While the pitch is the stage and the players are the actors, it’s the supporters who invariably win rave reviews at any World Cup.
Fans from around the globe create a sense of belonging. Scenes of hundreds of thousands celebrating, or commiserating, in Madrid, Amsterdam, Berlin, Rio de Janeiro or Seoul become etched in the mind’s eye.
These are the images that can be even more compelling than a beautiful strike by Arjen Robben or David Villa. It’s because they represent emotions and togetherness shared by a vast number of human beings.
To a smaller, but perhaps more diverse extent, the same kind of moments are being experienced in Canada. They occur at places like Danforth Avenue in Toronto when the Greeks scored their first World Cup victory. And at Alpen Haus in Vancouver as fans of German heritage urged on a young team in a close semi-final encounter with Spain.
It seems everyone has a stake in the World Cup.
A recent study by Ipsos Reid reveals that a vast majority of Canadians polled, 78 per cent to be exact, agree that it’s important for this country to have a team at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Further, new Canadians say they would overwhelmingly support a squad from their adopted home over one from the place of their birth should it come down to that kind of decision.
Perhaps this is the good news that elite soccer in Canada needs.To put it simply, Canadians really care that our country is represented at the world’s biggest sporting event.
Looking out at the venues in South Africa you can spy Maple Leaf flags. When cheering fans in parking lots are reflected, there is sometimes a supporter for a European or South American country who makes it plain he or she has ventured to the World Cup from Canadian shores.
The desire to be part of the action is strong in Canada. But to be a full partner, everyone understands you have to have something to cheer for. That means qualifying a team to the World Cup and doing it while interest is high.
That’s when Canadians will truly feel a sense of belonging and take a leading role in the drama of the World Cup.
For now we are all part of the supporting cast.