Originally published on CBC.ca
A friend recently returned from South Korea. He brought with him stories of local fans dressed and painted in red, gathering in public spaces to cheer on their national team. Much the same is happening in countries around the world.
In Argentina and Chile, schools have set up TVs in their gymnasiums. They've come up with creative ways to include the World Cup in their curriculums; altering lesson plans to include information on all of the nations competing in the tournament.
Before they left for South Africa, the American national team was invited to the White House to meet with president Barack Obama and former president Bill Clinton. Why? Maybe because the country with the largest number of visiting fans in South Africa is the U.S. In fact, the number of Americans who bought tickets to go to South Africa is greater than the next two visiting countries combined.
With Canada not qualifying for the World Cup it's understandable that we haven't reached the same levels of fandom. But I believe that soccer offers Canada a unique opportunity to build our national identity. With nearly a million registrants across the country, soccer has already surpassed hockey as the county's number one participatory sport. We should seize this opportunity to build towards the day when all of Canada is united around a soccer match.