First off I would like to take this chance to thank all of our readers who took the time to enter our contest and make it a success. We had a lot of good entries and was very hard to select a top 3 but that is what we have done. The top 3 will be below the jump for your reading pleasure and then the winner will be announced tomorrow evening before the final Canadian National team game at BMO. Ideally the winner will be announced at Maro if they are there otherwise you will all find out via twitter!
We had a lot of interesting stories submitted ranging from long time fans to ones who only went to their first game this season. Heck we even had a submission from a man who was actually at the match that saw Canada qualify for its only trip to the World Cup, even if he remembers very little of it. We had one entry that credited Nutella for opening their eyes to the team, another about a trip to Detroit for the Gold Cup game against the United States, a tale of a game against Honduras, one about how their families love for soccer made them a fan, and a fan who got interested in the team after hearing about that fateful coin toss. So which three are our finalists? Find out after the break!
The first of our top 3 entries was submitted by Derek Gagnon who our regular readers should know as Canadian Texan. His submission is a great tale of a game in Winnipeg where he saw Canada take on Honduras and ends with a bloody fist. It is certainly worth a read!
The beginnings of my love affair with the Canadian Men’s National team actually happened to me by accident. I was a 12 year old in Winnipeg playing footy for a local community club when an opportunity arose. "How would you boys like to see Team Canada play?" "HOCKEY?!" "No, soccer!" "Oh…ok!". The game was to be Canada vs. Honduras at the Winnipeg Soccer Complex on May 30, 2000. I didn’t remember these details, I had to look them up, but I was definitely there. Now, I will say this much: we knew about the CMNT. We had all sat around and watched the Gold Cup final earlier that year and witnessed one of the great moments in CMNT history as they beat Columbia 2-0 to take the Cup. And now I’d be seeing them up close. Again being honest, I don’t remember a whole hell of a lot of the game. But 3 things do come to mind:
"Peschisolido scores for Canada!" The Public Address announcer was very much British and very much excited when this happened.
Martin Nash did something good, but I only found out recently that it was send in a corner that would be headed in by Kevin McKenna to give Canada the 2-1 lead with 10 minutes to play, which ended up being the final score.
Definitely got a high five from Martin Nash after the game, thus cementing in my mind that Nash was the greatest football player on the planet after Zizou and Henry.
I went on my merry way as a fan of soccer, never watching what happened in the leagues of Europe but always keeping an eye on the CMNT to see if they’d qualify for the World Cup or win another Gold Cup. Martin Nash remained a god to me, as did deVos, Forrest, Corrazin, and Peschisolido. I played FIFA 99 on my PC until the disc melted in a bizarre accident. That was a sad day because EA Sports doesn’t like to feature Canada in their games anymore, and I was no longer able to live vicariously through the game.
From the years 2000 to 2007 I didn’t play soccer. At all. I was convinced that tall gangly kids should play basketball or volleyball, regardless of how much one hates the sport. I even ventured into water polo. These were bleak times.
University opened me up to new people and new opportunities, and one such opportunity was to play keeper for a Co-Ed team, which I did for a while before eventually switching to Striker and finally to my preferred position at Centre Back.
During this time I was shown by some of my teammates the glory that is the Beautiful Game, and that the National team players don’t just stay in their jerseys waiting for the next tournament. They play for these things called clubs. Boy howdy, how exciting! That’s where I slowly learned you don’t have to play for the Real Madrid’s and the Manchester United’s of the world to play for your country, at that players from relative unknown teams were often called upon to represent Canada. Players like Josh Simpson and Milan Borjan could play for random squads I had no idea ever existed and then catch a flight and play for Canada too.
