Little known to the general public, Canadian football nevertheless climbs the ranks from year to year. “With three Canadian teams present in Major League Soccer (the main professional soccer league in North America, editor’s note)we feel that the development of football is booming,” exults Jean-François Téotonio, sports journalist at the French-language daily The Press. It is driven by this positive momentum that the Canadian national team is preparing to start the second World Cup in its history, against Belgium, Wednesday November 23 at 8 p.m.
“The soccer academy has invested, and now we have a pool of interesting young players, book Jean-François Téotonio. At CF Montreal (Canadian elite club, Editor’s note)for example,they hired a sporting director who wanted to completely rethink the club’s philosophy. As a result, it’s a safe bet that we will soon have quite interesting new generations. »
A lack of “football culture”
“If the king sport remains hockeythe number of young football graduates today is higher in our country”, explains for his part Marc Cassivi, journalist and author of My world cups (1). And for good reason, hockey requires significant equipment and financial means where football remains accessible to all.
“Investments have multiplied in recent years. The gymnasiums where young people played football in the winter have given way to football stadiums with synthetic turf,” continues the enthusiast. But the latter points to a paradox: “When I go to the stadium, I see an incredible excitement, but I always come across someone explaining the rules to their neighbour. We lack what is called “football culture”. »
Alphonso Davies, left piston of Bayern Munich, Jonathan David at the forefront of the Lille attack or Atiba Hutchinson, defensive midfielder of Besiktas (one of the great teams of Istanbul), are all names that have recently shone in Europe, giving a spotlight on the Canadian breeding ground. “It contributes to growth, that’s obvious”, believes Jean-François Téotonio. “Before, our rare players who played in Europe were substitutes or luxury supports. Now there are also superstars,” abounds Marc Cassivi.
A test before 2026
What ambition for the competition in Qatar? We will call it reasonable. “With a group made up of Morocco, Belgium and Croatia, you have to be realistic: if we go to eighth, it’s a semi-miracle, having fun Jean-François Téotonio. SIf we put even one goal, it would already be great! »
But the goal goes beyond 2022. In four years, Canada will be one of the host countries, along with the United States and Mexico. “We go to Qatar to learn, observe, acquire the science of football that we lack”, explains Marc Cassivi. During an interview for the newspaper The PressCanada’s coach, Britain’s John Herdman, recalled his mission: “Be ready in 2026.”
If the development of men’s football has been visible in recent years, there is still room for improvement. In Qatar, she will be the only selection not to have a new jersey. “A lack of anticipation from the federation”, argues Jean-François Téotonio.
First emulations, first controversies
Four years is also the time left to settle a financial dispute which is hampering the good development of football. The Canadian federation (Canada Soccer) and its national men’s team were cold in June 2022 due to compensation and transparency issues. Dissatisfied with the salary conditions offered, the internationals then opted for a strike.
They were asking for fair terms with the women’s national team in terms of game-related revenue or percentage of winnings at World Cups. “The relationship has been strained for years. Canada Soccer disrespects our team and undermines our efforts to raise standards and advance soccer in Canada,” the players had thus declared, last June, in a press release.
In a country where football has long been worn by women, the men’s selection is meeting with increasingly popular success, at the same time as it experiences its first areas of turbulence. Undoubtedly proof of a mutation in progress.
Canada-Belgium, a very unbalanced opposition
In business since 1912Canada’s team ranks 41st in the FIFA rankings. His opponent of the day, Belgium, semi-finalist of the Russian World Cup in 2018, ranks 2nd.
The Canadian “Canucks” have only encountered the Red Devils once. In 1989, Belgium won this friendly match (2-0).
It is only the second participation of Canada at a World Cup, after that of 1986. In Mexico, Canada had been eliminated in the first round, without garnering points in the group stage. The country had notably met France and lost (1-0).