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dated: 2022-11-20 15:46:25 .
Kyla Rose was still a few months old when Canada last played in the 1986 FIFA World Cup.
On Wednesday, when the men’s national team competes in the tournament for the first time in 36 years against second-place Belgium, they are taking the day off to watch with their parents and friends at a sports pub in North Vancouver.
“I’ve been waiting for this my whole life as a football cheerleader,” she said. “I really want to experience Team Canada playing with other fans at a World Cup game, not just from my office or at home.”
Fans across the country are gearing up for the start of the World Cup in Qatar, marking the momentous occasion for Canadian soccer by finding time to tune in and finding communities of other fans to watch with.
Despite the early start times on the West Coast – the time zone difference between Canada and Qatar ranges from seven to 11 a.m. – Rose, who has played soccer most of her life, said she won’t miss the opening of the tournament in Canada even after the games against Croatia and Morocco at any price.
“I’m only a few hours late for work,” she said.
In a country usually known for its strength in winter sports such as hockey, she said Canada’s World Cup qualification and the opportunity to compete with world-class soccer players is a “big deal” that will increase interest in the game at houses.
“You see people who wouldn’t normally be interested in playing football,” she said. “It’s a special feeling in the city and talking to people, everyone is excited.”
Christian Parlee, a child and youth counselor at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, has been with Canada’s national soccer team for 20 years and was six years old when they last played in the World Cup.
He liked Canada’s qualification for the 2022 World Cup “a golden retriever who was locked in the house all day and finally got to run outside with the neighborhood kids.”
Parlee said soccer fans in Canada have felt let down by the team in the past and that expectations for success aren’t particularly high given the quality of the competition planned, but they still call it a “monumental” moment.
“I don’t think anyone with a sense of logic or reason expects much – anything that’s not a loss is a gain,” he said.
But the chance to play could still go a long way towards improving the game at home. Canadian soccer players previously had several leagues and fewer opportunities to develop at the highest level, he said, as Major League Soccer in North America historically favored American players and the best domestic talent sought opportunities in Europe.
“Now we see that this is a definite opportunity for me to play at the highest international level as a Canadian player. It doesn’t get any bigger,” Parlee said. “He will show the generation of young players that it is quite possible.”
Parlee took the next week off to visit his brother in the US, where he and his father will be at a bar watching Canada’s first game. He said he might travel back sometime around the time of the second game against Croatia, but made sure the data was backed up so he could watch on his tablet if needed.
At home, Parlee said he can host people to watch Canada’s Game 3 because many of his busy sports bars are closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the time difference and midweek schedule might force him to watch in a public place.
“I’m sure a lot of people won’t take the time off to see this game and while I appreciate that, I don’t share that opinion,” he said.
But as a health care professional, Parlee said there are reasons to be concerned about the mass gatherings in emergency rooms and children’s hospitals across Canada in the face of a trio of circulating respiratory viruses — COVID-19, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus — that have overwhelmed health care systems.
“In some circumstances you may not want to go to those large gatherings, you may want to keep it to a smaller bar,” Parlee said, noting that he is up to date on vaccinations and will wear a mask indoors.
Eric Franck, a Halifax restaurant server who creates soccer content on Tik Tok, said he’s never been more excited for a soccer game in his life than Canada vs. Belgium.
“It’s going to be crazy to see our guys on the world stage,” he said.
Although he will be watching Canada’s first game at home, Franck will not be alone as he plans to stream Canada’s first game live on YouTube. After that, he plans to find a pub or some public place where he will watch the games with his father.
Canada needs to better promote its participation in the tournament, he said, since it will co-host the 2026 World Cup with the United States and Mexico.
“The only hype these days is on the Internet. You can go out of the house, there is nothing to indicate that the World Cup is approaching, not in the malls, not in the city center,” said Franck.
“We have a young squad, a lot of these players will be there in four years, so it makes sense to try to grow and develop the game.”
Although this year’s tournament isn’t held during the summer months like usual, which means fewer barbecues, street parties and outdoor viewing, Franck wants Canadians to show up for the team wherever they can.
“Go to your local pub, bar, town square, whatever’s on… get into the crowd there, get into the spirit,” he said. “Better than watching it at home.”
This Canadian Press report was first published on November 20, 2022.
This story was produced with financial support from Meta and the Canadian Press News Fellowship.
Tyler Griffin, Canadian Press
Canadian soccer fans decide to visit the “monumental” performance at the World Cup together
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