I have long been confounded how a country with the sporting prowess of Canada can struggle so mightily in the most popular sport among its young people.
We are a world power when it comes to hockey and produce world-class athletes in many other sports; we've been top five in medals at the last two Winter Olympics and top 15 at the last two Summer Games. Yet when it comes to soccer, the sport more Canadian youngsters play than any other, we are, to put it charitably, an afterthought, sitting 117th in the latest FIFA rankings, behind the likes of Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Mauritania.
Before I go any further, I should make it perfectly clear that I'm referring to our men's national team, not our two-time Olympic bronze medalist women's national team, which sits fourth in the world at the moment. The men, on the other hand, are 20 spots behind Syria, although I'm proud to say we're two ahead of Iraq.
I've heard many explanations over the years as to why Canada resides in soccer's hinterlands, including the notion that our best athletes play hockey. Given the likes of Milos Raonic, Steve Nash, Brooke Henderson and a host of prominent athletes in other sports, that's one argument I can't buy.
I've also heard that soccer isn't part of our culture like it is elsewhere. There's certainly some validity to that, and could well limit how high we go, but given the size of our talent pool and the wealth of our country, the lack of soccer culture shouldn't be that much of an impediment.
The argument I think has the most traction is the lack of serious training provided to players at an early age, something that's finally beginning to change. When I got involved with minor soccer a dozen or so years ago, there wasn't a single paid technical staff member with our club, whereas today South Delta United has a handful of them.
The professional support will undoubtedly produce better players, which if done across the country, will eventually result in more competitive teams internationally. This all costs money, so we'll see how that shakes out in a sport long considered a cheap alternative.
Who knows, there could soon come a day when Canada makes Gabon shake in their collective soccer boots.