Northern exposure

GARETH WHEELER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:07 AM ET

More games in Canada -- that's the unanimous belief of the players representing our national men's and women's soccer teams.

Before a Beijing tuneup against Brazil tomorrow, star striker Christine Sinclair made it clear there is a shortage of national team games played in Canada.

"Obviously we'd like to play more home games but unfortunately it doesn't look like that will ever happen."

Sinclair was speaking to what head coach Even Pellerud was fighting for last year, when he pushed for Canada to host the CONCACAF Olympic qualifiers.

But the Canadian Soccer Association didn't want to pay upwards of $400,000 for the competition, so the qualifiers went elsewhere. Thus, the CSA passed on a perfect opportunity to showcase its players, and Pellerud decided not to renew his contract.

Sinclair says Pellerud leaving is not a distraction heading into the Olympics, but stressed that the women's team needs a similar character in his place.

"We don't know what the future will hold but hopefully the CSA will hire someone who will continue to fight for our program," Sinclair said.

The women's team has had a hectic schedule over the past couple years, competing in many major women's competitions. However, playing overseas, particularly in Southeast Asia, has given the Canadian public very little opportunity to see the squad.

Even more staggering, the women won't have played a game at Canada's national soccer stadium (BMO Field) until tomorrow, more than 15 months after the facility opened its doors.

Sinclair said the turf is not a deterrent for the players, and that the women are excited to play in the atmosphere for which the stadium is know.

On the other hand, the turf is still an issue for the men's side.

Last week it was announced Canada would only play one of their three World Cup qualifiers in Toronto.

WHERE THE FANS ARE

Canadian and Toronto FC defender Jim Brennan believes games in Canada are all important in developing the profile of the players and growing the popularity of the national team.

"The fans are there," he said. "There's no point in playing one or two national-team games across the country and no one really sees them or knows who the players are."

The men's national side has only played four games on Canadian soil since the beginning of 2006. In comparison, the Americans have already played four games at home in 2008. Any question why American players have become household names and why Canadian players waver in a state of obscurity?

Brennan points to the popularity of Toronto FC; with exposure comes the interest.

"Toronto FC players are recognized all the time. The national team has talented players but no one notices them. The more games we play, the more recognition and support we will get," Brennan said.


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