The biggest event in sports outside the Olympics starts today, and unless you are Mexican, nobody in North America cares. Well, that might be an overstatement given that yesterday the 2016 event was awarded to North America, but Canada and the US aren’t playing this year.
For Canadians that is nothing new. In our only World Cup appearance, in 1986, the Canadian team failed to score a goal. Our women’s team has done better in recent years, but the men still seem to struggle on the world stage.
The tournament will take place in Russia over the next month, featuring 32 of the world’s top national teams. Emotions are running high, except in Canada and the US.
Four years ago was the first time I was in Europe while the World Cup was being played. I saw games on a big screen set up in the market square in Ypres, Belgium, and on a similar screen in downtown Bucharest. We flew from Romania to Germany the morning after the final match, so we didn’t get to witness the winning hysteria first-hand.
This time it is different. Stores have been selling World Cup paraphernalia here for at least the past month. I picked up a Germany cap for a Euro. Who else am I going to cheer for? This time anyway.
In 2026 I’m planning to attend at least one game, as the World Cup comes to North America for the first time. Normally the host country automatically qualifies for the tournament – though I am not sure what that will mean in 2026 since the event is being jointly hosted by Canada, the US and Mexico (and I expect a tweet from Donald Trump saying how unfair it is that the US must share).
In 2026 the number of teams participating expands from 32 to 48, so maybe it won’t be an issue to have three teams with automatic entry. By then Canada and the US will have learned to care about soccer and will have discovered why the World Cup is the biggest sporting event there is.
For now, I get to discover the mania here in Germany, where I have been told the defending champs have some internal friction on the team that will make a repetition difficult. That doesn’t mean the mania will be any less.
Enjoy the games!