1.2 million people took in tourney



Jared Ferrie/Metro Vancouver


Soccer fans react to a team Argentina goal at Café Abruzzo on Commercial Drive yesterday during the final game in the FIFA U-20 World Cup.


The FIFA Under-20 World Cup wrapped yesterday with a 2-1 win for Argentina over the Czech Republic, and despite Canada’s embarrassing goalless performance on the fields, the country had a great victory in the stands.

This year’s tournament was the most attended U-20 World Cup in history. Nearly 1.2 million fans filled Canadian stadiums, beating Mexico’s record of 1,155,160 spectators, set 24 years ago.

“It was better than what I or anyone anticipated, I think”, said Bob Lenarduzzi, president of the Vancouver Whitecaps FC.

Many hoped this would be the opportunity to increase the popularity of soccer as a spectator sport in Canada. John Rocha, chairman of the organizing committee responsible for the tournament’s Burnaby events, thinks it did just that.

“One-third of Canadians watched at least one U-20 game, according to an Angus Reid survey. Obviously, we touched a greater audience,” he said.

Claire Philips, 26, is one of these newly conquered soccer fans.

“I watched Uruguay against Jordan at the stadium in Burnaby with my boyfriend,” she said. “It was the first elite soccer game I went to. The crowd was really excited and it was cool.”

Philips had her eyes glued to the TV yesterday as she watched the final surrounded by other fans at Commercial Drive’s Abruzzo café.

“I’ll continue to watch soccer now,” she said.

Win-lose situation

  • Canada won in the stands, but in the fields it was a different, much more embarrassing story, with Team Canada finishing last in its group.