Which brings me to present day. Actually not present day. June 14, 2011, a day that left my fist and my wall hurting badly. Canada was tangling with Panama in Gold Cup Group Stage action. Canada was up 1-0 going into stoppage time. A win would see Canada advance into the next stage. Everything was going good when suddenly Panama equalized and just like that Canada’s tournament was all but over. At this point I didn’t know how passionate I was about the CMNT but I was boiling mad and began to walk outside to get some air. However somewhere in between the couch and the door I punched a wall. At the time it was just me venting and innocently hitting something that wouldn’t mind being hit. The drywall minded. I was left staring at a fist shaped hole in the wall of my parent’s house. That really went over well with my parents, though to this date they don’t know the actual reason why I punched the hole. I’ll tell you why.
Because I was feeling every bit as much pain as Borjan and Dunfield were. And it wasn’t my fist that was hurting…it wasn’t JUST my fist that was hurting. This was a devastating blow to the squad and therefore to me, and from that day I resolved that I would remain faithful regardless of these pains and that when Canada finally qualifies for a second World Cup in 2014 that that hole in the wall would be worth it. If Canada can field it’s best squad and play consistently well, there’s no reason why this can’t happen. So, from a starry eyed boy to a bloody knuckled man, this was my journey of supporting the CMNT, with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.
Our second top 3 entry comes from Michael Przybylowski who tells his story about a trip to Detroit to see Canada playing against the United States. Reminds me of how sad I was to miss out on that trip!
We all knew the date. It was June 7th, 2011. A Tuesday evening where the Canadians would cross the Detroit River to try to relive the re-enactment of the Battle of Fort Detroit almost 200 years before; just this time it was to be played out at Ford Field on borrowed pieces of grass made into a football (soccer) pitch. Would the Canadians prevail against an immense American fire power or would the Americans avenge their fore-fathers from nearly 200 years back. That was the question and it all started in the wee morning hours on Tuesday, June 7th.
I travelled down with 40 or 50 guys from the Greater Toronto Area on a bus that was fantastically organized by Rudi. At the time that bus tickets were being sold, I was unsure of what I was going to do, so I had thought I missed out on the opportunity to go. BUT then, a fellow Voyageur had a last minute change of plans and was looking for a replacement. I more than gladly took his place on the bus with my damaged and dampened ticket (I had received it the night of the Canadian Cup Final that was called off due to thunderstorms).
I don't think I slept much the night before and was up way too early to get out to be mentally into it...but C'MON, we were takin' on the Yanks in their own backyard! Must have been about 7am when I arrived at one of the pickup points along the bus route out in Burlington or Oakville at a Tim Hortons.
The bus, of course, was late leaving BMO Field and it did not arrive on-time, but myself and one other Voyageur hopped on the bus as soon as it came (maybe 8:45AM)...for a guy who had just finished his last year of university and did not have a class before 4:00PM, THIS WAS REAL EARLY in the morning. Thank God for Red Bull, or was it Rockstar or Monster or Full Throttle; thank God for energy drinks (ugh I hate coffee)!
I get on the bus and am holding a nice and warm large double-double; I figure there was no way I was going to get a seat to myself and I figured whoever had to sit beside me, would take a coffee as a peace offering. Well I made that announcement on the bus and had more than a few volunteers. I decided to settle near the back with Pete (aka Fort York Red Coat). He more than happily took the coffee (I wasn't going to drink it).
The bus made its way towards Hamilton then eventually towards the 401 all the way to the border. We crossed the border without much incident and had a good laugh with the American border guards.
It is amazing once you cross the border, Detroit (no offence to those who live there), is a complete bloody dump...until you reach Comerica Park/Ford Field. We settled on a nice location just outside of Ford Field and made the bar and its outdoor patio the Canadian base for the game.
From then on, those who hadn't already cracked beers or other forms of alcohol on the bus, began their drinking. Must have been about 1:00PM then. I remember having some tasty onion rings and a burger (when you're drinking, they taste great). I remember this older Canadian gentleman who came from Ottawa I believe; he brought cheese curds with him and he had the bar make "Canadian" poutine. This was a major hit with everyone and of course the Canadian thing to do was to offer some to everyone around us-this included the Guadeloupe fans who had taken up one of the tables outside.
