I was always a cynic on World Cup Qualifying, and even the World Cup itself, to be honest. Even though I first saw soccer during the 2002 World Cup, I’ve always preferred the club game. Maybe its because Canadian TV coverage of the Premiership, Serie A and Champions League has always been more comprehensive than World Cup Qualifying coverage. Or maybe its simply because watching Canada lose early in qualifying to Central American teams in front of just a few thousand supporters was boring. Or more than likely it was a combination of both.
In 2006 qualifying Canada played in front of 8000 fans at the 60, 000 seat Commonwealth Stadium for an important home match against Honduras. Swanguard Stadium in Burnaby hosted Canada’s other two matches, hosting 6500 and 4000 fans respectively. Hardly a difficult atmosphere to come and play in. Canada managed only five points in those games, finishing last in their group.
Fast Forward seven years and soccer has grown drastically in Canada. BMO Field is now the home to most all of Canada’s national team games. It is a beautiful 21, 000 seat stadium on the shores of Lake Ontario. And Friday night was unlike anything I’ve ever seen in Canadian soccer. 17, 500 fans making noise. A lot of it. And for Canada, not their opposition. Canada had a better attendance than many of the teams who played at home in Europe on Friday.
And it is with this growing popularity that Canadian soccer will hit a new high on Tuesday evening when Citytv will broadcast our away World Cup qualifying match in Panama. I don’t remember ever seeing a senior men’s national team game on over-the-air television in my lifetime. The match will also air on Sportsnet One for those without access to City. Coincidently Shaw Direct recently added Citytv HD to their channel lineup. Gerry Dobson and Craig Forrest will call the match. It is one of seven World Cup Qualifying matches airing live on Canadian TV on Tuesday. Many others will air on tape delay and/or Sportsnet World Plus on Rogers Cable.