Friday, July 13, 2007


It has been a perfect storm of soccer around my house these past weeks. One kid in Edmonton City Finals, another reffing, and the FIFA U20 World Cup juggernaut in town since July 2. This week the family has trundled down to Commonwealth Stadium for two Round of 16 games and still to come is a quarter-final on Saturday (Spain v Czech Republic).

It has been really amazing having FIFA in town. Really – I get off work, go down to Commonwealth and see world-class soccer right here! The superstars of tomorrow, right here! The crowds have been bigger here in Edmonton than anywhere, including Toronto, but with our giant stadium (63,000+ seats) the crowds have appeared sparse. And the TV cameras are aimed at the sunny side of the stadium, when a lot of people (like me!) switch to the shady side because of the unusually hot weather.

But still, I thought Edmonton would do better. The seats are cheap, the soccer outstanding, the beer cold, the sun warm (mostly). I tell friends in Ontario one of the special things about Edmonton is “we show up.” Need help with something? We show up! Need thousands of people to watch obscure sports events like the Universiade? the Masters Games? We show up! There are two games left here in Edmonton – a quarter-final Saturday and a semi-final July 18. Let’s fill the place!

And pick up a soccer book:

Soccerhead by Jim Haner
Haner tells a familiar story: how a suburban, American football-loving dad becomes obsessed with the beautiful game – a “soccerhead” - just like millions of other North Americans in the past decade or so.

The Miracle of Castel di Sangro by Joe McGinnis
McGinnis tells the Cinderella story of an Italian soccer team, Castel di Sangro, that played its way from the lowest ranks all the way up to the second level. Travelling with the team for a season, McGinnis shares funny and sharp insights on Italy, including the corruption afflicting Italian soccer.

Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby
Hornby’s great novels have been made into some great films (High Fidelity, About a Boy). But his first book, a memoir of his youthful obsession with Arsenal, an English soccer team, has been adapted twice into not-so-great films. Most recently Fever Pitch was Americanized, with baseball’s Boston Red Sox replacing Arsenal. The book remains the place to go for a funny, moving look at the absurdities of being a sports fan and growing up.


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