O Canada: How English-born Carl Valentine helped lead Canada to the 1986 FIFA World Cup

Valentine to represent Whitecaps FC in the Canada Day Parade

Port Metro Vancouver is hosting the sixth annual Canada Day Parade tonight and they have invited Vancouver Whitecaps FC legend Carl Valentine to participate as the grand marshal.

Although Valentine was born and raised in Manchester, United Kingdom, he came to Vancouver to play for the ‘Caps in their 1979 championship year and has spent the majority of his life on the West Coast, which he now considers his second home.

After a substantial and rewarding career as a striker and coach, he now devotes his time to inspiring the younger generation and the community to engage in “The Beautiful Game” as the Vancouver Whitecaps FC club ambassador and U-16 staff coach. 

Come out to Georgia and Broughton at 7 p.m. PT, interact with the Whitecaps FC legend at the Canada Day Parade in downtown Vancouver, and show your support for the Blue and White while celebrating our great country.

See below for a story on how Valentine helped lead Canada to the 1986 FIFA World Cup. Editor's note: This story was originally published in December 2013.

VANCOUVER, BC – A draw or win against Honduras is all Canada needed to earn its first World Cup berth in the country’s history.

The match would be played on September 14, 1985 in St. John’s, Newfoundland. 

English-born Carl Valentine, who had become a Canadian citizen the year before while playing for the NASL’s Vancouver Whitecaps, wasn’t involved in any of Canada’s previous qualification matches.

He suspects it was because he had turned down the opportunity to represent Canada at the 1984 Olympics – a “missed opportunity,” he called it.

At any rate, Valentine got the call for Canada’s final World Cup qualification match and he wasn’t going to miss it – even if his stomach wasn’t exactly co-operating.

“I had whatever kind of flu,” Valentine told whitecapsfc.com. “Needless to say, it wasn't pretty. I travelled in a week before and the guys had gone through all the qualifying, done all the hard work and grinded out some great results. I felt a little apprehensive coming in for the last game. And then I get there and I’m sick and I think I’m going to miss out so that was a little bit hairy.”

The hairiness would soon subside.

September 14, 1985: Canada 2-1 Honduras

Not only did Valentine end up playing, he also assisted on both of Canada’s goals with a pair of corner kicks in the historic 2-1 victory. It remains one of the biggest highlights of Valentine’s career, and a momentous occasion in Canada’s soccer history.

As it turns out, Canada held a secret practice the day before at a private school to specifically work on set plays, and in particular, corner kicks.

“Tony Waiters was very big on set plays,” Valentine said about Canada’s head coach of the time, who also previously coached the ‘Caps. “We worked on them a lot – as we did with the Whitecaps. Bobby [Lenarduzzi] and I had been privy to that. Bobby would be on the front post and I would try to whip balls in. As it happened, that’s how both goals were created.”

The Canadians didn’t have as much success in the ensuing World Cup, where they suffered shutout losses in each of their three matches, including a 1-0 defeat to powerhouse France in the tournament opener. To date, that remains Canada’s lone appearance in a World Cup.

Despite the disappointing showing, it’s something Valentine said he will never forget.

“Obviously, it’s one of the goals of everyone to try and play in the World Cup,” said Valentine, who is currently a club ambassador with Whitecaps FC and a staff coach with the club’s Residency program. “The whole experience was a little bit surreal because we played against some of the best teams and best players in the world.”

To this day, Valentine said becoming a Canadian citizen was one of the best decisions he’s made. 

“Some people look at it black and white and say maybe I couldn’t play for England so I decided to play for Canada," Valentine said. "But I think it’s more to do with living in the country, especially living in a place like Vancouver. I obviously fell in love with it and made my life here and brought up a family here. Then, to be able to go and represent the country that has given you this life … it was a wonderful opportunity."