Twisting in the wind

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:50 AM ET

Twist & Shout.

That'll probably be the way it works, says Andy Sharpe.

First, the twist.

"We're twisting in the wind,'' says Alan Bolstad, chairman of the organizing committee for the Edmonton-hosted games of the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Championships.

"The Canadian Soccer Association used Edmonton as the projected host city for the final to win the bid. But they've still got us twisting in the wind about whether we'll actually host the final.

"We were the dance partners to win the bid. They promised the final would be here, and we're expecting all the Canadian games to be here. I know, when they were planning to build the new stadium at York University in Toronto to share with the Argos, they wanted to play Canada's first game in Toronto.

"But that stadium is off the rails now, and we're being very aggressive to get that game here and most assuredly, the final here.''

JUST RELAX

Relax, says CSA president Sharpe, in town for yesterday's international women's friendly between Canada and Germany. Sharpe met with Bolstad and Mayor Steven Mandel last night and suggested they settle down.

The 'shout' will come and it won't likely be a negative one, which would make it exceedingly difficult for the CSA ever to bring back soccer to the 60,000-seat venue where a sign outside proclaims it to be Canada's national soccer stadium.

"Edmonton will probably get it,'' said Sharpe of the final going to the location which sold out Commonwealth Stadium for the final of the inaugural FIFA U-19 Women's World Championships, an event six Canadian dates here drew what FIFA boss Sepp Blatter termed a "ballistic'' 160,197.

Edmonton is the only location in Canada to have put up big-time numbers for international soccer. That includes 54,000 for a visit by Brazil, more than 30,000 for a World Cup qualifying game against Australia and even 29,593 for a going-away game to send Canada to the Women's World Cup here two years ago with an 8-0 win over Mexico.

Sharpe says the decision on playoff sites and number of games to be held at each venue will be made after a tour of the sites in October.

"We're going to go from location to location with Jack Warner of CONCACAF and Jim Brown of FIFA, look at all the sites, and make our determinations after that. "Edmonton is probably the place the final is going to be held.''

The event, which had historically featured players who go on to be the biggest stars in the sport, will feature 52 games in a 24-team tournament with six pools in each of Victoria, Vancouver, Edmonton, Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto. Although, with the stadium in Toronto falling through, there's some question about the sixth site.

"If we don't get anything settled on that by the October visit by FIFA and CONCACAF, I think we'll have to look at other options,'' said Sharpe.

RECORD ATTENDANCE

The Canadian record attendance for any one-sport championship is the 385,000 for the IIHF World Championships In Athletics here in 2001. The U-20 is expected to bust the half-million figure. Edmonton fans will see plenty of the U-20 team here in the next two years, as will the fans in the other sites.

"This is a major event, the biggest event in soccer we've ever staged in Canada, and we're going to put all of our resources behind it,'' says Sharpe.

"We're planning to feature Canada and three different teams in four-team round-robin tournaments at each site next year and again prior to the tournament in 2007.

"It will give Canada plenty of games to prepare and give the host committees plenty of opportunities to prepare.''

With the big stadium here, Sharpe suggests Edmonton could expect to see some of the major nations in the sport, especially if the final and the opening game of the tournament are here.


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