As much as some of you hate to hear it, it's actually pretty awesome living out west. The air is cleaner, our mayors are awesomer, and the food here is pretty awesome. But as a western TFC supporter-slash-MLS writer-slash-Canadian soccer advocate, there is definitely a downside to living out west: the fact that I can't always get the latest and greatest in kittage.
I mean, I can live without going to all the games, and having to watch them on TV or on MLS Live (which is awesome -- not a plug BTW), but what I can't stand is the fact that massive temples of commerce in cities like Calgary can go without stocking a single shred of Canadian footy merchandise. For all the good that Canadian soccer has done during the last Olympics, you'd expect something, right? Wrong.
I was at Chinook Centre, a mall in south Calgary, just the other day. It is my birthday coming up, and what better way to make one feel better about crossing a milestone birthday (not telling you which one) than a little bit of retail therapy (some would argue drinking, but that's another story)? I was looking to purchase a pair of shoes, but then my mind crossed to the idea of perhaps finding a bit of soccer swag to go with them. But much to my surprise, out of nine sporting goods store, not a single one carried a piece of Canadian soccer gear.
For all the good that the Canadian women's team has done lately (including that bronze medal that got the entire country abuzz), it just struck me as weird. And as I was leaving one of the stores (a certain sporting goods store with a black logo), I saw the Canadian Olympic Committee logo, with the statement, "official store of the Canadian Olympic Team." -- while I can understand the lack of MLS gear (most things Vancouver isn't particularly looked upon fondly here), the fact that national team swag is absent, struck me as weird. Whereas a similar American chain's website carries both USA gear and a wide selection of MLS items, that same Canadian chain offers limited MLS items, and zero Canadian team items.
I'm not naive enough to ignore simple economics, and given the fact that the men's team recently crashed out of World Cup qualifying in spectacular fashion likely doesn't help matters. But surely there could be a more concerted effort to promote the team? Case in point -- that same national sporting goods store did an excellent job selling European team gear during the last Euro tournament, and probably turned a fair bit of goods at that time. Most of the popular teams like England, France, Spain and Germany saw much of their goods fly off the shelves, and it was marketed in prominent positions in store.
So now with the CONCACAF Gold Cup coming up, and Canada desperately in need of support as it begins another rebuild, wouldn't it be a good idea to tap into consumer patriotism? The games are likely to be broadcast live on national television on channels that most people with cable or satellite will get, and if Canadian hockey gear can be made available year round, surely for a few short weeks, a shelf or two could be dedicated to the Canadian soccer team, fighting to regain its place amongst the continent's elite?
Maybe they won't succeed, but as long as the brand is put out there, I'm sure people will follow sooner or later as results become more positive. Plus, it would circumvent a lot of shipping fees that many consumers living in centres like Calgary incur when they wish to purchase such items. The UPS driver may get the items from point A to point B in rapid time, but they aren't exactly cheap. As for Canada Post...well, let's just say when you want it, sometimes, you want it now.
As for that piece of TFC gear, chances are I will end up calling a local soccer store, and they will have to obtain it for me from the supplier. But when I do that, I will continue the lament of a lack of Canadian soccer swag in major stores in my city.
Now, I want to hear from you: should there be more Canadian soccer gear in major shops, outside of the three largest centres? Should there be a more concerted effort by Canada's MLS teams to get their names (and their gear) to places outside their home markets? Let me know in the comments below!