O-le Canada! Hockey homeland is mad for World Cup

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 11, 2014 at 1:24 pm •  Published: July 11, 2014

TORONTO (AP) — Canada has not sent a team to the World Cup in a generation. But that hasn't stopped Canadians from going a little Cup crazy.

The nation known more for shooting pucks than penalty kicks fields a national team that ranks 110th in the world, tied with Bahrain. But its fierce love for the beautiful game has been on display for all the world to see in Brazil. FIFA organizers say Canadians bought more than 29,000 tickets to World Cup matches, outranking all other nations that didn't qualify for the Cup and behind only 10 nations that did.

Canada was also the top non-competing nation in attendance at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, officials say. As a nation of immigrants, it should be no surprise that that Canadians are wild about the Cup. One in every five Canadians is born in another country.

That multi-ethnic society and the national team's struggles make it easy for fans of any nation to enjoy the World Cup in Canada.

"Where else in the world can you go to bars to watch every game and have people from the competing countries cheering on their team?" said British-born Scott Parr, 30, who delayed a vacation to Australia so he could watch the World Cup in Toronto. "Here, it's so fun because there are rabid fans for every game, not just for one team or game. If I watched it in Australia, after the Australian game was over, the excitement would have likely been over, too."

An estimated 3.1 million Canadians tuned in to CBC's English-language broadcast to watch Argentina's shootout win over the Netherlands in Wednesday's semifinal, according to CBC figures. By comparison, 3.3 million viewers watched the deciding game of this year's Stanley Cup finals. The figures do not include French-language viewers.

And now Canada wants to take its turn as World Cup host. In January, the Canadian Soccer Association announced that it will bid for the 2026 FIFA World Cup. Its chances of winning, given its lack of stadium infrastructure, are slim, analysts say.

Canada's chances could soon get a boost when it hosts the 2015 Women's World Cup.

"The day Canada makes it back to the World Cup, it'll be a beautiful day for the country on a whole," said Canadian-born and Trinidadian-bred Paul-Anthony Perez, 31. "We have a lot of talent, we have a lot of young players. We have Canadian-born players in the World Cup this year, one on Holland's team and one on Bosnia's. When the money is right and the focus is right, we'll start producing a World-Cup qualifying team. But until then, we'll still come out to watch the games and root for our 'home' teams."