Home 2001 – Adidas
Ah Canada; The great white north, America without the guns, The Republic of Ned Flanders, Justine Bieber’s disappointed parent, England and France’s abandoned snow baby, Auntie Maple’s moose and goose emporium. Whatever you know it as, Canada is huge, the second largest nation on the planet in fact. However, it’s also one of the most sparsely populated with just 35 million residents, most of whom (around 80%) live within 100 miles of the US border due in part to the inhospitable climes further north but also because there are some benefits in living just a stones throw from millions of Americans, especially if your aim happens to be decent. The occasional Concussed yank aside, Canadians are renowned for their friendly nature, liberal attitudes, orderly behaviour and for just how quickly those qualities make a dash for the window whenever a game of ice hockey is involved.
The country is divided into ten provinces, nine of which are populated by your common or garden friendly Canadian, but then we come to Quebec, a staunchly Francophone region clinging proudly to their French traditions which generally involves a lot of shrugging, rolling of eyes, muttering under breath and basically just being insufferably French. Some Quebecois nationalists even take things to the separatist extreme and have twice held referendums on independence from Canada. Indeed, the most recent poll in 1995 saw secession narrowly rejected by a ratio of just 50.58 to 49.42%, alarming the central government who had never anticipated such a close call and even shocking the nationalists themselves who were French and thus easily startled. In addition to the main provinces, Canada also has three frozen wilderness territories in the north speckled with the occasional Inuit settlement as well as foolhardy nature watchers looking to spot polar bears in their natural environment due to it being on their list of ‘things to do before they die’, not quite getting that this is likely to be JUST before they die.
In terms of famous people, Canada has quite the secret stash of celebrities. Countless US film and TV stars can neatly be filed in the “well, I never knew he/she was Canadian” category including current Hollywood heavyweights such as Ryan Gosling, Seth Rogen, Ellen Page and Ryan Reynolds, seasoned actors like Pamela Anderson, Michael J.Fox and Kiefer Sutherland and a plethora of comedy giants including Jim Carrey, Leslie Nielsen, Dan Aykroyd, John Candy and William Shatner, assuming of course you recognise the original Star Trek series as the masterclass in deadpan comedy farce that, in retrospect, they were clearly going for. In addition, Vancouver Studios is also the largest film productions facility in North America outside of Los Angeles. Between 1993-98 this rain-sodden slice of Canada’s west coast famously served as the principal filming location for cult sci-fi series the X Files, doubling as whatever location Mulder and Scully’s paranormal investigations called for, just as long as said location called for it to be pissing it down.
The FBI’s finest look into creepy, kooky, mysterious and spooky goings on in (clockwise from top left) “Miami”, “Dallas”, “Las Vegas” and “the New Mexico Desert.”
It’s fair to say that football (or should I call it soccer? Spoiler alert, no I shouldn’t) doesn’t loom too large in the Canadian sporting psyche, mainly due to their preference for a game involving skates, sticks, a puck, goalkeepers dressed somewhere between a beekeeper and a space marine and frequent bouts of impromptu and largely unnecessary dental surgery. The national team have just a solitary World Cup appearance to their name, qualifying for the 1986 tournament in Mexico by virtue of having won the previous year’s CONCACAF Championship which doubled as the regional preliminary round. At the finals, the defensively competent but clearly limited Canadians were eliminated with the worst record of any of the 24 competing nations, posting zero points and not even a single goal. Canada were hardly embarrassed though. European champions France required a 79th minute Jean-Pierre Papin goal to scrape a 1-0 win in their opening game, while both Hungary and the Soviet Union posted comfortable if not exactly emphatic 2-0 margins of victory.
Sadly, Canada’s post 1986 World Cup record is distinctly underwhelming. Any hopes of making the short trip south for USA 94 were dashed via a penalty shootout defeat to Australia in the inter-confederation play-offs* and the ‘Canucks’ have barely been in contention since. The team’s only 21st century sniff blew up in quite spectacular fashion on the road to Brazil 2014 when, requiring just a point from a trip to Honduras in order to edge out their opponents for a place in the final round, the Canadians were unceremoniously slaughtered 8-1 by a previously goal-shy Honduran side who had only found the net just four times across five prior fixtures. Oh dear, a lot of oh dear. Somewhat improbably, Canada do have a major international trophy in the cabinet, having unexpectedly taken home the CONCACAF Gold Cup in 2000, marking the only time (under its current guise at least) that the tournament has been won by anyone other than Mexico or the USA. There was certainly an element of luck early on in their run. Canada progressed from their group thanks to the toss of a coin (yep, really) before going on to claim surprise but fully deserved victories over Mexico, Trinidad & Tobago and, in the final, a 2-0 win over invited guests Colombia in front of a miserly 7,000 fans at the 90,000 capacity Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, although I’m willing to bet that the law-abiding to a fault Canadian supporters still all sat in their allocated seats.
*Even if they’d triumphed in the shootout, Canada would still have faced a final play-off against Argentina for a place in the finals so, in all likelihood, wouldn’t have made it anyway.
Now, there’s an endearingly old-fashioned story behind this shirt. Back in days of yonder (2001 actually, but bear with me), at a time when the internet wasn’t omnipresent in everyone’s home, people still held actual, honest-to-goodness face-to-face conversations and Snapchat was a dating site for those with a disturbing infatuation for one third of the Rice Krispies mascot trio, the best way to secure rare international shirts was via a Devon-based company called Subside Sports who, by the way, are still going strong. One day, having mailed off a hand-written order with cheque enclosed (Christ I’m old), I decided to include a note enquiring whether they were in a position to get hold of some Canada shirts. Brilliantly, they not only wrote back but confirmed a shipment of these beauties would be in stock soon, even going as far as to let me know when they’d arrived. Top stuff.
This design was worn at the 2001 Confederations Cup in the Far East, a competition Canada qualified for thanks to their Gold Cup win the year before. Seemingly the red home version was only utilised once at that tournament, during a shock 0-0 draw against Brazil no less, although it might have had further competitive outings were it not for the colossal balls-up surrounding the 2001 Copa America in Colombia (where Canada were pencilled in as a guest nation), whereby the tournament was cancelled at short notice amidst security fears before being reinstated at even shorter notice, by which point the Canadians had already flown home. The words piss up and brewery spring to mind.