Seven years ahead of the 2026 FIFA World Cup, the City of Edmonton is ready to welcome the world with an international friendly at Commonwealth Stadium.
As part of Soccer Week in Edmonton, the city — in conjunction with On Ice Entertainment (OIE) — will host a game between Cardiff City (Wales) and Real Valladolid (Spain).
OIE is behind some big events on the Prairies, including an international friendly in Regina between Valencia and New York Cosmos in 2017, and the upcoming NFL pre-season game in Winnipeg between Green Bay and Oakland.
Cardiff City most recently played in the English Premier League but was relegated to the EFL Championship after finishing in 18th place. Real Valladolid, owned by two-time World Cup champion and Brazilian superstar Ronaldo, finished 16th in Spain’s La Liga.
Nicknamed the Bluebirds, Cardiff City features Canadian international Junior Hoilett, who worked hard to convince team manager, Neil Warnock, to play a pre-season game in Canada.
“He’s been hounding me for quite a while now to try and get over to Canada and it just seemed like a good idea,” said Warnock.
“The facility is excellent, Junior says, and the people really welcome it. So it’s going to be very good for all of us. I’m sure we’ll bring quite a few fans as well over.”
Hoilett, 29, believes games like these will benefit young soccer players in Canada and inspire them to chase after their dreams – much like Edmonton’s Alphonso Davies, who recently won the Bundesliga with Bayern Munich.
“To have that experience, to see that type of football team overseas that played at the highest level in the Premier League, on your home soil, is a cool experience as a kid.”
Despite it being a pre-season game, Hoilett will come into Commonwealth in good form. He’s currently in California with the Canadian National Team as part of Concacaf Gold Cup preparations. If all goes well, he’ll help lead Canada to a Gold Cup title on July 7 and celebrate in Edmonton with his club side.
“It’s a good team here,” said Hoilett. “We have some talented players here in camp right now.
“Training has been progressing good. We’re just excited to get on the field and get on our way.”
The city hopes Edmontonians will embrace the game and help bolster its chances of being a named a host city in the 2026 FIFA World Cup.
Soccer Week runs July 17 to 21 and will feature family friendly events, open practices, a game featuring FC Edmonton and Valour FC, and of course, the international friendly. Tickets for the Cardiff City versus Real Valladolid game go on sale June 8.
© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.