Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Celebrating Diversity: Canada during the FIFA World Cup

Chances are, you know that Thursday, June 12, 2014, is the first day of the 2014 FIFA World Cup tournament, which is being hosted by Brazil. I know that for a number of my readers, it'll be a time of anticipation. Soccer (or football, if that's what you call it) is an international sport, and many countries around the world have potential to claim the title of FIFA World Cup champion.

On that note, quick shout-out to those of you who are from countries that have teams playing in the World Cup. I know that there are at least American, Australian, and English readers out there - and quite possibly many more.

I have had a chance to go to England not too long ago, and I could definitely sense the beginnings of World Cup fever. In souvenir stores, jerseys and memorabilia related to the English national team were prominently on display - goods that promoted opposing teams, not so much. And I daresay the same could be said in many other parts of the world right now.

But not Canada.

See, Canada's men's soccer team only ever participated in the FIFA World Cup once: in 1986, and lost every single one of its games. Since then, Canada's tried for entry every single time the World Cup comes around, to no avail: we don't even get past the Qualifiers.

(Note: the WOMEN'S team is another story - Canada has not only participated numerous times there, but does really well for itself!)

So it's not likely, come Thursday and the days following, to see much by way of Canadian flags on cars, fans walking down the street in red-and-white or maple-leaf facepaint, cheering on Canada's teams or its players, etc. The one exception here would be on Canada Day itself, since July 1 does overlap with the tournament. But I digress. The point here is that without a national team or identity to cheer for, Canadians are, in fact, quite free to cheer for whomever they so choose during the FIFA World Cup.

And, boy, do they ever!

I'd show you pictures if I had any. But, I don't. So you'll have to use your imaginations. Just the other day, in a shopping mall parking lot in Toronto, Ontario, I saw a car decorated with an English flag parked right next to one with a Portuguese flag. A week ago, I went out to see a musical downtown, and found a car festooned with Greek flags in the parking lot there. Even among those I know, people are choosing to support different teams: this person says Spain, that person says Brazil, a third person says Argentina. I remember seeing the streets erupt into celebration when Italy won the 2006 FIFA World Cup; and watched the 2010 Final with a Spanish flag in one hand, and a Dutch flag in the other, and loudly cheering for both. And you know what? No one cared that I did.

Growing up in such an ethnically diverse place as the city of Toronto, it's no wonder that even though Canada is not immediately known for its soccer skills (again, with the very important exception of our women's team), there are fans of literally every participating nation in the World Cup just walking the streets here. It's a time of celebration here, where people, just for a moment, revel in the many different peoples and cultures that make up Canada's urban centres. And, on a quick concluding note, now's a really good time for all you Canadians out there to shape up on your flag recognition skills. The next chance won't come around for another four years, it looks like!


FIFA, "FIFA World Cup Statistics for Canada"., n.d. Web. 11 June 2014.

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