Soccer fans across the country were overjoyed after witnessing Canada’s triumphant 2-0 win over the United States in World Cup qualifying at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton on Sunday.
The big win means the Canadian men’s soccer team is even closer to competing in the World Cup for the first time since 1986 — and only the second time ever.
Islanders are also expressing their excitement as they hope to watch the team compete on the world stage and kick-start a new generation of players.
“I was shocked, but pleased. And I think getting these results is building and cultivating a culture of ‘we belong,'” said Vince Greco, the executive director of the Vancouver Island Soccer League.
“After 36 years, maybe kids were saying, ‘we have no chance. We have no chance. We have no chance. Well now, we’re this close to getting there for a second time,” said Jamie Lowery, a former national team member.
The current team remains undefeated for a 10th straight game with Canadians now feeling a sense of pride they haven’t felt for a very long time.
Greco, who is of Italian heritage, said he’s now cheering on Canada as much as he is team Italy.
“I think there’s a lot of people in the same boat as me where their parents immigrated here or they’ve immigrated here and they’ve always sort of cheered for their own home country or where their parents are come, etc. That’s changing,” he said.
Having played on the world stage back in 1986, Lowery can’t wait to see the team competing again in the World Cup which he says is long overdue.
“I do get emotional. You know, you put that jersey on and it’s pride when you play for Canada. And boy, does it feel good after 36 years,” he said, teary-eyed.
He and other soccer fans hope this win inspires the next generation of players.
“I think grassroots, this is going to pay off the most,” said Greco.
“I think now we’re going to see more kids because they’re being exposed to soccer and seeing everyone’s talking about it … that they’re going to say, ‘well, I want to try soccer,'” he continued.
While the country celebrates this moment of victory, the team hasn’t qualified for the World Cup yet.
Canada faces El Salvador this Wednesday in another World Cup qualifying match.