Soccer surge expected in Manitoba as Canada heads to FIFA World Cup

Canada’s men’s soccer team is set to compete in the FIFA World Cup for the first time since 1986 when the tournament opens in Qatar next week. Those close to the game here in Manitoba expect a surge of interest.

It has been 36 years since Canada’s men’s national soccer team’s last played for the world cup.

“It’s a long time ago,” said Hector Vergara, president of the Manitoba Soccer Association. “I remember that game when they played in the world cup in 1986 in Mexico.”

Canada qualified after finishing first in CONCACAF – one of FIFA’s six continental confederations – clinching a spot in the 32-team tournament.

“Going into the world cup is a major success for the team and for the country,” Vergara said. “We think and I believe they’re going to do well.”

The Manitoba Soccer Association expects Canada’s world cup appearance will boost the sport’s popularity in the province.

“Hopefully with the success of the team at the world cup, we have an increase in participation and interest at every level, whether it’s grassroots soccer, competitive soccer, it doesn’t matter,” Vergara said.

Some stores in Winnipeg are already seeing a spike in interest.

“World cup is always a very busy time for us. Usually it’s in summers, so now we’re going to have double the customers – Christmas and world cup,” said Getana Castro, a retail associate at La Liga soccer apparel store.

Castro says Canada kits in black, red and white are flying off the racks.

“We had our first batch of Canada gear come in and it all sold out really fast, so we’ve had to keep re-upping for some Canada gear, especially toques and scarves because of the weather,” she said.

Corydon Avenue’s Bar Italia expects big crowds even though its namesake didn’t qualify this time around.

“Even though Italy’s not in and we’re disappointed about that. Canada being in it – everyone’s happy about that,” said the bar’s general manager Rhea Collison.

She says the timing of the world cup is great news for the industry.

“I actually think it’s going to be better. I think the turn out will be much better for them,” Collison said. “Summertime you’re competing with summer, so you know, outdoors meaning they’re going to be on the patio not indoors watching a soccer game. I actually think it’s great and for business in November specifically, pretty awesome.”

Canada starts its quest for soccer’s greatest prize on Nov. 23, against Belgium. With the time change, the world cup games start as early as 4 a.m.

The Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Authority of Manitoba tells CTV News three establishments have inquired about opening that early so far. 

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