Canada joins 2026 co-hosts U.S., Mexico in World Cup handover ceremony
Qatar praised as 1st Middle East country to host event
Chris Jones is in Qatar covering the men's World Cup for CBC Sports.
Hours before the men's World Cup final in Qatar, dignitaries from the host country and the three co-hosts for the 2026 edition — Canada, the USA, and Mexico — met on the blue shores of the Persian Gulf to hand over responsibility for the biggest sports event on Earth.
Canada was represented by Transport Minister Omar Alghabra. He was a few minutes late. In his defence, the event was held at the Lusail Heritage Village, oddly named because it's too new to appear on maps, and, having served its purpose on Sunday, will be torn down this week.
"What an honour and a pleasure to be with all of you here today," Alghabra said, dressed casually with a red T-shirt under his grey suit and well-worn Adidas sneakers on his feet. "I do want to take a moment to salute the Canadian team for the tremendous talent and grit they demonstrated at the World Cup."
Canada's men's team participated in the tournament for just the second time, and the first since 1986. As a host country, Canada's team earns an automatic berth into the 2026 World Cup.
The 2026 tournament, expanded to 48 teams, will return to its usual summer window, running June 8-July 3. Toronto and Vancouver are among 16 cities across North America that will host games. In the U.S., game will be played in Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Kansas City, Dallas, Atlanta, Houston, Boston, Philadelphia, Miami, and New York/New Jersey. Mexico City, Monterrey and Guadalajara will host the matches in Mexico.
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Alghabra praised the Qatari organizers for their work, and acknowledged its location had personal significance for him.
"It's also special for me to be here as someone who was born in this region, as someone who is a proud Arab Canadian," Alghabra said. "It's a special moment for me personally, and I know for Canadians, to be part of a World Cup that is hosted for the first time in an Arab country, for the first time in a Muslim country, for the first time in this region, in the Middle East."
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the American ambassador to the United Nations, said the tournament is important in bridging cultural differences.
"Every country has its own distinct politics, culture, and history, but there's one thing that almost all people have in common — it unifies people all over the world. That's a love for soccer," Thomas-Greenfield said. "The world's most popular sport transcends languages, and it transcends borders. It fosters a sense of empathy. It brings us together. It teaches us invaluable lessons.
"After all, if our players can give it their all for 90 minutes and then embrace their competitors when the final whistle blows, perhaps we, too, can do our part to extend friendship and kindness to others."
"It will be a World Cup to remember," Thomas-Greenfield said of the 2026 edition.