Canada’s presence in World Cup already leading to jump in registrations, PAYSA technical director says

Photo from Soccer Canada Facebook page. Retired soccer manager Bora Milutinovic holds up Canada’s card during the 2022 World Cup Draw in April.

Story originally appeared in the print version of the Prince Albert Daily Herald on Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022

The international spotlight has been on Qatar as the 2022 FIFA World Cup is underway, but the impact of the event has a global outreach.

For the Prince Albert Youth Soccer Association, having Canada in the World Cup has lead to a much higher then normal registration rate. Dragan Ivkovic, the technical director for PAYSA says the amount of registrations rose even after Canada’s initial qualification.

“Even before the start [of the World Cup] after Canada qualified, we had almost 800 kids playing soccer. For a community the size of Prince Albert, that’s an amazing achievement. They have the saying, ‘nothing succeeds like success.’ If we are lucky to do this every four years, I’m sure many young kids are following it and will play soccer in the coming months.”

The 2022 FIFA World Cup will take place over more than a month as the championship game is not scheduled to take place until Dec. 18.

Ivkovic says the strong competition has been great to watch as a soccer fan, with a major upset already taking place during the group stage.

“It’s a little bit strange, with the exception of the England game, everything is so close. This morning, it was Saudi Arabia and Argentina and Saudi Arabia beat Argentina 2-1. It happens once in a lifetime. It makes soccer the most beautiful game in the world and most popular for sure.”

Canada will take to the pitch in Group F along with Belgium, Croatia and Morocco.

Ickovic says that Canada will have a strong opportunity to advance past the group stage but will face tough competition against some strong countries.

“I believe that the more events Canada participates in, the level of soccer will be higher. To be honest, I don’t think Canada is out of a chance in the group stage. The only thing they are missing is playing the tough teams like Belgium. It’s a totally different level, totally different tactics and everything when it comes to the skills and the physicality. Let’s believe in our boys.”

Canada will open the 2022 FIFA World Cup on Wednesday at 1pm against Belgium.

Subhead: Clouded in controversy

The 2022 FIFA World Cup has been surrounded in controversy since it was awarded to Qatar back in 2010.

The United States alleged in 2020 that officials from both Russia and Qatar had bribed voting FIFA members to support their bids to host the World Cup.

In order to support the World Cup, many stadiums had to be built in order to accommodate the matches. According to an analysis by the Guardian, at least 6,750 workers have died building stadiums in Qatar since 2010.

As well, captains from England, Germany and France were planning to wear “One Love” themed armbands with colors to represent the LGBT pride flag. FIFA warned these teams that players wearing non-FIFA-approved armband would be given yellow cards.