This past weekend while working a promotional event at the Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC) in downtown Toronto I was able to take part in a very large world cup street party. This street party was part of what has been known as Soccer Day in Canada. Like many cities around the world hosting similar events, this was a fun filled street party. Several streets were closed off to traffic allowing businesses and tents to be set up for the general public. There were a number of sporting companies on site, a large beer tent, a stage for musical performances and several large screen tv’s which showed the Toronto FC game (MLS), the third place between Uruguay and Germany and the finals between Holland and Spain. The entire weekend was a great soccer event that was free of charge and brought together people of all nationalities and backgrounds for one thing: the love of the game.
I was very surprised to see the fans for the 3rd place game (Uruguay versus Germany) mix together. The same thing happened on Sunday in the finals between Holland and Spain. Unlike elsewhere in the world where fans are often at each other’s throats, here in Toronto some fans were segregated to different parts of the street while others were mingling watching on the finals on the big screen. It was not uncommon to see fans supporting different countries interacting with one another and enjoying the festivities.
Another interesting side note was how many people were playing soccer in the streets of Toronto. Never in Canada have I seen so many people playing soccer in the streets. Kids were not the only ones playing soccer. Adults took part displaying their juggling abilities despite not wearing the proper clothing and shoe attire. Professional soccer jugglers were on hand to put on a show for the crowd which was exciting for all in attendance. Also, the CBC camera crew was constantly out interacting with the crowd which made it a very engaging experience.
The experience of working at the CBC during this huge street party was similar to my experience working at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. The atmosphere was very exciting and you could feel the passion and joy that the fans brought to the event. Instead of anger/disappointment towards another team, this was a celebration of sporting excellence. This is what the game of soccer is all about.
Despite the millions of fans that watch the Super Bowl, NBA, NHL and MLB championships, the world cup is still the number one most watched sporting event in the world. More than a billion people around the world watched the world cup final. Those that were in attendance in Toronto at the 2010 street party will remember a fun experience for many years to come.
The world cup is a stage where a group of soccer players represent and embody everything that nation is. The culture, language, history and pride of a nation is showcased for the world to enjoy. Respectfully representing not only yourself and your team, but your country and its people involves a far greater honour than anything else on this world. It isn’t only the players that bare this wonderful privilege, but the fans play an equally vital role in translating to the world what they are and what they love. People worldwide are able to witness true sporting excellence and history in the making.
In the future, I recommend attending an event like this. There is nothing more exciting than watching a game on the big screen and being a huge crowd experiencing the joy the game can bring. When you think about it, the shape of a ball is similar to that of the earth. There is one ball, one earth, one game…the world’s game!
What does this mean for the future of soccer in North America? It shows that the passion for soccer is growing. For the record, never before had there been a larger street party in Canada to celebrate the world cup final than this summer’s 2010 world cup. An estimated 50, 000 people attended the event throughout the weekend. Street parties like this are not unique to the sport of soccer, Canada or the rest of the world. What it did represent was a large shift in sporting population growth in soccer. No other sporting franchise in Canada can bring together so many Canadians. What happened in Toronto was happening elsewhere in the world, however, the fact that it has begun to grow in popularity in Canada means the love of the game is growing here.
I can’t wait to see how the next major soccer sporting event will play out in Canada.