Heavy snow and treacherous falling ice brought downtown Toronto to a standstill two days before the Draw on Saturday 3 March 2007. But the football gods in their good graces decided to smile on the event in the knick of time, as the warmth and hospitality of the local Canadian organisers came out with the sun.
Many of Planet Football's biggest names and most recognisable faces turned up for the event, a mesmerising display of pomp and circumstance. The night's MC, Craig Forrest, a former Gold Cup winning Canadian goalkeeper who made his name playing in England with such notable clubs as West Ham and Ipswich Town, summed it all up quite well in his opening remarks. "This is going to be the largest single-sport event in Canadian history, it's amazing," said the U-20 finals veteran of Chile 1987.
With the trophy guarded by two Royal Canadian Mounted Police decked out in full regalia, and a stunning rendition of the national anthem, 'O Canada,' performed with power and grace by Simone Soman, the crowd was on its feet even before the draw got underway.
Organising Committee Chairman Jack Warner of Trinidad and Tobago put his finger squarely on the pulse and importance of the event "Here is where the U-20 World Cup begins. Names like Maradona, Thierry Henry, Figo, Owen and Messi… these are the reasons this tournament is so important. These young players are the symbols of the beautiful game and its future. This summer, the future of football comes to Canada."
A warm welcome
President of the Canadian Soccer Association and head of the organising Committee, Colin Linford, was also brimming with optimism. "We are sitting just metres away from Canada's first national soccer stadium. Along with it comes the second-biggest tournament in the world football (U-20). We are still months away and we already have half a million spectators on board... We look forward to hosting all of you this summer."
His work was made just a slight bit easier later on in the evening when Helena Guergis, Canada's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Sport pledged (CAN) $4.2 million to support the FA's efforts to host the FIFA U-20 World Cup.
And after a video presentation of past U-20 masters like Adriano, Kaka, Ronaldinho, Lionel Messi and many, many more wowed the open-mouthed crowd, the lights in the hall dimmed as it was time for the draw to begin.