CBC Digital Archives

World Cup crazy in Little Italy

It's been called "the beautiful game." Soccer, the most popular sport in the world, draws an unwavering devotion from its fans. Yet soccer as a spectator sport has never quite caught on in Canada, despite growing youth participation rates and a series of professional leagues. Still, we've had star players and tasted World Cup play, and many immigrant communities have imported their passion to Canada. CBC Archives looks at soccer in the Great White North.

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Viva Italia! Viva Brasil! It's World Cup 1998, and the bars and cafes of Toronto's Little Italy are packed. The Brazilian and Italian national soccer teams are playing (though not against each other), and the countries' flags are waved high as supporters of both teams turn out to make a public show of their allegiances. As this CBC clip shows, even outdoor billboards are capitalizing on the Brazil-Italy rivalry and the grand passions evoked by the World Cup.
• The rivalry between Brazil and Italy in 1998 likely stemmed from the fact that the two teams faced each other in the finals of the 1994 World Cup. Brazil won the championship on penalty kicks after a 0-0 draw.
• On June 27, 1998, the date of this broadcast, Italy battled Norway in a first-round playoff match in Marseille; Italy won. Later that day in Paris, Brazil took on Chile and won.

• Italy then played France in the second playoff round but was knocked out. Brazil went on to triumph over Denmark and then the Netherlands to make it to the final. In the final, Brazil was beaten by host country France by a score of 3-0.
• As of 2002, Brazil has won five World Cups; Italy has taken home three.

• One of the most famous soccer stars in the world is Pelé, a Brazilian who played with the team as it won three World Cups in 1958, 1962 and 1970.
• Virtually all Brazilian soccer players are known by just one name. No one is sure why. Most names are derived from the player's own name or place of origin, or are nicknames.

• Fans of many national soccer squads have nicknames for their team. Brazil, for example, is known as Os Canarinhos (the Canaries); Italy is Azzurri (Sky Blues).
• It's not unusual for Portuguese fans to switch allegiances to Brazil if Portugal is knocked out of contention. The two countries share a language because Brazil is a former Portuguese colony.

• In its most exaggerated form, soccer fandom can devolve into hooliganism and a rabid display of national, ethnic and religious animosity. Author Franklin Foer explored this phenomenon in his book How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization. Listen to a CBC Archives clip in which Foer discusses soccer as a geopolitical force.
Medium: Television
Program: Saturday Report
Broadcast Date: June 27, 1998
Reporter: Robin Smythe
Duration: 2:35

Last updated: June 13, 2014

Page consulted on June 13, 2014

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