Skip to main content
Open this photo in gallery:

Jason deVos, right, works with Canadian defender Steven Vitoria in an October, 2019, handout photo.Martin Bazyl/The Canadian Press

Jason deVos led Canada to one of its greatest men’s soccer triumphs, lifting the CONCACAF Gold Cup after a fairy-tale run in 2000.

Now the former Canada captain has been tasked, as interim general secretary, with helping Canada Soccer regain its footing after a period of missteps.

The Canada Soccer Hall of Famer, who is currently the governing body’s director of development, steps in for Earl Cochrane whose departure as Canada Soccer’s top staffer was announced Thursday. Canada Soccer president Nick Bontis resigned in late February, acknowledging change is needed to conclude the ongoing labour dispute with the Canadian men’s and women’s national teams.

Canada Soccer says deVos, who takes on the new role May 12, “will become the operational leader of the organization, working closely with the board of directors, in consultation with the Canada Soccer membership and key stakeholders.”

DeVos, who was part of John Herdman’s coaching staff at last year’s World Cup in Qatar, said he didn’t ask for the interim top job but didn’t hesitate when approached.

“I think there’s definitely a period of discovery for me,” he said of his new role. “I’m obviously aware of the labour talks with the players. As a former player and very recent coach, I’m very familiar with what the players are looking for and I’ve experienced that myself.

“So the player negotiations are absolutely a priority for us, as an organization, and we need to have those conversations and will do that as quickly as possible I’m looking forward to sitting down with the players.”

DeVos said he has already sent both the Canadian men and women a note to say he is “looking forward very to working with them and supporting them in every thing that they need to perform at the highest level and to continue to grow and develop the game.”

There is plenty at stake for Canadian soccer this summer.

The Olympic champion women are preparing for the July 20 kickoff of the FIFA World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. The Canadian men are in the CONCACAF Nations League semi-finals in June, looking to lift a trophy before opening their Gold Cup campaign later that month.

Other members of Canada Soccer’s “transition leadership team” are interim vice-president Kelly Brown, chief operating officer Mathieu Chamberland, chief financial officer Sean Heffernan and Paulo Senra, head of public relations and communications.

DeVos sees positives in what has been a landscape of organizational uncertainty in recent days.

The 49-year-old DeVos, who joined Canada Soccer in 2016, credits Cochrane for being a “great resource” over the years, especially during his “eye-opening” early months with the organization.

“One thing that kept coming back to me was just how good we are at certain things. And we don’t trumpet that enough. And we don’t celebrate how well we do certain things,” said deVos. “I would say we organize grassroots soccer probably better than any other country in the world.

“And there’s a wide range of people, from volunteers to technical staff to coaches, administrators, board members who give up their time to create this soccer ecosystem that we have in Canada which is really quite remarkable. So it’s very easy to get bogged down in the negativity and to gloss over the positive things that we are doing.”

DeVos cited the women’s team’s Olympic gold in Tokyo – “an amazing accomplishment that should be lauded and celebrated” – and the men qualifying for the World Cup as the top team in CONCACAF.

“And while we didn’t get the results that we maybe wanted in Qatar, or maybe deserved, we showed the world that we belong at that level and on that stage,” he said. “So I think we should be celebrating our players, we should be celebrating the game and get back to focusing on football.

“But there’s a lot of other things that need to get done to be able to make that happen. The hope and the objective is to try and refocus our attention on the sport and on supporting our athletes and everyone who’s involved in the game at every level so that we’re pulling in the same direction.”

With deVos taking a new role, Dave Nutt becomes interim director of development. DeVos says he also will put his coaching job with the men’s team on hold.

DeVos says there is no time frame to his temporary role. And asked if he was interested in the job full-time, he replied: “Honestly I can’t answer that right now.”

“I say to my [development] team ‘We’re not in the football business, we’re in the relationships business. And football is the medium that we build those relationships through.’ I think this is a big piece of what my role is going to be as the interim general secretary, to re-establish those relationships, to rebuild in some case those relationships and get everyone playing on the same team in the same way so we’re all moving in the right direction.”

DeVos, a reliable centre back from Appin, Ont., won 49 caps for Canada from 1997 to 2004.

He played in Britain for Darlington, Dundee United, Wigan Athletic and Ipswich Town after stops in Canada with the London Lasers, Kitchener Kickers and Montreal Impact.

He was named Canada Soccer Player of the Year in 2002.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

Follow topics related to this article:

Check Following for new articles