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soccerTracing Canada's World Cup route

Posted: Thursday, May 12, 2011 | 09:23 AM

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It's enlightening to be in Germany and to understand that the Canadian women's soccer team will be playing in the World Cup against a diverse and challenging backdrop in less than six weeks time.

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Fans in Germany are gearing up for this summer's FIFA Women's World Cup. (Getty Images)

It's enlightening to be in Germany and to understand that the Canadian women's soccer team will be playing in the World Cup against a diverse and challenging backdrop in less than six weeks time.

Germany is a country that lives and breathes soccer, or more accurately football.

The first match takes place in Berlin at the Olympic Stadium, the same one used for the historic 1936 Games where Adolph Hitler glowered disapprovingly at and was forced eventually to acknowledge the brilliance of the black American sprinter Jesse Owens. 

It is an awe-inspiring venue and more than 70,000 seats have already been sold to see Canada encounter the defending World Cup champions from Germany.

The word majestic comes to mind.

The second match is in Bochum, once a mining centre located in the industrial Ruhr region in western Germany. The community is distinctly working class and the football team dates back to 1848. The stadium is old and smallish but still able to accommodate 30,000 spectators.

The mantra of Vfl Bochum reads, "Mein revier ist heir." Translated it means, "My place is here." It's a dead giveaway to the status that football occupies in the consciousness of the people.

"There is no class structure here to football," one fan told me. "Only football, that's all that matters."

In Bochum, against France, a team with similar credentials, Canada will be exposed to the rabid obsession common people have with the game in this hard rock town.

Finally, the Canadians take on Nigeria in Dresden. This is a fascinating place to visit. A city of constant renaissance, Dresden was all but obliterated in February of 1945 when Allied bombers let loose, killing 23,000 people in a single night and levelling 15 square kilometres of one of Germany's largest urban areas at the time.

Now Dresden has rebuilt and in the fashion of its once glorious days. The capital of Saxony has reclaimed the wondrous opera house on the banks of the Elbe River as well as the palace of its legendary ruler Augustus the Strong.

Dresden's football team Dynamo, a clue to its history in the former socialist German Democratic Republic, is fighting for advancement to the second division of the Bundesliga. 

Here Canada will be exposed to a truly resilient city.

The FIFA Women's World Cup is still more than a month away. But it's time for fans of football to get worked up.

That's because Canada is a player in a country where the sport means everything to the people. 

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