I’m going to be honest with you. I don’t think Canada is going to make it to the World Cup. The boys play hard. The coach knows the game and he knows how to win. But the odds are against us.
Give me a moment here to imagine what it would be like. The nation would be captivated. Street parties. High Fives for all. Canadian flags waving from every house. For a couple of weeks we would even forget about hockey, well maybe except for Manitoba.
But I’m not about to give up on this, I do have an idea.
Right now all of Canada’s home games in this next qualifying round are scheduled to be played at BMO Field in Toronto. That’s a mistake. Make that a big mistake. Please don’t confuse this with an anti-Toronto rant from a prairie boy. Toronto is a great city (there I said it) and BMO Field is a fabulous facility — near perfect conditions for fans as well as for the home and visiting teams. There’s the problem.
Why are we so nice to the visiting clubs? You all know that any international game held in Toronto will have a good number of people cheering for the opponents. So why let that happen?
For us to win we have to play the game our opponents do in Panama, Cuba and Honduras, the countries we have to beat to advance to Brazil.
Consider for a moment the extraordinarily trying conditions Canada must play under whenever they visit CONCACAF foes. In Mexico City, for example, the guys must huff and puff their way in the high altitude of Azteca Stadium where the air is thin and the place rocks with more than 100,000 plus thunderously loud fans. Advantage Mexico.
In Cuba on Friday Canada played under the rays of the sweltering afternoon sun. We’re talking 42 degrees. No shade in sight. No cooling breeze. No thoughts of scheduling the game in the evening when the temperature gets close to survivable for the northern visitors. And yes we did win that first game, but is this what you call fair?
You get the picture; stadia surrounded by hostile fans and armed guards. We travel to these places and we usually lose. Hardly a level playing field. I applaud our opponents. That’s what they call home field advantage. However two can play this game.
So here’s my pitch. Drop BMO field. Resist the temptation to play in Vancouver and Edmonton for that matter. Let’s move the team to another venue that is sure to give us the advantage.
From now on I propose Canada play its World Cup qualifying games in Inuvik, Northwest Territories. In October. When it’s cold.
Imagine playing the beautiful game on frozen tundra under the lights surrounded by a few thousand Canucks wrapped in their parkas, sitting on blankets to block the cold from those beautiful metallic bleachers. Now that is Canada!
Of course, we would require our players to train under those conditions and be prepared for snow, sleet, rain and whatever else the unforgiving weather in the north will throw at us. We all know our boys are tough and will flourish.
Now let’s see how fancy those Cuban players get with a soccer ball as frozen solid as a snowball with the bounce of a medicine ball? I’d pay to see the shivering P p panamanians and Ji ji jittery Jajajamaicans slip and slide on that glorious icicle tipped grass field. Might even make the trip to watch. Advantage Canada!
Fair? Of course not. But imagine the attention such a game would receive around the world? (Hello international media). Think what a game like this would mean for Canada asserting its sovereignty over the Arctic? (Hello Mr. Harper). Think of what this would mean for Team Canada souvenir sales? (Hello Soccer Canada). Think what this would do for the future of the game (Hello kids).
Crazy idea? Well here’s something to kick around while you ponder this idea. The last time Canada qualified for the World Cup, the clinching game was played on a damp King George V field in the cool moist air of St. John’s Newfoundland. Take a moment and go to YouTube and look at the highlights of that historic game and you will see a Canadian team playing with confidence and purpose against a tentative team from Honduras. It just might be in our DNA to play our sports in the cold. (Hello Inuvik)
Now I ask you to look at the CONCACAF schedule and circle October 12th, when Canada plays its last home game of the third round. It will be against Cuba. It is not too late to cancel the BMO Field reservation.
Take the game to our north where in October the average low temperature is -11 degrees. In Havana, the Cubans made us play in the searing heat of the midday sun. On our home turf we will play this game in the land of the midnight sun because Canada lives there too. Let’s return to the World Cup. Let’s make Canadian soccer exciting again. Hello Inuvik. Hello Brazil.
Costa Maragos hosts local CBC TV news in Sask, when he's not taunting visiting sports teams.