Wednesday’s announcement by FIFA, the world governing body for soccer, that Canada, Mexico and the United States were successful in their joint bid for the 2026 World Cup has many in the Newfoundland and Labrador soccer community already considering their plans for eight years from now.
Newfoundland and Labrador Soccer Association president Doug Redmond has seen a World Cup game; that was in 1994, when the United States hosted the event alone and he took in a contest that involved Argentina and the great Diego Maradona. Now, he’s relishing the opportunity that will come with having World Cup games on Canadian soil.
However, Redmond suggests 2026 might not just offer Newfoundlanders an easier opportunity to travel and take in World Cup action, that World Cup action — in a way — might travel to Newfoundland.
“You never know, there may be smaller countries, especially European ones, that will be looking for (North American) training sites prior to the World Cup,” said Redmond. “You look at our geography. There’s nowhere on this continent that’s closer to Europe and that could be very appealing to some countries over there as they do their planning.”
If that ever happened, thousands of people in this province could get a small preview of what might be in store when action officially in the 2026 World Cup. However, there are others who won’t be satisfied unless they take full advantage of the actual games to be played here in Canada — Montreal, Toronto and Edmonton are reported to be the sites for 10 World Cup matches.
“Any time your country gets to be part of a big event — actually the biggest sporting event in the world — you want to be a part of it,” said St. Lawrence Laurentians striker Tyler Forsey who led the Challenge Cup in scoring last season.
And as Greg Reid of the Feildians’ Challenge Cup entry points out, the nature of the North American winning bid wouldn’t restrict live-viewing options to just Canada.
“As everyone in Newfoundland knows, it’s just a matter of getting off the island. It doesn’t necessarily mean you would only have go to games in Canada,” said Reid, adding that if France — whose soccer style he admires — is part of the 2026 competition, he might be inclined to take in any matches the French play in the United States.
Count Gary Forsyth, head coach of the Conception Bay South Strikers Challenge Cup entry, among those who will be determined to get a firsthand look at World Cup games. The resolve to make something of the opportunity that will come eight years from now is strengthened by his remembrances of an opportunity he passed up eight years ago.
In February of 2010, Forsyth came to C.B.S, to be the technical director for the community’s soccer association. In doing so, the native of Paisley, Scotland had left a coaching position in South Africa, where he had been employed by Royal Bafokeng Sports, the athletic entity of the Bafokeng tribe.
The Bafokeng have established a sovereign wealth fund that oversees investments derived from the mines — many of which produce platinum — in the region. Sport development is a one of the community goals of the Bafokeng, who built a 45,000-seat stadium as part of that effort.
The stadium was one of 10 South African venues for the 2010 World Cup of Soccer, and Forsyth, through his work, got to play an exhibition soccer game at the facility, which would four months later host a half-dozen World Cup games, including a group stage match between the United States and England.
But Forsyth never saw any of them. When the World Cup began, he was three months into his new work in C.B.S..
“But my former boss had called me in June, offering me a chance to go back to South Africa and work for him, all expenses paid and with a raise in pay, plus a ticket to the World Cup final,” said Forsyth.
“I had to turn it down. I told him I had make a commitment (to C.B.S.) and I was going to live up to it.
“Sometimes, when I look back that final (Spain beat the Netherlands 1-0), I think it might have been a dreadful decision, but as my father once told me, you can’t be known as someone who always moves around.
“And eight years later, I’m still here.”
Gord Dunphy, the longtime provincial soccer executive who is well-known these days for his Gord-Cast live streaming of Challenge Cup games, vows to take in the 2026 World Cup, looking for the sort of experience his brother Gerard and nephew Fergus are enjoying in Russia as they take in games in the 2018 competition, which begins there today.
“My son is an RCMP officer in (Sherwood Park) Alberta and I told him that if he’s still there (in 2026), we’re going to have to plan for something big around the World Cup out there,” said Dunphy.
Dunphy, a former Challenge Cup commissioner, is facing the prospect of a second surgery to address troublesome back problems, but is adamant health issues won’t suppress his 2026 plans.
“No matter what, if I have a breath in my body, I’m going to see World Cup games eight years from now, even if I’m in a wheelchair,” he said.