It’s all the rage these days for football fans to moan and whinge about the international break, unless of course you have a hardcore European loyalty that will carry you through the boredom of watching your team trounce San Marino, as Holland look poised to do tomorrow. And you can be sure your neighbourhood bar won’t be packed for Liechtenstein versus Lithuania.
But none of that matters, because you’re Canadian (well, at least some of you are, damned border-disrespecting Interweb). And this Friday, team Canada will face St. Lucia in the first match of CONCACAF Group D second round World Cup qualifying, at home at BMO Field. In Toronto. Ontario.
If you’re in the Big Smoke, tickets are still available via Ticketmaster, and Canadian Soccer News has details on a couple of the planned pre-game festivities. If you’re not in the Big Smoke and you refuse to travel there because you hate our freedoms and our way of life, it will be broadcast on a rival network that starts with an S and ends with a 1.
As far as precedents are concerned (and are they ever revealing in CONCACAF outside of Mexico and the US?), Canada have never faced St. Lucia in international competition. However, the Canadian government notes:
Canada’s good bilateral relations with Commonwealth Caribbean countries stem from a significant Caribbean diaspora in Canada, long-standing regional commercial links, and a long history of Canadian support for the region.
A ten goal rout would go a long way to changing all that, but the bit about the “diaspora” also means there still may be a large contingent of away supporters. Yes. For St. Lucia. Sigh. The best way to prevent that is to open your wallet, go downtown, and show your support.
Why? Well, there are a few good omens heading into tomorrow. As Duane Rollins noted this morning, Canada crushed St. Lucia in volleyball qualifying (Yes! Volleyball!). And despite an overall lack of game time for their clubs, Canada is fielding a strong team, with Julian De Guzman and Dwayne De Rosario starting, and Atiba Hutchinson back in the fold after recovering from a knee injury.
Still, the old doubts linger, but if Canada fails to convince against St. Lucia, supporters groups should be prepared to go into immediate crisis mode, march to CSA headquarters in Ottawa and chant “we will overcome” until we get a decent player development set-up and second tier domestic league. Either that or leave early to watch a PVR’d Iceland v. Norway game.