I’m in England, the land of soccer … sorry, football if you’re a purist.

Along with more than 10 million Brits, I’ve just watched on TV as Manchester United fell to Barcelona in the Champions League final.

Saturday, Chelsea and Everton will play the FA Cup final before 90,000 singing fans at Wembley Stadium. It is a rite of spring in a place where the game means something. You can feel the electricity surrounding the match.

If only it were true in Canada.

“Here we need to change the culture,” Jason de Vos told me. De Vos was, for a number of years, the captain of the Canadian men’s soccer team, a side that never qualified for the greatest of tourneys, the World Cup, during his 18 years as an elite player.

“The biggest disappointment in my career is to have never gone to the World Cup with Canada,” he admitted. “When you’re a soccer player, your dream is to play in the World Cup.”
In fact, Canada has only once been admitted to the largest single sport spectacle on the face of the Earth.

That was in 1986 in Mexico, and even then the Canadians didn’t win a game, much less score a goal. All this mediocrity in a place where soccer is the greatest sport in terms of mass participation.

How do we right the wrong?

Well, Saturday we begin the process. On a special edition of Sports Weekend, de Vos and I will watch some old film — the classic FIFA World Cups of the past, and we’ll talk to people about how we harness all this love for a beautiful, simple and affordable game and turn it into the national obsession it ought to be.

– Scott Russell is the Host of CBC Sports Weekend seen Saturday afternoons. He has covered professional and amateur sports including nine Olympic games and numerous world championships.

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