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Fans cheer Canada's first World Cup game since '86

Darpan News Desk The Canadian Press, 23 Nov, 2022 01:06 PM
  • Fans cheer Canada's first World Cup game since '86

It was a moment some Canadian soccer fans said they'd been waiting for their whole lives: seeing their country in the World Cup.

At watching parties across the country Wednesday, fans gathered to cheer on the national team as it made its first appearance since 1986 in the international soccer tournament.

Morgan Stacey, 28, who was watching the game at the Burgundy Lion Pub in Montreal, said it feels "pretty incredible" to cheer on Team Canada. "It’s the first time in my life that I have ever gotten to see them compete in this tournament," he said. "I’m pretty excited!”

Stacey was among at least 150 people watching Canada take on Belgium at the pub.

“We have been waiting for this day for so long," said Tristan Scandar, 23, who travelled to cheer on the Canadian team in person at a qualifying match against Honduras. "A lot of Canadians have been waiting for a long time. So, let’s hope we do well today."

As Canada prepared to take a penalty shot early in the game, fans were on the edge of their seats, screaming and shouting as Canadian star Alphonso Davies lined up for the shot. The excitement turned to dismay when the Belgian goaltender stopped the attempt.

For some fans, including members of Montreal's large Belgian community, there were divided loyalties. Noël Fourcroy, 42, a Belgian who has lived in Montreal for 15 years, said he was rooting for his home country.

“I’m pretty excited. It’s a very unique moment because it’s my country of origin and my country of adoption. It’s a curious mélange. I confess I stay with Belgium today, but I will be very happy to follow Canada after,” Fourcroy said.

At St. Nicholas Catholic Junior High in Edmonton, where Davies attended and played in the school's soccer academy, students filled a gym where the Canadian star used to play to cheer on their favourite alumnus.

A giant screen was set up and the kids joined in a loud and raucous version of O Canada along with the team on the screen. A giant drum, like the one the team brings out at the end of the matches, boomed along.

Malik McDonald, 13, a student at the soccer academy who plays as a striker, admitted he sometimes models himself after Davies.

“It’s incredible thinking that someone from Edmonton, Alberta, going to St. Nic’s and making it to such a high level with such amazing footballers. It just inspires me that I could do the same," he said.

Mary Mahe, another St. Nicholas student, said watching someone from her school on the world's biggest soccer stage is inspiring. “It’s really motivating, because someone in my own position went so far in their career, it gives you hope that you could do that, if you try hard enough.”

Canada’s side entered Wednesday's game in Qatar as the overwhelming underdog. But they received good news on Tuesday when it was revealed that winger Davies — the team’s most dangerous player — has recovered from a hamstring injury and was fit to play.

Belgium is currently favoured to win Group F, which also includes 2018 finalist Croatia and Morocco, ranked 22nd in the world. However, it will be without its star striker Romelu Lukaku, who hasn’t played a match in nearly a month because of a thigh injury.

Canada is ranked 41st in FIFA standings while Belgium is second.

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