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  • Canada eying England and France for 2012 friendlies


    Canadian soccer is looking to give itself one hell of a birthday present next year – whether that's what is best for the Canadian game is yet to be determined.

    With the Canadian Soccer Association’s 100 year anniversary fast approaching, plans are already underway within the CSA to make a splash of epic (actually, make that epoch) proportions.

    Canadian Soccer News has learned that discussions are underway to bring both England and France to Canada to play a pair of friendlies shortly after the 2012 European Cup.


    It’s an idea that has been being kicked around within the CSA for a while now, say high ranking CSA members, but after the Canadian national team signed it’s apparel deal with Umbro earlier this year, the move all but cleared the way to aim high and go after England and France.

    I had the opportunity to sit down with Umbro president Gerald Woodman last month and speak to him about their plans for the National team and their brand in Canada. He confirmed that the plans to bring in the two countries but in addition to requesting I wait a few weeks to report it, he stressed that nothing was yet firm.

    “We’re proposing a few things to the CSA for the centennial celebrations. Among other things, it includes Canada facing England and France as friendly opponents on Canadian soil,” Woodman said. “We’re an authentic football brand and we want to help the CSA bring that authentic football experience to the national team fans.”
    A few years ago, with Canada under the Adidas banner, something like this might not have been possible. As much as friendlies are supposed to be about the fans things like TV revenue, stadium signage, and even event location can become nuisance-filled-hurdles when competing countries are representing competing brands. England, France and Canada now all fall under the same Nike umbrella.

    Early word has a post-Euro Cup England being the more difficult of the two in convincing them to come Canada. The Three Lions' direction begins and ends with head coach Fabio Capello and he is traditionally bullish when it comes to signing off on friendlies. But France, tentatively to be played at Olympic Stadium in Montreal, is showing positive signs, says one CSA member. And, frankly, that makes sense.

    But to be honest, this writer wouldn’t be upset in the least if England were to balk at the proposal. I don’t see a lot of benefit – other than to line the CSA pockets – to packing the Rogers Centre or B.C. Place with 50,000 English ex-pats. And you can be sure that’s how it would play out. That’s how it always plays out.

    Whether it’s Hondurans in Montreal, or Chileans in Toronto, as long as there is a landed population anywhere near the match, in a soccer stadium they’re going to out populate the Canadians by 5-1.

    It’s been a point of frustration for the national team supporters for a long time now – how do we create an intimidating home atmosphere when we’re never really playing at home?

    Canadians are too nice to ban away support from Canuck home games — they’re too proper and polite to demand passports at the gates of the ground. In fact, for some, I’ve just offended them by even mentioning the idea.

    But there is another opponent, one that falls under the Nike banner and one that would be equally apt to inflame the national passions, that would draw in the attention of the national media and mainstream masses.

    Who better to face, when trying convince casuals your national team is one worth supporting and corporately that there is brand loyalty to be had, than the land of the free and the home of the, well, Landon Donovan?

    A Canada vs America game is sure to be one of the few where Canadians could be assured they would have the lion’s share of the attendance in their colour and an opponent that the crowd desperately wants their boys to beat. And given that it’s a friendly, the threat of a massive traveling support from the U.S. would be limited to, let's say, terrorist level yellow.

    Don’t get me wrong. England and France coming to Canada would be very nice. It would bring out a nice sized crowd, pocket a nice sized sum for the CSA and get some very nice attention.

    But bringing in America, to play Canadians on Canadian soil, would do more to stoke the fires of pride in this country's national team than a hundred visits from the colonial powers.

    If we're celebrating a hundred years of our game (and lord knows, the successes here have been few and far between) shouldn't the gift to the game be a first of its kind? How about a stadium full of Canadians all singing for Canada for once?

    Start the next 100 years off right. Aim high, but aim south.

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