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Butler: Old World football comes together in Montreal

Noel Butler, TSN.ca
7/12/2014 9:57:46 PM
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As we've sat down in record numbers in front of our TVs or at our favourite soccer pubs and cafes to take in a thoroughly absorbing World Cup Finals it once again reminds us that soccer is in the midst of a unprecedented growth spurt right across the country.

Over the last four weeks as I've circumnavigated the Montreal soccer streets I have taken in matches from a variety of establishments. From the official England Supporters pub through to more unorthodox venues like an Iranian car wash for the crucial group stage game against Argentina.

Early on it became abundantly clear that in comparison with South Africa 2010 there has not only been a considerable rise in the number of soccer fanatics in Montreal, but vitally their connection to the beautiful game has become more deeply rooted.

Jersey apparel manufacturers and car flag distributors have never had it so good in La Belle Ville.

If social media is any barometer then the world's game is now firmly embedded within Montreal's more traditional sporting and cultural landscapes.

As a long term advocate for all things Montreal soccer - in all forms and at all levels - I'd like to think our local soccer cause is the World Cup effect we're currently witnessing. I'd be a fool, though, not to admit it is the growing legions of Barclays Premier League and UEFA Champions League aficionados who are its foundation pillars.

With this in mind, Montreal's local soccer stakeholders need to feed off this frenzy.

From players working as TV analysts, organizing a highly popular player FIFA2014 tournament right on through to the multicultural theme of the June 29 home match against the Houston Dynamo - the Impact have certainly done their part over this past month in successfully connecting and fusing their brand with the Brazil 2014 masses.

When in attendance at the Burgundy Lion, the official England Supporter's Club in Montreal, for the Uruguay game quite remarkably the language was less Anglo Saxon and far more French “Canadien”.

It was wonderful to observe so many Francophones resplendent In England jerseys speaking their native tongue in amongst a backdrop of framed photos and artefacts eulogising all things 1966, the BPL, Johnny Rotten and Cool Britannia. It was more entertaining than the action on the large screens.

The highly diverse and growing Montreal soccer base is certainly not lost on Mayor Denis Coderre.

On the eve of MLS's Brazil 2014 sabbatical word came from City Hall that as part of Montreal's 375th Anniversary celebrations a highly-positive meeting had taken place with Don Garber regarding Montreal hosting 2017's MLS All Star game.

More recently Coderre guested on TSN 690 and discussed his deep and lengthy connection to soccer. As a politician this goes all the way back to 1999, when he was a member of the cabinet for the Federal Government as Minister for Amateur Sport.

In his time Coderre has not only visited Clairefontaine, the home of French soccer, he has also held meetings with the two most influential figures in world football: Michel Platini and Sepp Blatter.

Montreal's civic connection to soccer is expected to kick off as early as next year. Coderre disclosing: “We are working to have a Mayors Cup between two cities from MLS. We are working towards 2015 or 2016, where we'll play one game there and they will come here.”

Not content with developing relationships with an enriched MLS family, Coderre is well aware of the highly valuable market for international friendlies.

“The other thing is by 2017, what we are looking for is to get some European teams to come. We'll work through Spain or Paris St-Germain. We will work towards getting some of the teams here. I'm working with Joey Saputo”

“With Joey we are working for what we will do through soccer for 2017. We already have the Under 20s this year and the Women's World Cup Finals next year. What we are building, is that mood for soccer.”

“This is clearly a soccer city. Because of our diversity we can score big.”

Coderre gave short shrift to the idea that two European powerhouses would suit up and face each other.

Referring to the match at Olympic Stadium in the direct run up to South Africa 2010 between seven-time European Champions AC Milan and the Impact, Coderre stated: “I do recall when AC Milan came the stadium was packed.”

“I'd like to see my hometown team to play against these teams. The City of Montreal is willing to play its part”

Fresh from co-signing a significant contract extension with Bernie Ecclestone, which will see Montreal stage the Canadian Grand Prix through 2024, Coderre knows full well of the substantial benefits and international exposure Montreal would reap by having PSG, Real Madrid or even Chelsea in town.

The Mayor is a massive supporter for Canada staging a World Cup Finals, and even went so far as to question Qatar's World Cup.

“The bottom line is what will happen to the World Cup in Qatar in 2022? But clearly I am aiming at 2026. So we have two options.”

“Remember in 2002 when the World Cup between South Korea and Japan was split? We could do the same thing with the States. We could have five cities from eastern Canada and five cities from the US. With the people that I spoke with it is truly feasible”

As Montrealers take in Sunday afternoon's World Cup Final the two football and soccer solitudes will come together in a significant outdoor viewing party at Parc Jean Drapeau - a venue more synonymous with rock shows and music festivals.

Players from the Impact, representatives of the local committee for the FIFA U20's Women's World Cup and the Quebec Soccer Federation will mingle with thousands of Brazil 2014 hipsters.

There's nothing cooler though than supporting local soccer.

Noel Butler can be reached at:

Noel.Butler@BellMedia.ca

@TheSoccerNoel on Twitter

Catch Argentina vs. Germany in Sunday's World Cup Final live on the TSN and TEAM Radio Network. Pre-Game show starts at 2pm et/11am pt with Kick Off at 3pm et/Noon pt.

Noel Butler

Noel Butler


Noel Butler is an analyst for TSN's soccer coverage and his blog can be read on TSN.ca. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/TheSoccerNoel and listen to his radio program oranges@halftime on TSN Radio 690 Montreal.

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