Donít turn your back on Canadaís team

STEVEN SANDOR, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:48 PM ET

Now that the World Cup is over, here is a plea to my fellow Canadians.

Put all of that energy you spent supporting the country of your heritage and place it into supporting our team, Canada.

Itís already time to think about Brazil 2014. And Canada has to be first in the hearts of all soccer fans in this country.

What burns me is how many people have sent emails over the course of the World Cup about how they would gladly watch (place country of heritage here) kick Canadaís butt.

Wonder if they would yank on Canadian sweaters when the sport changes from soccer to hockey.

Guess what? Thatís cheating. Turning your back on Canada when itís soccer, but then running into the streets when Sidney Crosby scores the Olympic winner -- well, you donít deserve to enjoy the moment.

Maybe the problem is that, in this country, we still get more coverage of an England qualifier than we do of Canadian games.

When Canada began its failed attempt to qualify for South Africa, the team began with a two-legged series against St. Vincent and Grenadines, in 2008. It barely made a media dent. It wasnít televised.

Could you imagine a qualifying game being so widely ignored in any other country?

We canít dream of calling ourselves a soccer nation until a meaningful game that involves Canada packs the bars and earns the viewership of a match involving two European sides.

So this is my challenge. Put away your jerseys from other nations until Canada is eliminated. Urge your pub to have the Canada game on. The goal is that when Canada plays, we as a nation can channel all of that energy spent on cheering for other countriesí teams into cheering for our own.

Iíd love to see the cafes in Torontoís Little Italy decked out in red and white as they show the Canada game. I want to hear arguments in the pubs over coach Stephen Hartís tactical decisions.

Yes, you can be cynical and point to the fact that Canada has a poor soccer history; that weíve only qualified for one World Cup; that a bunch of our best players choose to play for other countries rather than their home and native land.

But, itís a case of what comes first, the chicken or the egg?

Without a widespread fan base, with a national team that is treated as second fiddle if it plays on the same day as some big European or South American match, our own players arenít attracted to Canada. Owen Hargreaves, Jonathan de Guzman and Jacob Lensky are just a short list of talented Canadian players who chose to play for other countries.

When the hockey program faltered at the 1998 Nagano Olympics, we entered an almost religious state of self-examination.

When Canada crashes out of World Cup qualifying, we simply shrug. Or donít notice at all.

Right now, the big if for the Canadian team is Bramptonís own Junior Hoilett. His brother, Jaineil, is involved with the junior program, but Junior still hasnít committed.

Junior made his Premiership debut for Blackburn at the age of 19, and he could be a difference maker for Canada. It would be easier for him to make the commitment if there was more than a handful of hardcore supporters to get behind the team.

The CSA just released the results of an Ipsos Reid poll that suggested that if Canada made it to Brazil 2014, 86% would cheer for their country first. New Canadians also supported this notion strongly with 83% saying that they would cheer first for their adopted country.

I hope the numbers are right. Because that hasnít been in evidence in past home games.

When Canada played host to Honduras in Montreal for a key World Cup qualifier, Stade Saputo transformed into Tegucigalpa. I remember a Canada Cup game from 1999, in Edmonton; Canada hosted Iran -- and a large group of Iranian-Canadians were cheering for Iran in full song. The fact their old nation had become a theocratic tyranny wasnít enough to make that group cheer for Canada.

Thatís an extreme example. But itís a sad part of the soccer culture in Canada.


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