Year of Sport: World’s game comes to Canada
Canadian soccer’s greatest success since its men reached the 1986 FIFA World Cup finals tournament was realized at the birthplace of association football, in England during London 2012 Olympic Summer Games.
This time the players were women and unlike the timid exit the men suffered from a difficult group at Mexico 1986, Canadian football was on a roll only to be stopped in the semifinals while back home a country seethed in anger at glaring injustice.
Everyone knows the story. If not, they should. Canada faced a series of baffling referee decisions in the Olympic women’s football semifinals against the United States, and despite a heroic hat-trick from Canadian captain Christine Sinclair, ultimately lost the match 4-3 after extra time. Team Canada gained a measure of redemption by winning the bronze medal in a 1-0 third place victory over France.
Canada 2015, the FIFA Women’s World Cup, is set to kick off on June 6 in the ‘Year of Sport.’ Canadians – on the pitch and in the stands – will have a proper forum in which to slay the demons of London 2012.
In recent years, the country has made a habit of getting behind its women’s soccer team. This is a squad that continually connects Canada to the world’s game where the men’s team, facing a more robust field of competition it can be said, haven’t found their footing in several generations with the exception of a regional Gold Cup triumph in 2000.
When Sinclair was in the junior ranks and the first FIFA women’s youth world championship was held in 2002, nearly 48,000 fans attended the Canada-USA final in Edmonton. The Americans got the better of Canada that day too, but Sinclair scored 10 goals in the tournament and success-starved soccer fans of the nation knew greatness was on the rise.
Canada hosted that tournament again in 2014, now called the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup. The young Canadian women drew more than 13,000 fans at every match before being ousted in the quarterfinals by eventual champion and football powerhouse Germany.
It was a very good summer for German football.
Edmonton, Moncton, Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver and Winnipeg will be the six host cities for Canada 2015. It will be the biggest FIFA Women’s World Cup ever with 24 teams and the draw to confirm the six groups will be held in Ottawa on December 6.
A year ago in an interview about youth soccer, women’s national team head coach John Herdman mused proudly to Olympic.ca that Canada is one of the few countries in the world where you’ll see men wearing a football shirt with the name of a female footballer on the back. It was a striking comment from the Englishman and put Canada’s importance to women’s sport on a global perspective.
Football is the world’s game and Canadians long to be at its summit with no regard to who gets them there, and that makes Canada an ideal host for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup.