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Kick, save & a beauty…

 

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Canada qualifying for the World Cup this coming fall in Qatar has made many Canadians’ dreams come true. Children that are born in Canada naturally gravitate to hockey and most kids aspire to become hockey players, but over the past twenty years or so, playing hockey has become less popular and soccer is becoming the go-to sport for many young children–both boys and girls. The game of soccer is very popular around the world, but here in Canada, only very recently has it been on an upswing and it’s picking up steam.

Canadian soccer is influencing future generations…. The Canadian men’s national soccer team has only ever qualified for the 1986 World Cup but the new strategic plan, called Canada Soccer Nation, is supposed to help get everyone motivated and involved in this movement for soccer here in Canada. The Canadian Soccer Association has been touting the game for quite some time and it seems to be catching on. Many Canadians still think that hockey is our most popular sport but it’s not, and l hate to break it to you… soccer is really the primary sport in this country, and many want it to continue and thrive for years to come.

The business of soccer is also growing very fast, especially when it comes to the marketing and selling of merchandise. In terms of participation, soccer actually leads the way. With more than 2.7 million people playing it regularly at more than 1500 clubs in the 12 different regions in Canada. Many parents prefer their children to play soccer than a sport like ice hockey, in part on cost grounds. On average, it costs less than CAD $700 a year to pay for a child’s soccer equipment, lessons, league, and grounds fees compared to the annual cost of needed to support somebody who wants to play ice hockey, which can easily be four times that, or much more depending on the level played. This also makes it much more accessible to people from lower income backgrounds.

Soccer also is seen as fun and open to children of all ages, sexes, and levels of ability, that is compared to traditional Canadian sports like ice hockey or lacrosse, which are regarded as ultra-competitive and where the syndrome of pushy parents is not unknown. It is also regarded as safer – there is less likelihood of a child getting hurt than if they play at one of the collision sports. Soccer is fast-growing as a spectator sport as well, in part due to the waves of immigrants into the country, who have brought their love of soccer with them.

Advances in technology and the proliferation of satellite broadcasters means that the average Canadian has access to more soccer on television than ever before, not just from local leagues but also from across Europe and South America. Already popular in terms of the numbers playing, there is also growing interest in the sport at a professional level. Canada has established three cities that have professional soccer teams in the MLS and the interest from coast to coast is growing every day.

All three of Canada’s professional soccer teams have reported growing attendances at games, with the Vancouver Whitecaps, having the best support of the three teams. This growing success and interest in the game convinced the organizers of the sport that the time was right to launch their own top league. However, the interest in this sport has brought out the business side of things and the smell of money is everywhere.

Making this sport sexy to our nation and having some success with our youth and the possible future has brought out the sharks… these things usually bring out the good and bad.

A major contributory factor to the game’s growth has been the strength of women’s soccer in Canada. The country hosted the 2015 Women’s World Cup, and all the games were well attended. Helping the rise is the fact that Canada is now starting to produce its own new generation of soccer stars. Alphonso Davies may only be 19, but he is already a Champions League winner and has won league and cup titles with his club in Europe.

On a personal note, over the years l have witnessed many talented kids playing both hockey and soccer, but the odds of one of our kids making it big is much more possible with soccer. This game is much more suited for success and the long term affects on our kids mentally is better with the game of soccer. Why, because continuing to play soccer as we age is something that anyone can do, as opposed to lacing up and getting on the ice. We are much more prone to injury with a collision sport of ice hockey and less likely to suffer an injury just kicking the ball around.

My title for this story is, “Kick, save & a beauty.” Why? Because it truly represents the soccer community in this country where a kick represents the sport of soccer, while the save is meant to represent all of us who have saved our memories of soccer moments and the beauty represents the win, we just got with Canada qualifying for the 2022 World Cup.

For soccer, the future is bright, not least because the country will be one of the co-hosts, along with the USA and Mexico, of the 2026 men’s World Cup. Traditionally, the Canadian men’s team has not enjoyed the same level of success as the women. They have only qualified for the World Cup finals once, in 1986, and only made the Olympics twice. However, all that will change in five years’ time, and the sport will undoubtedly get the boost in popularity traditionally enjoyed by all World Cup hosts.
Kick, Save & a Beauty….

Vincent Black/MS

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