Odds stacked against Canada in 2026 FIFA World Cup bid | Soccer | CBC Sports

SoccerOdds stacked against Canada in 2026 FIFA World Cup bid

Posted: Thursday, January 23, 2014 | 08:39 PM

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Canada's men's soccer team has not won since being knocked out of World Cup qualifying in a 8-1 humiliation in Honduras in October 2012. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press) Canada's men's soccer team has not won since being knocked out of World Cup qualifying in a 8-1 humiliation in Honduras in October 2012. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

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By announcing its intent to bid on the FIFA 2026 World Cup, the Canadian Soccer Association is making it known it is thinking big. But there are plenty of things that need to be sorted out first.
Suddenly, everyone's a comedian.

In case you haven't heard the joke, it goes like this: "Why would Canada bid to stage a World Cup? Because it's the only way they'll get to play in one!"

Many a true word spoken in jest as they say. 

In case you haven't been keeping score - Canada's lone appearance at a FIFA World Cup was back in the day when big hair, and bigger shoulder pads were all the rage and a Scotsman named Alex Ferguson became manager of Manchester United.

Clearly the men who run the sport of soccer in this country are tired of being a laughing stock. They are collectively known as the Canadian Soccer Association, and they want it known they are thinking big.

Let's pause for a moment to let that sink in....

Imagine that. The greatest show on earth on our doorstep in 12 years' time.

What are the odds? Almost certainly very long indeed - but not buying a ticket guarantees only one thing - you cannot win the lottery.

Of course it could never actually happen. After all, Canada has no global credibility or culture as a soccer nation and it's simply not set up for a competition of this magnitude. There aren't enough stadia and those that exist are too small to host World Cup matches.

One word: Qatar.

Some years ago I was asked to provide a voiceover by an agency representing the Qatar Football Association. The promotional video - which featured spectacular computer generated graphics of futuristic stadia - was among the first to announce Qatar's fledgling bid to host the FIFA World Cup.

I remember leaving the audio booth with two distinct thoughts: Firstly, how professionally the video had been produced and secondly what a waste of money the whole thing was. Let's be honest, Qatar - a tiny country with no soccer pedigree - was never going to host a World Cup...

Money talks

Before you start screaming bribery and corruption, let's all settle down.

Of course money talks, but isn't that the way all business fundamentally works? So long as nothing illegal occurred in the voting process, Qatar is entitled to spend as much money as it wants on bidding for, and ultimately staging the 2022 World Cup.   

Fanciful though it may seem therefore, we must ask of Canada - why not?

This is a bold statement of intent by the CSA.

It wants Canada to be a major player in the soccer world - on and off the field - something it has failed to achieve in its first century of existence. The only way to do that is to grow a brand Canadians will take pride in and rally behind.

Easier said than done in a country where soccer is not the dominant sport. But a winning team helps and there is nothing like success to accelerate the process.

The Canadian women's team came home to a hero's welcome after snatching an unexpected medal at the London Olympics.

The secret now is to take that feel-good factor and run with it over the next few years. An isolated triumph is a like a one-hit wonder in the pop charts. Once its popularity wanes and no follow up appears it becomes frozen in time and is remembered as nothing more than a curious novelty.

There is no shortage of opportunities. Later this year, Canada will host the U-20 Women's World Cup, and in the summer of 2015 will stage the Women's World Cup itself. Canada must then qualify for the Summer Olympics in Brazil in 2016 and try to emulate or better its memorable London landmark.

Sadly, the men are lagging way behind. If Canada is going to stage a World Cup it needs a team that can at least hold its head up and compete. For the foreseeable future that is not going to happen. Canada has neither the talent nor the depth to compete in its own backyard - never mind on a world stage.

Cue the CSA's Strategic Plan - a four-year blueprint designed to elevate standards across the board and across the country. It is for players, coaches, officials, administrators and dare I add the media. Canada's performance must radically improve in all areas, and there are acres of room for improvement.

If we as Canadians don't take soccer seriously, why should we expect anyone else to?

The fundamental way in which it is taught, promoted and governed in this country does little to propel the sport forward. Sure, we can all admire Barcelona, Juventus and Bayern Munich from afar but that is not helping the domestic or national product one iota.

Lacking credibility

It desperately needs credibility. Without it, Canadian soccer will continue to be irrelevant and unimportant to many.

In short, it must matter to most and if bidding for the World Cup makes Canadians sit up and take notice then the game can only benefit.

Victor Montagliani is a rising star in soccer politics.

The CSA President is already a member of CONCACAF's Executive Committee and FIFA's Legal Committee. As such he has the influence not only to fight in Canada's corner but also market it as a destination for regional competitions.

He must use his position wisely. Montagliani must be part diplomat, part salesman, part lobbyist where Canada is concerned. Ensuring the FIFA events Canada will host this year and next are well-run and well-attended will all help his and his country's standing in the corridors of power.

Maybe it's simply a case of Much Ado About Nothing. Bidding for a FIFA World Cup brings its own cache and draws global attention. Win or lose, there is no such thing as a bad bid. The stadia may never actually get built but until the vote is counted, Canada is in the game.

It is stretching credibility to the limit to suggest Canada could be ready to host the World Cup in little more than a decade. If it cannot stage a Gold Cup it surely has zero chance of attracting the sport's international showpiece.

Yet South Africa did it and Qatar is going to do it.

If recent history is anything to go by all will be revealed in 2020. Watch this space.

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