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Ottawa Citizen: A stage for world's rising stars


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Ima puttin this article in this section, since it's related to Canada. If we had a WYC 2006 section, then I'd put it there!



Ottawa to serve as stage for world's top up-and-comers: Some of the best rising stars in world soccer will be in Ottawa next summer, reports Amy Sharaf.

Amy Sharaf

The Ottawa Citizen

1018 words

26 August 2006

Ottawa Citizen


C1 / Front


Copyright © 2006 Ottawa Citizen

It's coming and, if you believe the slogan, "It's gonna be huge."

Soccer fans across the country were astonished when Canada won the battle to play host to the 2007 FIFA men's under-20 world championship because, by the numbers, this is the third largest sporting event in the world behind the World Cup and the Olympic Games.

It is staged every two years, and last year's championship in the Netherlands drew more than 500,000 spectators and 543 million television viewers. The FIFA website for the event registered 1.5 million hits a day.

It's a mouth-watering prospect for the Canadian Soccer Association, which won the event, and for the Ottawa site organizing committee, which is responsible for eight games at Frank Clair Stadium between June 30 and July 22.

"We'd love to sell the stadium out so that we can show the world Ottawa is on the soccer map," says Marci Morris, general manager of the organizing committee.

According to the FIFA website, more than 208,000 seats have been sold across the country: 40 per cent of the goal set by tournament organizers. That includes 40,000 in Ottawa, and tickets only went on sale here on July 15.

"With this type of start, we are now even more confident that we can build on this momentum and reach our goal of 520,000 spectators attending the event next summer," Kevan Pipe, chief operating officer of the CSA, says on FIFA's website. "This would break the record for the largest single-sport sporting event ever held in Canada."

In total, 52 games will be staged in Montreal, Toronto, Edmonton, Victoria, Ottawa and Burnaby, B.C. Ottawa's Frank Clair stadium will play host to five match days, including three double-headers. Six of the eight games will be round-robin contests, followed by one in the round of 16 and one quarterfinal. The final will be in Toronto on July 22.

"The strong ticket sales show Ottawa is really keen on having this and they're very supportive," says Morris, who is looking for 500 volunteers to help make the event run smoothly. She has about 100 already in place.

"People think it's going to be big and they want to be a part of it," Morris says. "The world's biggest game is coming to Canada, and this is fantastic for Canada, let alone for Ottawa, for hosting this."

The CSA has yet to finalize TV rights, including host broadcaster, but is anxious to have all 52 games televised. Organizers also contend the size of the worldwide audience makes the event a perfect promotion vehicle for the city, which is why they are attempting to make the event more than a soccerfest.

They are taking over the whole of Lansdowne Park while the soccer show is on, with specialty food booths and more. "We want to make it more than just a game you're coming to," Morris says.

So why all the fuss, you might wonder.

One argument is that this is the tournament where future world stars begin to sparkle.

This was the tournament where world soccer first got to see Argentine hero Diego Maradona, Brazil's Roberto Carlos, Portugal's Luis Figo, Spain's Raul and France's Thierry Henry.

England's Michael Owen was a star here and so, incidentally, was Canadian Iain Hume, who now plays for Leicester in England's Championship division.

Qualification for the tournament is ongoing, although Spain, Portugal, Scotland, Poland, Austria and the Czech Republic have already qualified, while Canada has a guaranteed berth as host nation.

Once the list of 24 participating teams is completed, FIFA will divide them into pools for the opening round-robin. Until then, there's no indication of which countries will be coming to Ottawa.

"We would love to have (defending champions) Argentina or Brazil; I would be lying to say we wouldn't," Morris says. "The passion that they bring to the game just makes it really exciting to see them."

This will be the eighth time Canada has been a part of the world under-20 men's finals. There are currently 35 players in the player pool under consideration, with that number to be cut to 23. Of those 35 players, five saw action in the finals in the Netherlands.

Home crowd support will be like having a bonus player, Canadian coach Dale Mitchell says.

"I think the challenge for us is to try and find a way to play that gets fans behind us and to make sure that the games are exciting for them," says Mitchell, a former national team player and coach of the 2003 Canadian under-20 team that reached the quarterfinals in the United Arab Emirates.

Mitchell intends to bring together his players, who are scattered among European club teams, U.S. colleges and Canadian squads, about once a month leading up to next year's event, often for exhibition games against various Canadian clubs and other national teams. Starting in mid-May, the Canadian players will join up to begin final preparations.

Practice sites have been secured at the University of Ottawa and Algonquin College, and the City of Ottawa has agreed to replace the turf at Frank Clair Stadium, Morris says.

"The city has been "extraordinarily supportive," says John Gallo, director of ticketing for the organizing committee.

"These players are the future of soccer, and to have them play here in Canada at the international level is just going to be an absolute treat for the fans.

"We're just looking forward to seeing the world's best rising stars."

Colour Photo: Chris Mikula, The Ottawa Citizen / Marci Morris is general manager of Ottawa's site organizing committee for next year's FIFA men's world under -20 soccer championship at Frank Clair Stadium.

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