Olympic fans: Consider soccer

GARETH WHEELER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:25 AM ET

This just in -- Canadians love to cheer for Canada.

That was the message driven home by Vancouver 2010. Make Canada the focus while giving Canadian athletes a chance to win, no matter the sport, and Canada will support them. And we'll show our pride.

Now imagine if we took the passion of the last two weeks and applied it to sports the majority of Canadians actually care about, not called hockey.

No offence to our lugers and cross-country skiers, as much as we loved waving our flags, the interest is a one-time deal. See you in 2014.

The Olympics are always interesting that way. We become a raucous group, instantly becoming skeleton experts, celebrating Canadian gold medals like it's New Year's Eve. Then after the Games, we turn our backs on these sports.

Despite what we tell ourselves, we as Canadians are a passionate bunch, without or without the Olympics. And we as a people should continue to show our patriotism, using sport as the outlet.

Cue Canadian soccer fans.

Why hasn't soccer, a game that resonates 365 days a year, been able to pull nationalistic heartstrings?

The vast numbers of soccer players and fans has been well documented, yet the group remains under-serviced, disrespected and underappreciated in Canada.

It never has been sexy to support Canada in soccer and it's illogical. An overall lack of success and professionalism has contributed to a level of apathy. But supporting Canada should be unconditional.

Instead, cheering for the country of your heritage is the chosen way. If Canada's not playing, I get it. Cheer for your roots. At the very least, support soccer from your favourite soccer nation. Familiarity breeds habit.

Still, I never heard any German Canadian cheering for the German bobsleigh team over Canada.

Soccer is backwards in Canada, to the point the Canadian Soccer Association gets ripped for hosting home games because the match is attended and supported by the visitors more than the home side.

And that's sad. Check that -- it's embarrassing. And it has to change.

Blame the CSA if you will, but it's up to us to show national pride. We saw it in Vancouver, and it should apply to all international sport.

Let's give ourselves credit as a sporting nation. The loser attitude needs to be dropped permanently. It doesn't matter what player decides to play for another country over Canada. Let's celebrate what we have.

In Vancouver, we celebrated Canadians in moguls, even though the top-ranked skier, Canadian Dale Begg-Smith, skis under the Australian flag. Alexandre Bilodeau proved to be a much better competitor and person. Honestly, who wants someone wearing the Maple Leaf if they don't wear it with pride to begin with, regardless the talent?

It's time a winning culture is culminated. The CSA is headed in this direction, launching the Wellness to World Cup campaign with clear goals for the coming years. The downfall thus far is the program falls short in specifics, making the task much more difficult than Own the Podium.

Corporate Canada needs to come on board and support Canadian soccer. Once the business community embraces Canada's second most popular sport, the economics will fall in line with Canadian interest.

The successes of Own the Podium have come in training and development. It's of the upmost importance the development of our teenage players is expedited through proper instruction and opportunity. If change doesn't happen, we won't get better.

And we need to get better. It's a shame Canada won't be at this year's historic World Cup in South Africa.

Fans will still watch across Canada. But the red and white in the streets and in the bars will be missed. Instead, Canadians will be wearing the colours of other nations come June, and we'll all be a little worse off because of it.


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