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    CHRONO SPORTS

  • Tuesday, June 13, 2000

    Varsity gets another chance

    By TONY MARASCHIELLO -- Toronto Sun

      Six years after vowing never to return to Varsity Stadium for a World Cup qualifying game, the Canadian Soccer Association yesterday confirmed that the national men's team will take on Mexico in a qualifier in Toronto later this year.

     As reported in The Toronto Sun last week, Canada will play the powerhouse Mexicans on Nov. 15 at Varsity in the semi-final round of qualifying.

     Canada hasn't played a World Cup qualifier at Varsity since 1993 when it lost 2-1 to Mexico before more than 21,000 fans, most of them cheering for the visitors.

     Canada's 1994 World Cup hopes were crippled by the loss. Players and officials openly criticized the sensibility of playing important games in Toronto, where fans usually cheered for the opposition.

     However, an exhibition game two weeks ago at Varsity, in which close to 9,000 pro-Canada fans cheered the national team to a 1-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago, was enough to convince the CSA to return for November's crucial match.

     "That (Trinidad) game was a great day for everyone involved in Canadian soccer," Kevan Pipe, chief operating officer for the CSA, said. "Obviously there's a renewed excitement with Canadian soccer. We decided we should give it another go in Toronto."

     Canada is coming off a 0-0 draw with Cuba in a World Cup qualifying playoff on Sunday in Winnipeg. Coupled with a 1-0 win over Cuba a week earlier in Havana, Canada has earned a spot in the next round of qualifying in the Football Confederation, which covers North and Central America and the Caribbean.

     Canada will face Mexico, Panama and Trinidad in the next round and play each team at home and away. The top two teams in the group advance to next year's final qualifying stage, where six teams will battle for three spots at the 2002 World Cup in Japan and Korea.

     The CSA is confident that with only 9,000 seats available at Varsity -- only the west side of the stadium is in use -- it can control the number of Mexican fans who may want to attend the game and avoid the 1993 debacle.

     About half of the available tickets will be allotted to the Ontario Soccer Association and its members.

     LITTLE RISK MID-WEEK

     "With the game being played mid-week (Wednesday), I don't anticipate many Mexican fans (in the U.S. or Mexico) making the trip. And Toronto doesn't really have a huge Mexican population, so it won't be a big risk for us."

     Pipe said the CSA is not concerned about potential nasty weather in Toronto in mid-November. He even welcomes it if it helps throw the fair-weather Mexicans off their game.

     "We did our research and the weather in Toronto isn't much different than what it would be in Vancouver at that time of the year," Pipe said. "It might be 1C or 2C or 10C. Or it could snow. But we have no problem with that."

     Canada also has home games scheduled for July 16 against Trinidad at Edmonton and Oct. 9 at Winnipeg.

     Tickets for the Mexico game likely will go on sale later this week through TicketMaster and will be in the $25-$28 range. The OSA will have $15 tickets available for its members.



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