Kicked in the teeth

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:48 AM ET

Allan Bolstad resigned. Quit. Told the Canadian Soccer Association to shove it up their shorts.

Bolstad was the chairman of the local organizing committee for the FIFA U-20 World Championships next year.

He took the job on the understanding Edmonton would play host to all of Canada's games and the final in Commonwealth Stadium where a sign still declares it to be Canada's National Soccer Stadium.

Bolstad and his committee believed the success of the U-19 Women's Worlds here in 2002 was the reason Canada won the rights to play host to the event in the first place.

Prior to the sold-out final at the U-19 event, FIFA boss Sepp Blatter called the inaugural event "ballistic" and one of the greatest tournament hostings ever.

POLITICS REARED UGLY HEAD

But politics, the building of a new 24,000-seat stadium in Toronto and the CSA's official reason - that they could make more money in a 24,000 seat stadium in Toronto than a 60,000 seat stadium here - landed Canada's opener and the final in the East.

Bolstad decided to make his own statement and resigned. Quietly.

He didn't call a press conference or send out a release.

In his position, most would have done the same.

In the interim, the same people who organized the FIFA U-19 Women's Worlds have put their old committee back together and appear to be putting this humpty dumpty back together, too. Yesterday they came out of the closet.

Led by new chairman Jim Fleming - Canada's only 'FIFA Order of Merit' winner - they sat your correspondent down and revealed plans which they believe will have the effect of being a massive pie in the face of the CSA.

"I guarantee we will out-draw every city for every game," said Fleming of the 24-nation, 52-game tourney which features nine games, including a semi- final, here.

"We're going to prove that Edmonton has been - and still is - the No. 1 location for big events," said the man who was president of the CSA when Canada made its only World Cup appearance in Mexico in 1986.

Mario Charpentier, president of the Edmonton Minor Soccer Association, arguably the key man to the success of the U-19 Women's Worlds, said what they are doing is for the benefit of soccer in this area, not for the CSA.

"Our goal is to fill the stands to see the best soccer we're ever going to see here, not to make money for the CSA," he said.

The idea is to fill the stands here, expose the event to as many people as possible at the lowest cost possible and prove it will still make more money than they'll make in a 24,000-seat stadium in Toronto.

"We'll fill the stadium again and people will take note of it. We're here to make a statement to the world, not just the CSA," said deputy chairman Wayne Dosman.

"I can't blame Allan Bolstad," said Fleming, just back from being a special guest of FIFA at the Germany World Cup. "A lot of people in Edmonton were bleeped off. I was disappointed.

"But at the end of the day, this is a chance of a lifetime for Canada. This is by far the biggest event we will ever host in soccer in Canada and despite the questionable judgement, this is a great event for soccer in this city.

"I believe in this city and what it has done in the past and can do in the future."

That's where Charpentier and his friends who run district soccer associations come in.

For the U-19 event, they sold all-event ticket packages to area soccer players. They have now been inspired to include parents and the families of the players. And the tickets are transferable.

They already have commitments for 19,433 packages. Charpentier's Edmonton & District Soccer Association has signed up for 10,883, Ray Volmer's Edmonton Inter-District for 3,000, Danny Bowie's Edmonton District for 2,000, Glen Stalker's St. Albert Association for 1,500, Chris Billings's Battle River group for 1,000, Craig Hawkins's Sherwood Park group for 750 and Fran Glenn's Tri-County for 300.

SETTING BIG GOALS

"Our goal is to sell 36,000 through those packages," said Val Close, manager of local hostings.

With the draw not until February, they'll target the lower bowl sideline seats ($196) at a later date.

May I suggest a promotional giveaway for the event? How about 50,000 of those giant foam fingers, except with a different finger indicating 'We're No. 1' than usual.


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