Mon. Dec 5th, 2022

As Canada’s men’s soccer team prepares to play in its first FIFA World Cup in 36 years, interest among Canadians in watching the tournament in Qatar is low, a new poll shows.

At this point, 63 percent of 1,005 Canadians polled by Ipsos exclusively for Global News from Nov. 11-15 said they don’t care about the World Cup, which starts Sunday. Only 34 percent of respondents said they would follow the tournament closely, while 66 percent of Canadians surveyed said they did not plan to follow the games closely.

Despite apparently low interest among Canadians, a global Ipsos survey released Nov. 10 found that more than half of adults in 34 countries plan to watch the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

“We have to keep in mind that even if we say the interest is relatively low, if we say a third of Canadians are paying attention, that’s still over 10 million people who have the potential to watch this,” said Sébastien Dallaire, senior vice president president of Canadian Ipsos.

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“Canada is not yet a big soccer-watching nation. There is some interest, but obviously it doesn’t compare to what we can see in other countries where you have a lot more true hardcore fans.”

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Interest in the World Cup is conditioned by years, Ipsos results for Global News show. Canadians aged 18 to 34 are more interested in watching the event than their parents or grandparents and are more likely to say the World Cup is more important to them than the Olympics.

However, their interest does not translate into support for Canada, Ipsos said. While 24 per cent of respondents said they would mostly root for another nation, that share jumps to 45 per cent for Canadians aged 18 to 34. Conversely, 76 percent of respondents do not agree that they will support another country.

The difference in allegiance could be due to the fact that Canada’s men’s national team has only played in one World Cup, and many Canadians have become accustomed to rooting for other nations during the World Cup, Dallaire said.

Click to play video: 'Canadian soccer fans go to Qatar for World Cup'

Canadian soccer fans are going to Qatar for the World Cup

Canada will play Belgium on Nov. 23 in its first game of the World Cup in Qatar, an event that has been surrounded by controversy since FIFA named the Arab nation as host 12 years ago. The tournament, which is traditionally played in June and July, was moved to avoid playing in the intense Middle Eastern heat.

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Qatar faced skepticism about how it convinced FIFA to vote for the country; 21 of the 24 men on FIFA’s Executive Committee who voted to host the 2010 World Cup were variously convicted in criminal or ethics cases, charged, acquitted at trial or implicated in wrongdoing.

Allegations of mistreatment of migrant workers building infrastructure for the World Cup have been made for years, and Qatar’s record on LGBTQ2 rights has recently been called into question.

“Relatively speaking, Canadians are less interested than people in most other countries, but globally there has been a decline — not just in Canada … in interest,” Dallaire said.

“So it’s clear that all the controversy surrounding the World Cup has generally reduced interest, but as experience shows sometimes it depends on what happens during the event. Once the event starts, it becomes real and people start watching the games, and if Canada does well, it could generate more interest and all the controversy can sometimes give way to more excitement.”

Click to play video: 'Migrant workers' rights in spotlight ahead of 2022 FIFA World Cup.'

The rights of migrant workers in the spotlight ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup

When Qatar was first named as the host country, the country had a population of 350,000. It has since grown to 2.6 million due to migrants working to build infrastructure, such as stadiums, needed for the tournament.

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Among some of the allegations of abuse of migrant workers are that thousands have died on the job, suffered wage theft and in some cases had their passports denied by their employers, said Michael Page, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch ( HRW), in a previous interview with Global News.

Qatar’s ruling emir called the criticism an “unprecedented campaign” aimed at the first Arab nation to host the tournament. Qatar has repeatedly hit back, insisting it has improved protections for migrant workers and claiming the criticisms are out of date.

Furthermore, several teams and players are raising questions about the safety of LGBTQ2 fans, given that homosexual acts are illegal in the conservative Muslim country.

The FIFA World Cup sign in the background on the Doha skyline on November 17 ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

Giuseppe Cacace/AFP via Getty Images

Qatar promised that LGBTQ2 fans would not face arrest, but Qatari security forces arbitrarily arrested and abused LGBTQ2 Qataris as recently as September, HRW said on October 24. The Arab nation rejected the accusations.

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Ottawa has released a special travel advice website for World Cup fans heading to Qatar, including information on local laws. He also warned Canadians that Qatar has many laws that differ from those in Canada.

Among some of the government’s advice, Ottawa is telling Canadian fans heading to Qatar to “dress conservatively” and “behave with discretion.”

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Canadian Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge said in a tweet on Oct. 28 that the safety of Canadians attending the World Cup must be ensured. St-Onge told Global News earlier this month that Ottawa was joining calls for “transparency and strong measures” to protect the migrant workers who built the World Cup infrastructure.

Late last month, Canada Soccer, the sport’s governing body in the country, released a statement saying it “supports the continued pursuit of further progress on labor rights and inclusiveness as Qatar prepares to host the world.”

Ottawa, which has diplomatically boycotted the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics because of China’s poor human rights record, previously told Global News that no plan had yet been made for a federal dignitary to attend the World Cup.

Click to play video: 'Government diplomats must 'speak out about these abuses' if they attend 2022 FIFA World Cup: Human Rights Watch'

Government diplomats must ‘speak out about these abuses’ if they attend 2022 FIFA World Cup: Human Rights Watch

Asked about the government delegation’s plans Thursday, Liberal MP Adam van Koeverden told parliamentarians during question time that Ottawa was focusing on a “constructive approach.”

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“We are aware that there are reservations about holding FIFA 2022 in Qatar and we are focusing on a constructive approach because in a world that is full of divisions, we have to work with our partners,” he said in French.

How the Canadians feel the team will perform

Problems aside, Canadians polled by Ipsos for Global News aren’t sure how far the men’s national team will go in the 32-nation tournament. The team will play three games in the group stage, but only the top two teams will qualify for the knockout round.

Belgium, which is Canada’s first opponent, was ranked by FIFA as the second best men’s national team in the world. Croatia, with whom Canada plays after Belgium, entered the finals of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, and is ranked 12th by the world governing body of the best men’s team. Morocco, Canada’s last opponent in the group stage, is ranked 22ndn.d. Canada is in 41st placeSt.

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Read more:

FIFA World Cup – Canada faces ‘really big’ challenge in Qatar. Who are they playing?

Thirty-two percent of Canadians polled by Ipsos said they weren’t sure how far Canada would go at the World Cup. Sixteen percent believe Canada will fail to make it past the group stage, while 21 percent believe Canada will be eliminated in the Round of 16. Fifteen percent believe that the Canadians will lose in the quarterfinals, and seven percent believe that the men’s national team will not make it past the semifinals of the World Cup.

Only four percent of respondents believe that Canada will win the FIFA World Cup, while three percent of respondents see that they will reach the final but lose.

“We see Canadians in general being a little too optimistic, but that also speaks to the fact that we don’t have as much experience as a nation participating in such a global tournament,” Dallaire said.

“It is not impossible that (the Canadians) can surprise. … If that happens, I guarantee you the numbers we’re measuring here will go way up over the next few weeks.”

These are some of the findings of an Ipsos survey conducted from November 11 to 15 on behalf of Global News. A sample of 1,005 Canadians over the age of 18 were interviewed for this survey. Quotas and weights were used to ensure that the composition of the sample reflected the composition of the Canadian population according to census parameters. The accuracy of Ipsos online polls is measured using credibility intervals. In this case, the poll is accurate within ± 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, that all Canadians over the age of 18 were polled. The credibility interval will be wider among subsets of the population. All sample and survey research may be subject to other sources of error, including but not limited to coverage error and measurement error.

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– with files from the Associated Press