Thursday, July 17, 2008

On Home Turf -- Canada, Mexico, and the Glory of Varsity Stadium

This is going to be short and hopefully sweet; A More Splendid Life is only human after all.

This won't probably be marked in the annals of Canadian soccer history, although it certainly will be remembered in Mexico -- on May 9th 1994, Canada lost 2-1 in Toronto's Varsity stadium to put Mexico into World Cup USA. Canada needed only to win to secure their berth from CONCACAF qualification, and failed. Around 9'000 traveling Mexican-American fans, mostly from Illinois (a soccer state if there ever was one) celebrated across the city, while the tiny band of Canadian soccer fans soldiered on.

But that's not why this is important. Varsity stadium was torn down in 2002 and replaced in 2006 with a FIFA-approved two-star 'grass-like fibre' field. For Torontonians like me, the new Varsity pales in comparison with the old 21 000 seat, natural grass wonder, right smack-dab in the middle of downtown Toronto. The local NIMBY's like the Royal Ontario Museum and the University of Toronto were no doubt glad to see the old girl go, always-empty and expensive to maintain.

But it was the closest the city had to a proper soccer stadium, and was the site of my very first live soccer match, a World Cup warm-up between Canada and Holland June 1994 in front of a full stadium of rabid Dutch fans. Holland won 3-0, with Marc Overmars, Dennis Bergkamp, and Frank Rijkaard scoring. I was thirteen years old. My life would never be the same.

Just watch until the fifty second mark. Listen to the roar.


fredorrarci said...

Wow, I'd completely forgotten that Canada were that close to qualifying. And after all that, you still would have had to get through two more ties to make it. That loss must have been especially galling. I'm hurting just watching it fifteen years later and I'm not even Canadian.

Richard Whittall said...

Sad in a way, but typical of the Canadian ethos with regard to football: 'That'll do pig, that'll do."

It hurts in a beautiful way.

stephen said...

Ball-boyed that one. Ouch. Great blog.