During the 2010 World Cup, two of your trusty Some Canadian Guys took to the (online) pages of Maclean's magazine to bicker about pressing soccer issues of the day. Now we're using this forum to bicker about a pressing soccer issue of the present day.
With the 2015 Women's World Cup officially being awarded to Canada, it appears that Toronto will not be one of the host cities. Does it matter?
Squizz: It's most important for folks to realize that this isn't a case of the CSA intentionally shutting Toronto out. The city -- and region -- will be busy with the 2015 Pan Am Games, and didn't express an interest in hosting any WWC games. But no matter the cause, even if this inconveniences me personally, I think it's a great thing, as it allows the games to be spread into cities and areas that may not have otherwise had them.
Jamie: I agree that it's not the CSA's fault (wow – that feels weird to say), but it's still a problem that Toronto isn't involved. I can't argue them into inclusion – the city opted out – but I can argue against the idea that this is a good thing. Spreading the game beyond Toronto is necessary, but we can't pretend that the game – especially the women's game – is so entrenched in Toronto that we can take it as a given.
The attendance figures in Toronto for the matches against China and the U.S. in the last two years weren't great, but they showed potential. Just one World Cup match (say, the opener, which has the best chance of not competing with the Pan Am Games) would certainly sell out, and seeing a meaningful Canadian victory (fingers crossed) would do wonders for the support here.
Squizz: What, people in Toronto don't have televisions? They can't watch games in Montreal or Edmonton or wherever else, and still be filled with pride and excitement if the team does well? There was this funny little sporting event called "the Olympics" last winter, and people in Toronto seemed to get plenty excited about that, even though they were in Vancouver. Besides, one of the goals of the World Cup is to build the sport in this country which, as I'm sure you're well aware, does include cities outside of the GTA.
Jamie: Hey now – I'm not trying to be Toronto-centric, here. (Although it is awkward that the World Cup won't visit the country's largest city, and won't have any games at the country's – ahem – National Soccer Stadium.) Also, lest we forget, Canada isn't the only country competing in this tournament. Most of the group matches, obviously, will be country A vs country B with Canada nowhere in the mix. Toronto – as we've all seen, often to our dismay – can muster up fan support for any country on Earth. Will Halifax be clamoring for Equatorial Guinea v Norway? Perhaps irrelevant to Canada's success in the tournament, but relevant to the tournament's success overall.
Squizz: Alright, I'll grant you that, with the field expanded to 24 nations for the first time, there's a damn good chance that there'll be a lot of real stinker games that probably won't get the juices flowing. But then, who could have expected 11,500 in Victoria for Uruguay v. Zambia, or 26,000+ in Ottawa for Panama v. North Korea during the men's U20 World Cup in 2007? During that same tourney, New Zealand v. Gambia drew fewer than 12,000 to BMO Field. Not that I'm saying a match of that, ahem, "quality" should have drawn bigger, but the idea that any two soccer nations will instantly sell out in Toronto is fallacious.
The crux of my "Mission Moncton" (or Sparkle Moncton, if you will) argument is that cities that aren't accustomed to hosting major sporting events will likely flock to them, unlike in Toronto where people can be complacent. Just look at the first event held at Stade Moncton. Who the hell knew that so many New Brunswickers cared about junior track and field?
Jamie: "Sparkle Moncton," if you please.
I'd be surprised if a match in Toronto didn't sell out, but that's a hypothetical. To change gears, here's another one: If Canada was up against real competition to host this tournament and submitted a bid that didn't include the largest city, do you think we would have won? I don't. Why? Because it's a bit embarrassing, if only because it shows that we're (the city, the CSA, the country – whoever – we all come off looking the same) prioritizing the Pam Am Games (the fucking Pan Am Games) ahead of the World Cup.
As you mentioned, yes, Torontonians can watch the games on TV. So can people in Buffalo, or Berlin. You don't have to actually have a ticket to the game to enjoy the World Cup in your city – surely the 2010 experience in Johannesburg wasn't limited to those inside the stadiums. In any host city, especially on game day around the stadium, you get all kinds of peripheral hoopla that involves a lot of people beyond just those with a seat for the game. That's how you grow the game with a tournament like this, experientially and financially.
In southern Ontario, the tournament experience can reach hundreds of thousands of people (including kids from some of the country's biggest soccer clubs) over the course of a tournament; in Moncton, well.... In a Toronto with no hosted games the experience is lost: there's no players about, no foreign fans, none of the festival-ish crap (the "sparkle!"), no impetus to do anything other than sit at home and watch the game on TV.
I don't mean to take away from Moncton or Halifax or anywhere else – I'd love for a city in every province to get a piece of this – but Toronto should be included. (And, from what I hear the CSA agrees with me, and they're pretty pissed with Tourism T.O. for skipping this.)
Squizz: Tourism Toronto's lack of vision is neither here nor there, as far as we're concerned. And sure, in an alternate universe perhaps Toronto's absence from the bid may have hurt us; but the fact that we demolished any and all competition even without the country's largest city on board speaks pretty highly of our national capabilities, wouldn't you say? (And even if you wouldn't, I am.)
Don't forget, Canada also gets to host the 2014 U20 Women's World Cup. You know you can't, in good faith, say that such a tournament wouldn't draw here, 'cause then I'd just predictably trot out the 60,000+ attendance in Edmonton in 2002 when we hosted the U19 World Cup. If Toronto being part of this bid is soooo important, then perhaps the CSA and Tourism Toronto could strike a deal to have U20 games played in the city, since there'd be no conceivable conflict with the Pan Am Games.
Either way, wherever the games are played, I think we can agree that winning the bid is terrific news for Canadian soccer, yes?
Jamie: Sure, Toronto may get U20 involvement, and it'll be great and all, but it's not same: the Confederations Cup ain't the World Cup. In the end, there's even the chance that something will be worked out after the fact, behind closed doors (in international soccer! Gasp!) and Toronto will have some kind of involvement in 2015. There's a lot of time between now and 2015, and there's too much money to be made (or not made) for Toronto not to realize their mistake and try to butt in.
Until then I'm happily planning my trip to Montreal, Moncton, Moose Jaw – wherever – because, all gripes aside, this is a huge boost for Canadian soccer, and the most important thing is to get out and show support wherever the games are held.
What do you think? Does it make a difference whether or not games are played in Toronto in 2015?