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Twelfth Man Lets Down Women's U20 in their Opener

A disappointing crowd played a part in a disappointing opening for the home side at Canada 2014. If Canada have any hope of continuing in this tournament, they need all the crowd support they can get.

Martin Bazyl

A World Cup of Soccer is taking place in Canada’s biggest city right now. It’s not a false statement, but it is also one that tends to be disqualified by two factors. Those pair of factors distancing it from receiving the hype that, say, the 2026 bid could create, are the following: it is a women’s tournament, and it is also a youth tournament. That may sound sexist, but it is the truth.

Those are the two reasons most commonly given for why individuals who a month ago were diehard fans of a country that they have never visited could not care less about this tournament. The reasons are usually said like they are logic, that there is no way anyone should actually be anything other than indifferent about the prospects of this tournament.

What it sounds like is the heap of excuses that have been around Canadian soccer for years: we aren’t good enough, Canada will never be any good at soccer, the other countries are just too far ahead, this is all the fault of the CSA, and they continue to be a corrupt organization and who cares about my local team when I can just watch Manchester United on TV. That is only naming a few.

Some combination of the aforementioned train of excuses and reasons was once again physically evident at Canada’s opening match of Canada 2014 against Ghana. Turnout to the match was 14,834. Only two Toronto FC matches last season dipped below that, and that came at the end of a pitiful 2013 season, at the end of 2 other pitiful seasons.

What made this even more disappointing, was what that number on paper translated into atmosphere, which wasn’t much. The Voyageurs contingent was disappointing, especially compared to the sights and sounds that usually encompass the south stands. This is no slight to the Voyageurs, who remain the most devoted and integral part of support for Canadian soccer.

The worst part, as continually seems to be the case, was the large and vocal contingent of Ghanaian supporters who literally drown out the valiant Voyageurs who stood in the section just next to them. They were far more respectful and supportive than other opposition supporters, even singing the Canadian national anthem. But the fact that a contingent of away supporters once again were the loudest faction in the stadium is disheartening.

It definitely translated onto the field as well, where the players had to be more than a little disappointed. When dreaming of playing in a world cup final at home, being in a marginally filled stadium with a less than vocal crowd isn’t exactly the way you envision it. There is a reason that they call the home crowd a twelfth man (woman?), and Canada did not have much of that extra advantage.

This is a problem that has hurt Canada at all levels, the lack of a legitimate home field advantage. Just ask a side like Ecuador about the importance of this and it will be made clear. The South American nation was able to qualify for the World Cup out of a very difficult CONMEBOL qualification group, based solely on going undefeated at home, yes that home advantage is mainly about altitude, but still, the point is home advantage should be made to count.

There isn’t all that much the everyman can do to get Canada's mens team back to a World Cup, or to ensure that our female teams perform to their fullest potential in the upcoming days and next summer. But one of the few things that can be done is to set aside excuses and show up to support Canada. There is never going to be a World Cup event cheaper than this one, so even that excuse goes out the window.

Would Canada’s U20 team have beat Ghana if there were seven thousand more vocal fans in the crowd? It certainly couldn’t have hurt the effort. But in their absence, a 1-0 loss puts the team on the brink of elimination. If they are going to do the improbable and get out of their group, they need far more support than what they have received up to this point.

The match against Finland is a Friday night, and it’s under 20 dollars. By those standards, Canada should absolutely get the twelfth man that they deserve for this crucial match. The precedent of crowd support needs to be set, not just for this match but the upcoming men's team's friendly against Jamaica (September 9th, in Toronto, go get tickets.) and the 2015 Women’s World Cup.

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