Canadians, soccer and cognitive dissonance

I whinge a lot about how Canadians don’t care about the mens’ national soccer team. So news this week that Canadians apparently actually DO care about the team took me by surprise.

There it is, Ipsos Reid, telling us that 64% of Canadians would feel a greater sense of patriotism if Canada qualified for the 2014 World Cup; that 78% feel it’s important to have a team at the 2014 tournament; and that a whopping 83% of “new Canadians” (what that actually means wasn’t clearly defined) would support Canada over their country of origin.

Initially I felt elated, then something just short of panic. What if I no longer have anything to complain about?

But then I kept thinking. Presumably the people who responded to the above survey realize that a process of some kind occurs in the four years between World Cups that determines whether Canada qualifies for the tournament. Presumably they don’t believe that the CSA simply mails FIFA an application and then lays around in its underwear drinking warm vodka and watching YouTube, waiting for the inevitable rejection.

Dear Canada,

We appreciate your interest in the world’s most prestigious sports tournament. However after reviewing the applications, yours was not selected for further consideration.

We encourage you to apply for future FIFA World Cups and wish you every personal and professional success with your soccer program. Thank you, again, for your interest in the FIFA World Cup.

But after this weekend the Canadian national soccer team will vanish from the public’s radar. (To the extent it was ever on it.) National media outlets won’t be calling CSA general secretary Peter Montopoli, and the sports pages will return to hockey, or NFL football or maybe European soccer. And four years from now everyone will ask why Canada isn’t in the World Cup?

I can’t pretend this blog is anything but one voice in a small echo chamber filled with people who already do care about the mens’ national team. So chamber, I ask you, how do we translate this apparent genuine interest in the success of Canada’s national team into genuine action in the four years between World Cups? Blame broadcasters for ignoring the team all you want, but I’m sure the ratings for those friendlies Sportsnet broadcasts are abysmal.

How do we get people to watch? How do we get people to come out to the games for God’s sake? Because that’s a huge deal. The margin between success and failure in Concacaf qualifying is razor thin. Maybe, just maybe, Canada wouldn’t have suffered that devastating loss to Honduras in September 2008 if Montreal’s Stade Supoto wasn’t 95% full of screaming Hondurans.

Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano puts it best: “the other eleven players know that playing without their fans is like dancing without music.”

This is a good start. I’m sure that casual walkups will be more likely to come back and watch Canada play again if they see at least some sections of the stadium aggressively supporting the home side. That said, it also perfectly illustrates the problem. Eighty percent of Canadians want Canada in the World Cup, yet the supporters groups have to basically interview prospective ticket buyers to make sure a home friendly (a home one!) isn’t full of people supporting Peru.

On the bright side, looks like I still have plenty to complain about.

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7 Responses to “Canadians, soccer and cognitive dissonance”

  1. […] more here: Canadians, soccer and cognitive dissonance « some canadian guys … Tags: extent, from-the-public, media-outlets, national, peter, Peter Montopoli, public, sports, […]

  2. Ok how can we honestly expect people to go ape shit crazy for a friendly against Peru? Even the majority of soccer fans in Canada would be hard pressed to remember it’s even on (assuming it is). Add on to that the disappointment a really crappy performance brings…the half filled stadium, the somewhat ok skill on the field, the lack of passion for a game that means exactly nothing.

    Step 1: Stop whinging
    Step 2: Start winning
    Step 3: ???
    Step 4: Successful team

    • Hey Craig. I hope you don’t mean that it’s me personally who should stop whinging, because that’s all I really have.

      But again, my point above. Eighty percent of Canadians want the team in the World Cup, but can’t bother themselves to give a shit about the team in the meantime. When Honduras or Costa Rica play a friendly, people in those countries care about it. I guarantee you.

  3. Winning cures all, that was my point I guess. I love soccer in this country, I watch as much as I can, I go t some TFC games, I watch qualifying, gold cup, etc. And I’m tired of being shit kicked every time I get my hopes up.

    If the team can put something competent on the field you’ll see things reversed some.

  4. I think that Marketing is the only way to make Canadians care. Invest in a cool marketing campaign, make the players look badass, market every game like it counts for a lot. I don’t see any other way. Inform the people how qualifying works, inform them of what the team’s activities are between World Cups, because I feel nobody knows. If they would know, they would care (a little) more. I think.

    • I realized after I wrote this post that the Americans went from soccer zeros to heroes in two decades, without the general public showing even remote interest in the team between World Cups.

      The U.S. is a much bigger pie to draw resources from though, and I agree that the CSA needs to build a more sustainable buzz around the team to make it consistently successful.

  5. Heads up, Grant — my most recent post isn’t an attempt to steal your “let’s get behind Canada in between World Cups!” thunder. It’s more or less an attempt to draw in any eyeballs that may have found their way here via Maclean’s, by addressing them directly.

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