World Cup trophy captures limelight in Toronto

DAVE FULLER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:07 PM ET

I’m afraid this is as close as Canada gets to being part of the 2010 World Cup of soccer: A visit by Her Royal Highness, the World Cup Trophy, to Toronto.

She’s kind of a shrimp, only 36.8 centimetres tall and weighing a slender 13.6 pounds.

But she’s pure 18-karat gold, and judging by the throngs of media awaiting Her arrival early Wednesday morning at Pearson International Airport, we all adore Her.

Or are we just sheep — drawn to what amounted to a photo opportunity/free advertising for one of the World Cup’s title sponsors, after organizers told us this would be the Trophy’s first visit to Canada?

Yes, for the longest time Wednesday, say from about 6:30 a.m. to 7:45 a.m., I really wondered what all the fuss was about.

Canada AM was there — broadcasting live from the tarmac. So was virtually every other TV or cable station in the city, along with scores of photographers, journalists and radio folks.

But She was a half-hour late, and with temperatures barely hovering above 0C, we weren’t getting any warmer.

And then, out of nowhere an Ethiopian princess — Saba Asfaw — appeared before our eyes, and as she danced the Diski dance to the beat of Kobena Acquaah-Harrison’s congo drum, I started to feel a World Cup fever coming on.

She was pretty — yes, and provided the media hordes with a much-needed diversion as we waited another 30 minutes for Canada customs to board the Coca-Cola-World Cup McDonnell Douglas MD-83 private jet and make sure Her Highness and Her entourage had their proper travel documents.

But Saba and Kobena had an even higher purpose, if only to remind me again, that World Cup 2010 isn’t being played in any of the usual boring spots — Germany, or France or England — but in their native continent of Africa.

South Africa.

“It means a great deal to us,” Saba told me, as some pop star named K’naan nudged past us. “A lot of times Africa is known for a lot of the negative things in life,” Saba continued.

“This is a way for Africa to showcase the beautiful culture, the beautiful sport that bring us together.”

Beautiful Saba, yes beautiful ... Now where was I?

Kobena was born in Ghana, and while there will be 32 countries competing for the World Cup, which runs from June 11 to July 11, he already knows the winner:

“Ghana!,” he tells me.

“I think it’s fantastic the World Cup is coming to Africa,” Kobena continues.

“It’s long overdue.

“Soccer is a major sport in Africa. Every village, every town ... they’re playing soccer all the time.”

Kobena then tells me that the beat he was pounding, the hypnotic sound Saba danced to, was a fusion of rhythms from Guinea, Senegal, Ghana and South Africa.

And that the word “Diski” means soccer and Saba was dancing the “soccer dance.”

And then, much too soon, Her Highness, the World Cup Trophy had vanished, whisked away to CBC headquarters in downtown Toronto, where She will reside for a day before continuing Her 138,902 kilometre, 81-country tour, ending May 5, in South Africa.

Saba was gone too ... But I still had my World Cup 2010 fever.


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