Commonwealth coup

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:13 AM ET

From a purist's perspective, this could be the biggest soccer game ever held in Commonwealth Stadium.

Yes, Brazil was here.

But they were facing Canada as a tune-up for the 1994 World Cup, and were more concerned with getting through the exhibition contest intact than playing all-out to win it.

They barely broke a sweat in the 1-1 tie against the hosts -- which by the way things are going with the Canadian Soccer Association -- may never qualify for a World Cup again.

David Beckham was here.

But he was a novelty, playing on a Major League Soccer squad that he eventually deserted, against a group of part-time professionals who aren't even recognized in their own cities.

There were two world championships held here.

And while often entertaining, the games were contested by teenagers, many of which will never go on to play with a high-ranked professional team.

Everton and River Plate are on a different level.

Just the animosity alone between the two countries they represent (Don't mention the Falkland Islands war) should be enough to guarantee an intense contest.

Getting both professional clubs to play an exhibition game here on July 25 is a huge coup for the city and should appeal to even the modest soccer fan.

Those who feel soccer is a foreign game played by foreigners need not apply.

"It's in the millions to bring these teams here," said Mel Kowalchuk, the point man of the event.

"There are certain things that you do to defray the costs, and I've learned over the months of negotiations that it's a lot easier to give them a dollar figure all in and let them worry about the flights and everything else."

Organizers will probably need nearly 25,000 spectators to break even on the game. But this is a soccer town, so barring extremely bad weather that day, it should be attainable.

The fact that it's on Indy weekend doesn't concern organizers, although at first Everton was only going to make itself available on the day of the race, which probably would not have worked out well.

Originally, the organizing group led by Kowalchuk, wanted an Italian club.

They went as far as to fly to Italy to try and secure Serie A champions Inter Milan. They even got a signed letter of intent, which eventually proved to be worthless.

No problem. The running joke among non-Italian soccer fans, is that the outcome of that game would have probably been pre-determined anyway due to the recent match-fixing scandal in the country.

Undaunted, the group was able to land Everton of the English Premier League.

Club representatives were impressed enough during a visit to Edmonton in April that they returned home to Liverpool recommending the team swing through Canada on their pre-season tour of North America.

From there, it was just a matter of finding a suitable opponent.

"We can't thank Everton enough," Kowalchuk said. "What this game is going to do is set us up for the future. In the world of professional soccer, Edmonton doesn't register. But Everton gave us a lot of clout when they signed. We need someone like that on board to begin with."


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