Women's World Cup of Soccer: It's ours!

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:37 PM ET

It should be a day with trumpets and banners for Canadian soccer and, especially, a day of triumph for both Edmonton and Vancouver.

Instead it will be a rubber-stamp announcement out of FIFA headquarters in Zurich early Thursday morning that, yes, of course, Canada has been selected host of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup and 2014 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Championships test event.

Zimbabwe withdrew Tuesday, leaving Canada alone in the bidding.

The triumph will certainly include Edmonton and Vancouver being named as two of six host cities with expectations of hosting the opening and final games, as well as Canadian team games, a fitting tribute for the parts they played.

Vancouver, thanks to the support of Vancouver Whitecaps owner Greg Kerfoot, provided a team-in-residence situation for the Canadian girls while Edmonton provided the inspiration to bring the FIFA Women’s World Cup to Canada back in 2002 with the hosting of the FIFA U-19 Women’s World Championships.

If it had not been for the outbreak of SARS in China, Canada would likely have been awarded the 2007 event as a result of the Edmonton hosting, which drew 162,207 for six dates, including selling out Commonwealth Stadium two days prior to the golden-goal final between Canada and the United States, when 47,784 turned the turnstiles.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter blessed this bid on the spot.

“Canada 2007? They will do it. The guarantee of enthusiasm of the public is there. With what has happened here, Canada has convinced me. What they’ve realized here is extraordinary in the 27 years I’ve witnessed FIFA events. The whole event has been ballistic.”

When SARS hit China, the U.S. had to take over in 2003, bumping back China to 2007. The idea of three Women’s World Cups of four in North America didn’t excite FIFA, which awarded this year’s event to Germany.

There have been some controversial decisions out of FIFA recently but at least the fix wasn’t in for this one. Pretty much the only argument for voting for Zimbabwe was that winning the event would help the nation turn over a new leaf from the men’s national team admissions of match-fixing on a recent Asian tour.

Honest. That was pretty much their pitch.

Try writing the bid book on that one.

Zimbabwe was also offering “the barest minimum facilities for such a tournament” according to Mavis Gumbo, the head of the nation’s women’s football association.

It would have been comical to compare the $458-million installation of a new retractable roof and upgrades to B.C. Place in Vancouver and $100-plus million upgrades to Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton.

Canada has a massive challenge to host this, much less Zimbabwe.

It’s been big since U.S.A. 1999, when the tournament was played in large stadiums for the first time, drawing 1,194,215 in all, including 90,185 in the Rose Bowl, including president Bill Clinton who declared “this will have a far-reaching impact, not only in the United States, but also in other countries.”

It was a breakthrough for women’s team sport, with Brandi Chastain winning the game in a shootout, falling to her knees, taking off her jersey and waving it over her head while the world was introduced to the sports bra she wore.

In a hurry-up do-over in smaller U.S. stadiums, the 2003 World Cup drew 679,664.

China successfully hosted the event four years ago, using it as a preparation for the Olympics, with elaborate opening ceremonies and stadiums, and an overall attendance of 1,156,955.

This year’s Women’s World Cup is scheduled for Germany, with Canada playing Germany before an expected sellout of 74,228 in the opener at the same Olympic Stadium in Berlin where Zinedine Zidane head-butted Marco Materazzi in the chest and Italy defeated France in penalty kicks to win the 2006 World Cup.

Organizers in Germany recently reported 515,000 tickets had been sold, with expectations of over 750,000 before the teams arrive, much less proceed through to the final in Frankfurt.

Canada will be expected to take the 2015 Women’s World Cup to an entirely new level as the event expands from 16 to 24 teams and from 32 to 52 games.

It’s going to be big. It’ll be Canada’s challenge to make Blatter call it “ballistic” again.

Follow me on Twitter.com/sunterryjones

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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