Langford mayor 'absolutely' wants World Cup qualifiers at Starlight Stadium

Langford Mayor Stew Young wants the road to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar to run through Starlight Stadium, as originally intended, before the pandemic put paid to those plans.

“Absolutely, we’ll throw our hat in the ring again,” said Young.

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“Soccer is a big part of this community.”

Canada has advanced to the final round of CONCACAF qualifying for the sport’s holy-grail for only the second time since the road to France 1998.

The last two scheduled national team games on Canadian soil, sold-out fixtures against Trinidad and Tobago, were set for Starlight (formerly Westhills) Stadium in March of 2020 but cancelled due to the pandemic.

“We were very disappointed [to lose the Canada games],” said Young.

Especially since Canada Soccer was looking for medium-size facilities such as Starlight for games against CONCACAF minnows. But due to COVID-19 and the closed border, all of Canada’s early-round home games in the qualifiers for Qatar 2022 have had to be played in Bradenton, Florida, and Bridgeview, Illinois, in suburban Chicago, the latter the site of Tuesday night’s clinching 3-0 victory over Haiti.

Canada went 6-0 and is now on to the octagonal round Sept. 2 to March 30 against the U.S., Mexico, Costa Rica, Honduras, Jamaica, Panama and El Salvador. Each team will play the other teams home and away, 14 games for each national side, to decide the three CONCACAF berths directly into the 2022 World Cup in Qatar and a fourth to go through an additional at-large qualifying phase.

But as the games now get bigger against the CONCACAF heavyweights, will medium markets such as Greater Victoria still be in the hunt to host, or has this now gotten to the stage for only the likes of B.C. Place in Vancouver, Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton and BMO Field in Toronto?

The Island has a friend in Peter Galindo of Sportsnet. While mentioning Vancouver, Toronto and Edmonton as obvious possible host cities for the octagonal, Galindo also wrote: “Canadian Premier League markets like Victoria, which was supposed to host a friendly in March 2020 before the pandemic hit, could (and should) be on the cards, too.”

That assessment will get no argument from Young.

“We are a sports-crazy community,” he said.

“Langford will do anything to roll out the red carpet for Canada. That’s why we are an international destination for sports. Don’t worry about COVID. We’ll still get things done here in Langford. We want to ramp up all sports and add fans as we go.”

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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