do that.”
The 27-year-old quarterback, a Maliseet from the St. Mary’s First Nation in New Brunswick, was a member of the Canadian squad that competed in the world tournament. He and his teammates were trounced 50–7 by the United States in the championship final, earning silver medals.
Sacobie was a star in the Canadian collegiate ranks, toiling with the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees from 2004–08. He had hoped his performances with the Gee-Gees would translate into a training camp invitation from a professional Canadian Football League squad. But that never materialized.
He has, however, fielded offers over the past few years from various arena football teams in the U.S., as well as pro European squads, to attend training camps. But he opted not to, as he has since May 2009 worked as Football Canada’s technical coordinator, based in Ottawa.
“I enjoy what I’m doing,” Sacobie said. “I’m where it happens. I’m where the governance (for football) in Canada happens.”
Sacobie’s duties include overseeing player development and coaching programs. He’s also in charge of Football Canada’s aboriginal portfolio, which was established when he was hired. Sacobie is especially proud of his assistance in launching a six-per-side aboriginal league in northern Quebec, a league that’s entering its third season.
As for the world tournament, Canada played three other matches prior to its gold-medal battle versus the Americans. First, Canada defeated France 45–10. That was followed by a 36–14 victory over the host Austrians. And the Canadians concluded their round-round action with a slim 31–27 win over Japan.
No doubt many people would be surprised to discover Japan, which won the bronze medal thanks to a 17–14 triumph over Mexico, is also a world power when it comes to football.
“A lot of people don’t know they have 100 universities playing football in their country,” Sacobie said of the Japanese.
This marked Canada’s first entry into the senior men’s world tournament, for players aged 20 and up. The event is held every four years, and this was the fourth tournament.
Japan won the inaugural event in 1999 in Germany, then defended its crown at the 2003 championships in the same country. The U.S. also took top honors at the first tournament it entered, in 2007 in Japan.
Sacobie, one of three quarterbacks on the Canadian team, saw action in two games in Austria. He played the second half of the squad’s tournament opener against France. And he also played during the fourth quarter of the gold-medal match.
He was pleased to return with some hardware from the global tourney.
“It’s a deserving prize for the efforts we put in,” he said of the Canadian’s silver medals. “But unfortunately it’s not the ultimate prize. We wanted a gold medal.”
Sacobie said nothing seemed to go right for his side in its match against the U.S.
“One bad thing led to another,” he said.
But he also had plenty of praise for his opponents.
“I’ve got to give the Americans credit,” he said. “They were a strong team. They wowed us. They were big. They were strong. They were fast. And they were well coached.”
Prior to the world championships, Sacobie had not participated in an elite-level contest since his final university game, back in November 2008.
He managed to keep in shape partly by playing in an Ottawa touch football league.
The next world championships are scheduled to be held in 2015. A host location has yet to be announced. And Sacobie is uncertain at this point whether he would try and crack the Canadian roster for that event.
“It’s too far away to think about that right now,” he said. “I’ll be 31 then. Who knows where I’ll be.”