Canada as World Cup host?
Our country can overcome obstacles, long odds
By GARETH WHEELER, QMI Agency
Germany's Bastian Schweinsteiger (left) and Spain's Andres Iniesta in action during the World Cup in Durban. If South Africa can host the World Cup, then why not Canada? (REUTERS/Ina Fassbender)
JOHANNESBURG -- If South Africa can do it, why not Canada? And the party, prestige and pride that come along with being World Cup hosts would be something for our wonderful country.
No offence to the Olympic movement, but a month-long sporting event spread across our entire nation is taking it to the next level. But would Canada ever have a chance of playing host to such an event? And if we were afforded the opportunity, what kind of host would we be?
My gut reaction is yes and with flying colours. Sure, substantial investment would be needed. Greater soccer infrastructure is a must. But with FIFA holding Canada's hand along the way, it would all come off as planned.
A lot would have to happen though to put Canada in a position to bid and stand any chance of success.
The first domino to fall would be the United States to fail in its bid to play host to either the 2018 or 2022 event. If the U.S. is awarded the World Cup for either year, CONCACAF countries would be pushed much further back in the cue.
The U.S. is an obvious favourite sooner rather than later -- despite just hosting the world in 1994 -- because of its emerging soccer culture and financial wherewithal.
So my initial reaction to Canadian involvement would be part of a joint country bid to host the World Cup further down the road. Japan and South Korea in 2002 would be the model.
The situation is hardly likely, because the U.S. doesn't need Canada to stage a successful event. But thinking long term, the U.S. can only have an event so often before it gets stale, and Canada would be in good stead to enter the cue.
And the more time the better, because a lot needs to be done. Canada's rise to any kind of notoriety in FIFA's eyes came through a young Christine Sinclair, taking Canada to a surprising second-place finish at the FIFA U-19 women's World Cup back in 2002. Sinclair was dominant, scoring 10 goals and putting Canada's mark on the international scene.
From there, Canada had decent success at the 2003 U-20 World Cup in UAE, pushing a talented Spain side to the limit in the quarterfinal. As a so-called country on the rise, Canada was awarded the 2007 U-20 World Cup. Outstanding ticket sales and profitability looked good in FIFA's eyes for a minor league tournament. So Canada is already in FIFA's good books.
Next up for Canada is a bid to play host to the 2015 FIFA women's World Cup. Canada has been the favourite for quite some time. But now, Australia's seems like an underdog to win the men's World Cup in either 2018 or 2022, meaning they may decide to allocate promised soccer monies to bringing the 2015 women's game down under.
Regardless, Canada is very much on FIFA's map. And seeing Canadian Soccer Association general secretary Peter Montopoli and CSA director of communications Richard Scott as part of the FIFA setup in South Africa gives credence to that fact. Both men are intelligent and well respected in international soccer circles, boding well for the program and bringing hopes of FIFA getting behind the Canadian cause.
First things first. Canadians needs to affirm their commitment to Canadian soccer. Why does our nation deserve to have the event and be granted an automatic bid when we fail to support our national program? South Africa was a similar case, with the masses not supporting Bafana Bafana. But the popularity of soccer could never be questioned on the continent.
Same goes for Canada, but the poor showing of our team leads to the illusion that nobody cares. A new Ipsos-Reid poll dispels that bunk, with 78% of Canadians finding it important for Canada to participate in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Supporting our professional sides is a step in the right direction, but it needs to grow from there. Heck, South Africans don't support their own domestic league, averaging around 7,500 fans in attendance per game.
Once a true soccer culture is cultivated in Canada, more infrastructures can be afforded and more top-class stadiums can be built.
As Montopoli pointed in conversation in Sun City a couple weeks ago, to bid Canada would require: "Ten stadiums at a minimum of 50,000 seats, modern stadiums and we have to do the math to tell what is needed."
Some estimate South Africa has spent $6 billion building and refurbishing stadiums and improving infrastructure around them. That's a lot of cake. Especially when you consider South Africa spent $137 million on the stadium in Nelspruit alone, which only played host to four World Cup games.
Are Canadian taxpayers likely to take that same financial burden simply to have the World Cup? Not likely, unless it can be proven Canada can play host to more major events, specifically soccer.
Regardless, the corporate community needs to continue coming on board with soccer. Canadian companies are slowly but surely starting to acknowledge there are other sports than hockey that can be profitable. Especially when it comes to soccer -- the earning power and reach of the game knows no border.
And if that day comes where Canada commits to it's soccer, we will make great hosts. Check that, the best hosts. Canadians are a lot like South Africans. We're kind, generous, proud and like to party. There's nothing wrong with putting on a good show, having a couple pints and making for a solid bar scene at these things. It's what helps create the atmosphere.
South Africans rave how multi-cultural they are, with the country having 11 official languages. I try to tell one and all how multi-cultural our nation truly is. For the most part, that falls on deaf ears. If the rest of the world knew how our cities looked during World Cup time, draped in the colours of all participating nations, we'd put any other nation to shame.
From a tourism perspective, guests and hosts couldn't' ask for anything better than Canada. The tangible benefit of supporters from 32 countries and casual fans from non-participating nations congregating inside our borders for a month is self-explanatory. And visitors would certainly feel at home in our various ethnic communities.
Canada is a vast territory and the expense of travel would be a challenge. But poor people don't travel across the globe to see the World Cup anyway.
So let's dream big Canada -- not only for our boys in red and white to compete in a World Cup for a second time, but also to play host to the world.