Why World Cup organizers want to know what this Saskatoon soccer fan thinks
Saskatoon soccer super-fan Lee Kormish will be jetting off to the Middle East this week on an all-expenses-paid trip where he’ll meet up with 39 other soccer fanatics.
“My role is to promote the game back home, and talk about the World Cup,” said Kormish.
The organization putting on the 2022 World Cup next November was looking for FIFA fan delegates from around the world, and a conversation with Kormish via Zoom as well as his 60-second video submission made him the lone Canadian to get the invite.
He’ll attend the Arab Cup in Qatar — a dress rehearsal tournament of sorts for next year’s World Cup.
“Qatar wants to do things right,” said Kormish. “We're going there to experience the opening match, we're going to be a part of the opening ceremonies, and then we're going to be sitting and talking about what makes a good experience for the fan at a World Cup.”
“They want to gather our experiences and then translate it into the fans that will be attending next year's World Cup.”
Kormish has attended every World Cup since 2006 and next year in Qatar he has more than just watching soccer on his mind.
“I want to write the book ‘100 World Cup matches,’” he said.
“I've been to 62 games over the last four World Cups, and I'd like to reach 100 and then write that in my book.”
And along the way, Kormish hopes to make history.
“There's a Guinness Book of World Records for the most matches attended at a World Cup,” he said. “In Qatar, I'm hoping to break that.”
The record is currently held by Thulani Ngcobo, who took in 31 matches at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
“I looked at the logistics and realistically you can maximize at 42 matches,” said Kormish. “If that's what I'm going to go for, that would be amazing. But you know as long as I was able to hit 32 plus, I'd be able to break that record.”
Following the 2022 World Cup, Kormish says he hopes his experience as a FIFA fan delegate will translate into a role for the 2026 World Cup, which is being hosted by the United States, Mexico, and Canada.
“I'm ecstatic to have a World Cup in Canada,” he said. “The other cool thing would be is if I was able to hit my 100th match and it was Canada playing at home.”
Kormish says Canada’s recent success at the CONCACAF World Cup qualifier, including a 2-1 win over Mexico, has changed the country’s outlook on soccer.
“I've been a Canadian soccer fan since the mid 90’s, and the experience of that win versus Mexico, the CONCACAF giants who we slayed for the first time in 20 years, was the best Canadian soccer experience I've had in my lifetime,” he said.
“The teams Costa Rica, Honduras, Panama, Mexico — they now realize that Canada's a contender and they're starting to use different tactics because they now feel less confident in beating us. We now seem to be the better team that's been able to win these games.”
Kormish’s presence in Qatar is no surprise to fellow soccer fan and Soccer Locker owner Shaun Eaton.
“He is probably the biggest fan of soccer in the city,” Eaton said of Kormish. “He's grassroots. He's all about what's happening at the youth level, like literally he grew up in Saskatoon playing the game.”
“He'll show up to youth games, (saying) ‘gee I heard these teams are going to compete today and I wanted to come and watch’, that is special. That's a whole different level of supporter.”
Eaton has attended large-scale soccer matches, and says the biggest part of the fan experience is the fans themselves.
“Being part of the crowd, being part of the whole performance,” he said. “The game itself is wonderful to watch, and I could sit by myself and enjoy the game, but being part of that crowd and the exhilaration you get off of that is amazing.”
“I think from a fan standpoint, being in in the audience, being part of that excitement, that's a huge, huge piece of it.”