GROW­ING THE GAME

Canada co-host­ing 2026 World Cup seen as a way to in­spire young ath­letes

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - BY JA­SON MALLOY

The Is­land soc­cer com­mu­nity is ex­cited about the im­pact of Canada co-host­ing the World Cup in eight years’ time could mean for the sport.

“I’m just book­ing my va­ca­tion for 2026,” Lewis Page laughed early Wed­nes­day morn­ing. “To have it here in Canada is un­be­liev­able.”

Page, the Prince Edward Is­land Soc­cer As­so­ci­a­tion’s man­ager of high per­for­mance and head coach of the UPEI Pan­thers men’s team, was one of the many soc­cer en­thu­si­asts who watched as FIFA an­nounced that the joint bid from Canada, the United States and Mex­ico had won the rights to host the in­ter­na­tional cham­pi­onship.

Page said his phone start “blow­ing up” with mes­sages from friends.

“My kids were try­ing to fig­ure out what I was so ex­cited about,” he ex­plained.

“It is the big­gest sport­ing event in the world, bar none. It’s big­ger than the Olympics. It’s a mas­sive event.”

Jonathan Vos, the as­so­ci­a­tion’s tech­ni­cal di­rec­tor and bench

boss for the Hol­land Col­lege Hur­ri­canes men’s squad, said he was su­per ner­vous in the mo­ments be­fore the an­nounce­ment.

“It’s go­ing to be great for the game in Canada and North Amer­ica to have that event in your own time zone,” he said.

“It’s go­ing to be an amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for every­one in­volved, for fans and es­pe­cially for young play­ers who get to see it.”

Vos and Page both see it as a great way to pro­mote the game with the po­ten­tial to in­crease the num­ber of kids in­volved lo­cally.

“We’re very much a hockey coun­try at times be­cause the kids can see that dream. They see it day in and day out,” Vos said.

“You want a kid to dream and want to put on that Cana­dian (soc­cer) jer­sey and play for Canada.”

Page noted the an­nounce­ment comes on the heels of a new pro­fes­sional league start­ing next year with a team in Hal­i­fax.

“If you’re a young kid who dreams of mak­ing a liv­ing out of play­ing soc­cer and rep­re­sent­ing your coun­try, ev­ery­thing is right there in front of you now,” he said. “(It’s) an amaz­ing time to be a player.”

Page was part of the na­tional team coach­ing staff from 19992011, mainly with youth teams. He at­tended three youth World Cups in Trinidad and Tobago, New Zealand and in Canada, as well as the 2011 Pan Amer­i­can Games in Mex­ico with the se­nior women.

He has wit­nessed the evo­lu­tion of the na­tional pro­grams.

“The growth in the game and the in­vest­ment at the in­ter­na­tional

level from the Cana­dian Soc­cer As­so­ci­a­tion has been un­be­liev­able,” he said.

“When I first started, my first cou­ple of camps, it was head coach, as­sis­tant coach, goal­keeper coach and we did ev­ery­thing. We washed the uni­forms, we made sure every­body had plane tick­ets, we were book­ing buses.”

Now the teams travel with full sport science sup­port teams, phys­io­ther­a­pists, train­ers, spe­cial­ized coaches, per­for­mance anal­y­sis and more.

It has helped de­velop the na­tional teams to where the women’s squad is ranked in the top five and the men’s side is pro­duc­ing more top-level ath­letes.

“Canada re­ally is on the world map now,” Page said.

Soc­cerS­top owner David Vos said World Cups are al­ways good for his busi­ness.

They bring in jer­seys, T-shirts, hats and para­pher­na­lia from dif­fer­ent coun­tries.

“Hav­ing it in Canada will def­i­nitely gen­er­ate more busi­ness, but we won’t see the ef­fects of it prob­a­bly un­til 2025,” he said, un­less Canada makes the 2022 event in Qatar.

When Canada and the United States are in the tour­na­ment there is more buzz, but David Vos said they see a lot of peo­ple, even non-soc­cer su­per fans, get­ting caught up in the event’s ex­cite­ment.

“In P.E.I., now the pop­u­la­tion is more diverse than it has been in the past, I get peo­ple com­ing in look­ing for Colom­bian jer­seys and a huge Nigerian pop­u­la­tion at the univer­sity,” he said.

“A lot of them are com­ing in look­ing for Nigerian stuff.”

SUB­MIT­TED

Lewis Page

SUB­MIT­TED

Jonathan Vos

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.