When you think of football you automatically assume that it’s a sport dominated by men. Maybe in the rest of the world, but this is Canada, for one thing we don’t call it football, its soccer here.
Sadly our men’s national team seem to be perpetual strugglers. They have only qualified to play in one World Cup event in 1986 and are currently ranked 116 in the world.
It’s a different matter for our women’s team though. Ranked 8th, they are talented, hard-working, entertaining to watch and capable of beating anyone on any given day.
So it’s interesting that the Women’s World Cup is being held here in Canada for the first time ever this summer and they have qualified to play.
This will be the largest women’s soccer tournament in history.
Canada will be one of 24 teams that will play at six venues throughout the country. They’ll open the tournament on Sat. June 6 when they play China at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium.
Winnipeg will be one of the host venues and although Canada is not scheduled to play any matches here we will be hosting games between ten different national teams, including two time winners and tournament favourites the USA. They will be joined in a so-called “group of death” by Sweden, Nigeria and Australia.
Other games to be played here will feature Thailand, Germany, China, New Zealand, Ecuador and Japan.
We will have a chance to see some of the world’s top players such as the American Abby Wambach, currently the world’s leading international goal scorer with 178 goals, just slightly ahead of our Christine Sinclair.
Wambach will be joined by her controversial teammate Hope Solo, who despite an arrest for domestic abuse and a recent suspension for bad attitude, still remains one of the world’s top goalkeepers.
The tournament will wrap up on Sun. July 5 when the final will be played at Vancouver’s BC Place.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter will be in Canada for the tournament; no word yet though as to whether he’ll be coming to Winnipeg.
One interesting fact about FIFA is that despite constant allegations of financial corruption, they refuse to sanction games in stadiums with corporate names.
So, although all the Winnipeg matches will be played at Investors Group Field, FIFA will refer to it simply as Winnipeg Stadium. And all the advertisement hoardings will have to be removed including the ones on the cup holders in each of the 30,000 seats.
That’s not the only controversy if you can recall the recent human rights lawsuit launched by the players about having to play games on artificial turf. Something top class male players would never do.
FIFA spent $2 million in the 1994 Men’s World Cup to plant natural grass over artificial turf in stadiums in Detroit and New Jersey. There’s no plans for that here though. FIFA’s head of women’s competitions, Tatjana Haenni, said games will be played on artificial turf.
Controversy aside, look for some excellent coverage as the women’s game seems to take on more prominence worldwide.
I just hope our men’s team are watching.