Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Historic Day For Soccer & Our City!

In 1979, a simple soccer team and a famous sportscaster's slip of the tongue, brought Vancouver together like never before. In the buildup to ABC's coverage of the '79 NASL Soccer Bowl, the legendary Jim McKay innocently referred to Vancouver as a “deserted village”. When the Whitecaps returned home as Champions of the North American Soccer League, over a hundred thousand Vancouverites took to the streets in joy and made the word “Villager” a badge of honour. Vancouver had never celebrated anything with such unity and passion before. Nor has it since.

March 18, 2009 is a great day in history for both soccer and our city. Today's announcement that the Vancouver Whitecaps will become a member of Major League Soccer in 2011 is the fantastic result of almost seven years of hard work and vision by Greg Kerfoot, Bob Lenarduzzi, Rachel Lewis and the entire Whitecaps organization. The B.C. soccer community and the citizens of Vancouver owe them a great debt of gratitude and heartfelt congratulations for their achievement.

More than ever before, soccer has become the international language of the world, and Vancouver can now reclaim its top tier place in the game's global community. Famous soccer clubs from the great cities of the world will once again make their way to Vancouver on a regular basis, and the Whitecaps name will become synonomous with our city throughout the globe. The soccer culture that has always existed in Vancouver & B.C. will flourish like never before, and our children will be able to grow up knowing that the soccer they play is much more than a "foreign" game.

The news that Vancouver is once again back at the top level of North American soccer will also bring tremendous benefits to our city for generations to come. The culture of traveling support that exists in MLS will fill thousands of hotel rooms, and bring new jobs and millions of dollars into our local economy at a time when we need it most. The tens of thousands of new patrons that will descend into the City Centre will help relieve some of the pressures felt by small businesses in Downtown, Chinatown, and Gastown. Vancouver can expect to reap the economic benefits of MLS for decades to come.

But more important is soccer's ability to unite people from all different walks of life. Today, the Whitecaps are giving Vancouver one of its first truly multicultural institutions that's inclusive, accessible and comfortable for people of all cultures, races and backgrounds. It's a fine legacy for an organization that has given so much of its time, effort and resources to communities throughout B.C. & Western Canada.

Soccer in Vancouver, B.C. and all of Canada is stronger today than it was yesterday. But it is still a work in progress. For Canada to continue its progress, we need more solid clubs. We need fewer petty territorial squabbles. We need to accept a soccer culture that builds professional excellence. And we need real soccer infrastructure in our country, such as stadiums.

But today is for celebrating the deserved achievements of the Vancouver Whitecaps. It's a chance to look back on all of the good a simple soccer club has done for this city over almost 35 years. And it's a dare to dream about what might be possible in the years ahead.

Today, Vancouver is a “Village” once again.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Globe & Mail: Whitecaps Win MLS Expansion Race!

The Globe and Mail is reporting this morning that the Whitecaps have been offered one of the two MLS expansion spots for 2011, and that they are in final negotiations with Major League Soccer.

The report says we can expect a formal announcement by either March 19 or March 31.

You can read the full story here.