Dreams never die

ROB LONGLEY

, Last Updated: 9:43 AM ET

Dale Mitchell loved all sports as a child, but a visit to see the great Pele play live was the beginning of a life-long devotion to the beautiful game. Ultimately, it became his career.

Best known for his role on the one and only Canadian men's team to qualify for a World Cup in 1986, he is Canada's all-time leading international scorer with 19 goals in 55 appearances between 1980 and 1993.

Mitchell's commitment to the game in his homeland didn't end when his playing days were done.

These days, the Vancouver native and Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame member is the head coach of the Canadian under-20 team which is preparing to play in the under-20 World Cup at several venues across the country in July.

Mitchell has also been under consideration for the vacant men's senior coaching position.

SUN MEDIA: Now that your Canucks are out, who is going to win the Stanley Cup?

MITCHELL: I'm going to go with Anaheim since they knocked us off. It was a pretty sad day in Vancouver when that happened, people were really getting into it. But (the Ducks) have a strong team -- the two horses in the back, Niedermayer and Pronger, are going to make them awful tough.

SUN MEDIA: What was your greatest moment as an athlete?

MITCHELL: Being part of a team that competed in the 1986 World Cup was a big achievement and one that hasn't happened to any other group of Canadian players yet. It's over 20 years since that has taken place but it was a great thrill. To be involved with that team in general that had such a good run -- the 1984 Olympics and the 1986 World Cup -- was incredible.

SUN MEDIA: When will Canada get back to the World Cup?

Mitchell: That's the million-dollar question isn't it? It's a tough task. In CONCACEF, there are two pretty dominant teams in Mexico and the U.S. and we're in a dogfight with a lot of other teams. We just need to get on a good roll in qualifying which is what we haven't been able to do. We have never found a rhythm when we get to that stage.

SUN MEDIA: What is your poison?

MITCHELL: My poison would be beer.

SUN MEDIA: What would we always find in your fridge?

MITCHELL: That depends on what the teenagers leave behind. We have two of them at home so we're happy to get the scraps.

SUN MEDIA: What is your culinary specialty?

MITCHELL: I'm pretty good on the barbecue. Steaks always work and being from B.C., I can cook up a nice Pacific salmon for you.

SUN MEDIA: What is on your cell phone ringtone?

MITCHELL: I am embarrassed to admit it is Sweet Home Alabama. It was the result of a fairly boring evening on the road -- changing the ringtones seems to be the thing to do. I will say that I keep my phone on vibrate 90% of the time so it's not that bad.

SUN MEDIA: Do you get the sense that Canadians are embracing soccer more now than in your playing days?

MITCHELL: Interest in the game is growing at a rapid pace in Canada. A lot of that is due to all the televised matches now from Europe and South America -- it's at a peak right now. Interest in the World Cup a year ago was the most I've seen since I've been around. It's something we'd like to help build on this summer.

SUN MEDIA: If you could be any athlete in the world right now, who would it be?

MITCHELL: Well, my career is over now so I don't think too much of who I would want to be. I'm totally into the coaching side. But I will say, Tiger Woods has a pretty good life right now.

SUN MEDIA: What was the best sporting event you ever attended live?

MITCHELL: The one I remember the most, even though I was pretty young, was getting the chance to see Pele play with Santos, his original club in Brazil. The game was at Empire Stadium in Vancouver and my dad took me as a toddler. It was a big thrill to see the world's best player to play live. It was more than inspiring. I was playing a lot of different sports at the time but that one really stuck with me.

SUN MEDIA: If you were dragged into an establishment and karaoke was playing, what would be your song of choice?

MITCHELL: Hopefully, it wouldn't come to that. I'm not much of a karaoke guy.


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