Pack yer bags ...

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:35 AM ET

SHANGHAI, China -- Even Pellerud laughs at it now.

"When I first came to this program in 1999 I discovered that the Canadians were just about the worst travellers in existence," said the coach of Canada's team about to begin play here in the FIFA Women's World Cup.

"Now, I don't think there's anybody better at travelling than this team," he said.

"China is unique with the food, the language, the pollution, the humidity and so many other things ... It's just such a dramatic difference," said Andrea Neil, the veteran of the group with 130 international caps.

"But we're prepared for it."

They'll spend the next week in Hangzhou, the place Marco Polo described as "the city of heaven - the most magnificent in all the world" when he took a trip here a few seasons back.

The city, 120 km southwest of Shanghai and still regarded as a China vacation must, is where they will play Norway Wednesday and Ghana Saturday.

Playing here in the relatively new 52,672 seat Dragon Stadium twice isn't the worst of locations in this tournament which also includes Chengdu, Tianjin and Wuhan.

ACCLIMATIZED

"We came to China in April and May. We played in Beijing, so we've handled the pollution. I'm very glad we took that trip," said the coach who took Canada to an eye-opening fourth-place finish in the event four years ago.

"We took a couple of trips before. I have no concerns with the pollution and humidity."

Pellerud brought his team here from a game (0-0) in Japan and five days of training and team building in Singapore.

"We've been travelling so much for so many years to get in the games we needed to play to remain competitive at this level," said Pellerud.

"We've been forced to travel. We play very few games in Canada. We've been to Europe, South America and Asia again and again and again.

"When I came to Canada the team wasn't used to any travel. They hardly ever played anywhere. Now they're great at it," added the coach.

"If we took a trip it was usually to the U.S. or maybe the Caribbean," said Neil.

"They've built up such wonderful friendships with each other. They really enjoy each other," said the coach of either the reason for it or the benefit of it.

"I don't know that there has ever been a group of players in this sport who truly enjoy each other as much as this group," said Neil.

Canada's 'Girls of Summer' come here with passport stamps from all over the world.

LOPSIDED STAT

Take Christine Sinclair. She's played exactly 100 games for Canada's senior side. Only 13 have actually been in Canada.

She's played more games for Canada in the U.S.A. (28) and Portugal (16) than she has at home.

Australia, Morocco, Sweden, Germany, Norway, Mexico, China, Costa Rica, Japan, Holland, Denmark, Korea, New Zealand and Brazil are some of the places on the planet where she's played.

"We've definitely learned how to travel, especially this summer. We've been to China, New Zealand, Brazil, Japan and back to China," said captain Sinclair.

LESSON LEARNED

"We've learned what travel is all about. It's not about sightseeing. We've just come from Singapore which was amazing. But six years ago we wouldn't have understood that we were there for a reason with a job to do. The team was pretty young."

Neil looks back at some of the travel experiences this team has now put in their kit and smiles at many of the memories.

"We've had such crazy travel schedules. We've bused for 10 hours after playing a game. We've flown seven hours and played a game the next day and handled it well. This is the fourth or fifth trip to China for some of us."

Nihao. Wo jiao Andrea Neil. Wo shi Canada ren. Wo zenme dao Dragon Stadium? (Translation: 'Hello, my name is Andrea Neil. I'm from Canada. Where is Dragon Stadium?')


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