Game on

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:06 AM ET

With or without a stadium at York University, the 2007 world youth soccer championship will be played in Canada.

So says powerful FIFA vice-president Jack Warner, who also is the president of the CONCACAF region (North America, Central America and the Caribbean).

"2007 is Canada's time," Warner said at a news conference yesterday, where the Canadian Soccer Association announced Ottawa, Vancouver, Montreal and Victoria will join Toronto and Edmonton as co-hosts of the under-20, 24-team, 52-game event.

GOING AHEAD

"Nothing that anyone says or does can derail this competition from being hosted in Canada unless Canada itself, the CSA (decides). FIFA is fully committed, and whatever blips there may be along the way, we shall get over them."

Plans for an outdoor 20,000-seat outdoor stadium at York are up in the air after the Argos decided this week to remain tenants at the Rogers Centre. The provincial and federal governments have said they intend to honour their financial commitments to the stadium, but York, slated to chip in $15 million, has not committed to going forward with the project. Still, the CSA is convinced the opening game of the tournament will be played July 1, 2007 in Toronto.

"There is no backup plan, the stadium will be built," Kevan Pipe, chief operating officer of the CSA, said.

But Warner wasn't saying exactly the same thing.

"Whenever you host an event, you must have a backup plan," he said. "They don't have a backup plan (today), but they will have one tomorrow."

Warner said the tournament could be limited to a five-city event if there is no stadium in Toronto.

"That would not be the best thing for Canada or for the event or for the sport," he said. "To me, Toronto is a microcosm of the world, with more ethnic groups living here than anywhere else. Almost half of the population of this city is a foreign population. Therefore, soccer in a sense will be represented in this city more than anywhere else. For me, it would be a disaster (not to have a stadium in Toronto).

Warner also had pointed words for the Argos.

"I am disappointed guys' words and commitments seem to mean nothing these days," he said. "I think it was short-sighted of them to pull out and not look and see what they were doing to the sport and to young people of this country and to Toronto. And possibly, in time, they will see the errors of their ways."


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