It is so easy to dismiss the past. Today, with professional soccer teams in Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal in the best soccer league in North America, It is easy to forget that no matter what they achieve, to this day only one Canadian men’s soccer team has qualified for the World Cup: the 1986 team.
|Canadian Goalkeeper Tino Lettieri makes a save.|
Check out the CBC Sportsweekend sign behind him.
They seemed to be the only broadcaster of Team
|Tino Lettieri, my favourite|
soccer player ever
We are the champions
I remember that team well, especially their goalie the catlike Tino Lettieri (He used to have a stuffed parrot for good luck by his net). Canada benefitted from the fact we had various professional leagues, be it the North American Soccer League, and later the Canadian Soccer League, as well as indoor leagues and other incarnations of pro soccer. It gave players the competition they needed to develop. Our growth was retarded without any such league until the A-League and United Soccer League came along, and finally Major League Soccer.
That qualification in 1985 was an amazing run.
I remember that goal and the end of the game. Most of all, I remember the trophy, the first one I had ever seen with ribbons tied to it. And I remember the captains, most notably Bob Lenarduzzi, hoisting that trophy in front of the home fans. It was incredible.
It should be noted Canada did not have to contend with Mexico, a traditional power and winner of the most CONCACAF championships along with Costa Rica. Mexico hosted the 1986 World Cup and, as host, was an automatic qualifier. Even so, when the US hosted the World Cup in 1994, it did not make it easier for Canada to qualify.
Back then, in the days before TSN and Sportsnet, the Canadian team’s games were broadcast on CBC Sportsweekend. I used to wait for those games and watch them closely. My interest in soccer came early in life. I recall watching the 1982 World Cup with my Dad, and Germany coming from behind to beat France in the semi-final to advance to the final. In 1986, I watched the Germans play in Brooks where we were visiting for a wedding. Obviously, the Germans were our team because that’s where my family came from. Until Canada returns to the World Cup, I will continue to sport the Black, Red and Gold of the Allemania.
That’s why 1986 was so cool. Canada had made it. With names like Lettieri, Lenarduzzi, Bridge, and Valentine, we qualified for the world’s toughest tournament – without even losing a game.