Keep beer ready to keep temperatures steady. Keep painkillers at side to keep fists on the downside, and all of us, keep this in mind: this soccer spectacle, this “beautiful game”, will attract more eyeballs in this hockey-mad country than any sports competition before it.
Prior to this, the three biggest facts of life in Canada, domestically or internationally, were hockey, hockey, and hockey – not necessarily in that order. But now, they’ll have to take a back seat (or at least ride side-saddle) to this World Cup.
The last Women’s World Cup in 2011, in Germany, was a doozy. The unheralded, never-a-contender-before Japanese stunned Germany in the semi final then twice, against the Americans in the final, came back from behind to tie, then win the game in the penalty shootout. 62 million + viewers worldwide tuned into the final.
So, for 2015, take the hell-bent-for-leather Americans, the madder-than-hell Germans, the ready-to-defend Japanese, toss in the always-a-bridesmaid-never-a-bride Brazilians, who’d love to avenge for their men’s terrible thrashing at the hands of Germany in the World Cup of 2014, and, ultimately, add in the loaded-for-bear-and-beer Canadians (who are in Group A with China, The Netherlands, and New Zealand - all ranked below them by FIFA) and it’s no wonder the anticipation for this soccer showcase is building mightily.
The Japanese, as befits their culture, play as a team and star worship isn’t their bag. No matter. There are enough other bright lights to stoke fans’ fires. USA has Abby Wambach, with her 180 international goals, Brazil - Marta Vieira da Silva, and Canada, their beloved, Christine Sinclair. These three razzle dazzlers will put on a show of offense that will shut up those negative nabobs who complain that soccer lacks scoring. Watching highlight reels of their best goals are a sight for sore eyes. Just watching “Marta” – she the "Pelé with skirts" - her footwork, feints, speed, shots, her overall soccer samba style - all way, way HOT - will draw in neutral observers and make them rooters for life. Abby, for her part, is making boosters of NASCAR into potential soccer followers. She was the honorary green-flag starter at the Daytona 500.
Canadians, therefore, are in for a treat, and that ginormous country is hosting the games in cities ranging from Vancouver in the west to Moncton in the east, some 2,655 miles apart. About the only untoward fact in the preparation and promotion of the World Cup is that Toronto, the biggest city, will not feature any games.
Well, for Abby, Toronto or no Toronto, she’d rather be on grass. Not the smoking kind, but the standing. Man, does that woman have power. Not only is she a huge influence for her sport on the field, she’s changing it off the field too. She led a lawsuit, claiming gender discrimination, because the Canada 2015 version will be held on artificial turf. (The men’s World Cup is played on natural grass.) She didn’t win the suit, in fact she withdrew it, but you know what - B.C. Place, where the final will be played, is installing a more player-friendly artificial surface because of her dogged determination and good legal-wonk works. (She’s also raising awareness on concussions, but that’s a story for another day.)
Gone will be the concrete feel of the 40mm fiber pile height. In will be the, slightly cushier, playable height of 60mm.
So, Abby burns with results...
And desire. She retweeted the punchline: America has a score to settle.
Well, so does Canada. Never gone for Canada’s Sinclair will be her angry memories of Canada’s game against the Wambach Americans in the 2012 Olympics. Canada was leading 3-2, with all three goals scored by Sinclair, when Wambach began to count. Out loud. Near to the Norwegian referee, Christiana Pedersen. “I got to 10 seconds right next to the referee, and at 10 seconds she blew the whistle,".
Canada’s goalkeeper had had the ball in her hands and the referee tooted, saying she possessed it for too long, six seconds is maximum, and awarded the States an Indirect Free Kick – which, seconds later, led to a penalty kick - which tied the game up, Wambach scoring it. This call is so obscure, that the last time it had been called in a high-level match was, pundits think, back in 2002 in a Premier League contest.
Sinclair was seething and was suspended for her comments about the ref “...the ref decided the result before it started.”So she’ll be primed and pumped for this 2015 Women’s World Cup. In front of her hometown followers. Wow.
Unfortunately, trust organizers to take the “Wow” out of the tourney with an official motto that means nothing and everything: “To A Greater Goal.” The amorphous catch-all is meant to be inclusive, one supposes, and in this they’ve succeeded because, to a person, 100% of the earth’s populace will think it stinks. Despite that unfortunate theme there is a very bright idea, a first time EVER idea, to offset it, and that is to showcase the trophy across Canada before the spectacle takes place. The twelve lucky cities’ fans can get pics of them with the trophy and take shots at partner Coca-Cola’s Robot Goalie.
What’s the upshot, the final shot? With less than 30 days to go this “largest women’s sport competition in the world” is halfway to its goal of attracting 1.5 million spectators.
Small wonder, given the super-compelling star, and scintillating soccer-side, stories.