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David Sovka: FIFA’s cold, hard statistics on warm, soft bums

Only 27% of adults 18 years and older in Canada participate in sport, but 77% watch professional sports
Today’s professional ­international soccer is an ­exciting game ­populated with ­world-famous-in-Latin-America sport stars, writes David Sovka — plus Lionel Messi, a poor ­Argentinian villager ­earning $90 million per game. SILVIA IZQUIERDO, AP

From cricket to surf kayaking to professional ­pillow-fighting, there are about 8,000 different sports and sporting games played in the world today.

The most popular by far is soccer, or as the rest of the world calls it, “football,” perhaps the better name for a simple sport involving just foots and balls.

You probably do not play soccer or football or any sport. I base this assertion on cold, hard statistics, not at all on the size of your warm, soft bum: Across ­Canada, only 27% of adults 18 years and older ­participate in sport (36% of men and 19% of women).

On the other hand, 77% watch professional sports. You and your bum are in good company!

According to FIFA, which is definitely an acronym I will for sure look up at some point, more than 1.5 BILLION people watched the last international men’s soccer championship final, known as the FIFA World Cup™.

The next FIFA World Cup™ will take place from June 11 to July 19, 2026, and will be jointly hosted by 16 cities in Canada, Mexico, and the United States, even though, given the hassle of buying tickets today, you will for sure watch it on television.

Canada will host its games in both Toronto and ­Vancouver, which are conveniently located a single train ride apart. Yes, the train ride is 4,411 kilometres and takes four days, one hour, and 15 minutes, but more importantly, passengers get to see ALL THERE IS TO SEE of Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Both cities have their own soccer team in the MLS, or Major League Soccer association, not the one with the real estate agents.

According to the MLS website, there are numerous listings in your area and an agent is available today.

Sorry, hang on, re-Googling… Ah! according to the other MLS website, Major League Soccer is the ­professional soccer league in the United States and Canada, and was founded in 1996 after the U.S. hosted the 1994 FIFA World Cup™, which nobody went to.

Also, the MLS has your next residential or ­commercial property with … sorry again, that’s my bad … OK, here we are: the MLS has 29 teams, 26 in the U.S. and three in Canada (Toronto, Montreal and ­Vancouver).

Toronto’s team is called Toronto, for easy ­remembering.

Soccer is very important to the people of Toronto, and not only because they have been under a powerful hockey curse for the past 57 years.

It’s also because Toronto is the most arguable ­multicultural city in the world. Wait, that should read Toronto is arguably the most multicultural city in the world.

Vancouver’s team is called the Vancouver Whitecaps. For the purposes of the FIFA Word Cup™, ­Vancouver™ now includes a little trademark sign and is being branded as A Force of Nature™.

It also sports the taglines “Where mountains meet ocean meet the pitch™” and “Just like Victoria but with more expensive real estate — please see our MLS ­listing™.”

I am willing to admit my own knowledge of The Beautiful Game is shaky, based as it is on what I picked up from Italian immigrant soccer coaches and their wives, girlfriends and mothers yelling at my team, National Salvage.

This was in Lethbridge, Alberta, in the late 1970s, when I was in the fourth and fifth grades. It was ­customary at the time to scream a lot due to the ­constant wind and laissez-faire child-abuse guidelines.

From memory, the rules to the game of soccer are simple: a) you are not allowed to touch the ball with your hands; b) always pass the ball to Dino, the coach’s son and star forward; and c) Mr. Heinrich, the German immigrant referee, hates you very much even though you are only 10 years old.

To this day, I have no idea how the more complicated rules work with respect to being offside, corner kicks, or why professional soccer players fall down so often in mock agony, miming terrible wounds to the lower extremities.

I can tell you that today’s professional international soccer is an exciting game populated with ­world-famous-in-Latin-America sport stars, plus:

• David Beckham, tattoo practice dummy, married to Old Spice model

• Cristiano Rinaldo, McDonald’s clown mascot

• Pelé, deceased Brazilian forward, still playing at the highest level

• Lionel Messi, poor Argentinian villager earning $90 million per game

• Italian guy who falls down and clutches ankle

• Croatian guy who falls down and clutches ankle

• English guy who falls down and clutches ankle

Some people, by which I mean old, complainy ­people devoted to AM talk radio, are critical of the cost for British Columbia to host the FIFA World Cup. (I’m going to risk litigation and stop including that little trademark sign, which, frankly, has been exhausting for a man of my age and radio station preference.)

Anyway, the original estimate of the cost for British Columbia’s part in hosting the games was $250 ­million, or approximately half the annual salary of a star ­European footballer.

The cost of the games is now estimated to be a low of $483 million and a high of $581 million, depending on whether or not we include seats in B.C. Place.

If you are old enough to remember the other two big sporting events successfully hosted by our province — EXPO ’86 and the 2010 Winter Olympics — you know the final cost is going to be way higher than the original estimate.

This is because of complicated economic principles such as “we forgot to carry the two.”

I don’t know why we bother estimating in the first place, which is probably why my house is always out of coffee and laundry soap.

But really, who cares how much it costs? A month in the world’s televised spotlight associated with the ­biggest sports event in the world before billions of warm, soft bums is priceless.

That’s just a cold, hard statistic.

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