I have often associated Canadian summers – like most Canadians – with the perfect time to play soccer. The parks are filled with people enjoying the limited sunshine and fresh air, pretending we are some tropical country. Hey, we deserve it. We are also one of the few countries along with our American cousin down South to have a competitive league over the summer, because... well, you guessed it: our winters.
My last summer before heading to Barcelona was momentous. FIFA organized an under 20 World Cup in my honour – I have a lot of contacts - bringing the best young talent in the world to Canada. This is perhaps football at its best. Generally, these youngsters are looking to play their hearts out on the field, hoping to catch the eye of some European scout to secure a contract. Later on when you watch the Champions League or other international tournaments, you can say, “I remember that guy back when he was a kid!”
Ottawa hosted Group E, which to my delight included Argentina, with the likes of Sergio “El Kun” Agüero who now plays in Manchester City, Sergio Romero, goalkeeper for Sampdoria, Ever Banega, a no-nonsense defensive midfielder currently patrolling midfield in Valencia and Angel Di Maria, an explosive goal scoring winger featured in Real Madrid’s first team. Now, 6 years after this tournament, they are all pretty much international regulars for Argentina.
Most Canadian cities were ill-equipped to handle an event of this magnitude and greatly unexpected the heavy turnouts to each game. I remember going to Lansdowne Park with my buddy Glen to cheer on La Albiceleste, and the residents in the Glebe were frustrated with the crowds. Another interesting fact was the number of Argentines who travelled from Montreal, Toronto and even far West to see the boys win. It almost seemed that Argentina had a strong home field advantage.
The tournament in its final stages was most remembered for some incredible South American dominance with Argentina putting in an elegant display of the futbol lindo to win it all and Chile playing some outstanding ball. The Chileans were soured in an incident where the Toronto Police brutally beat and arrested a number of Chilean players who were trying to make their way to their expat fans to thank them for their support.