I am starting to run out of time here as, of course, like my studies, I am writing this extremely last minute, so lets fast forward four and half hours; drinking myself to a dandy, lots of chanting back and forth with passing American supporters, draping Canadian flags on the "show" vehicles, by whichever car company (Ford?) was the sponsor, and best of all, heading over to the Home Depot sign painting area and making a "Where's Teal?" sign-for our ('sarcastic') favourite American player not at the Gold Cup.
By about 5:30/5:45, I decided I wanted to go inside for 2 reasons. 1, so I could have a front-row seat in our section, (I believe it was 118), and 2, because I stupidly thought the Guadelope-Panama game was going to be interesting..It was, but who was I kidding, I didn't care about the result that much.
By around 8:00, the Canada and US teams came out. Sang the national anthem proudly-and by golly, it felt SOOOO GOOOD to be Canadian. Here I was at a game on a foreign soil, cheering my beloved country. The result did not matter. Yeah we all know what happened, 2-0 loss-Hirschfeld fumbled the first goal by Altidore-Dempsey had a fantastic second goal-Ali Gerba hit the bar more times that game then he hit the back of the net in 2011...yaddie yaddie ya. We sang our hearts out for 90 minutes and then we hit the streets and sang somemore. There was not a Canadian at the game who could not feel prouder of being Canadian; result aside.
The clincher for the trip for me was reading on twitter later, and in match reports by American reporters and bloggers-at times during the game, the few (200-300 or so) Canadian supporters were actually OUT-SINGING the Americans...and I was part of it!
I love you Canada!
Now with only a little bit of further ado here comes our third and final finalist (does that work?). It comes to us from the one and only Tim Drodge of View from the South Stands and tells his story of how he got to watch Canada qualify for its first and only World Cup. It is another really good one!
I hail from a real small town in Newfoundland. And when I mean small I
mean small. Less than 200 people call Little Heart’s Ease Trinity Bay
home. The only soccer I had ever seen when I was living there was the
footy we used to play on the gravel parking lot of our local school. I
had never ever seen or participated in an organized game on a grass
pitch ever before 1985.
At most I had only a very passing knowledge of the game of soccer when
I left home to head to St. John’s in the fall of 1985 to start my
university career at Memorial University. But my relationship with the
beautiful game was soon to take a dramatic change of direction.
Just after frosh week festivities died down the next big thing
happening in St. John’s in that early fall was of course the final
game between Canada and Honduras to decide on CONCACAF’s qualifier for
World Cup 86 in Mexico. There was arguably never a bigger sporting
event that has ever taken place in that city before or since and I was
determined to not miss out on the opportunity to see it for myself.
So I got a ticket and went to the game with hundreds of fellow
university students. There were reportedly just a bit north of 10,000
supporters in the stands that day at King George V Park in downtown
St. John’s. And that number was well above the then stated capacity of
5,000 fans that ground could "officially" hold at the time. We were
raucous and loud. We cheered and waved our flags and we passed around
more than one hip flask of rum/whiskey to keep warm on what was a
really nasty weather day with rain drizzle and fog the order of the
day weather wise and a temperature just a few degrees above zero.
I have to confess that all I truly remember about the game on the
field is that we scored twice and the Hondurans didn’t, only scoring
once in reply. I remember Paul James running up the pitch with the
Maple Leaf in hand post game. I vaguely remember then nineteen year
old striker Igor Vrablic scoring the winner mid way through the second
And I remember post game raving about the spectacle I saw on the
field, the camaraderie I felt in the stands and the fact that Canada
seemed at the time to a novice fan like me a country that might start
really making a name for itself in the biggest sport on earth.
Little did I know then that this would be the to date high water mark
for Canada in World Football and that in twenty six years since our
country has not had the same level of success. Nevertheless I left for
home that day a convert to the sport, a convert to Canadian soccer and
a fan of the beautiful game.
And for those that are slightly younger than me believe this. Canada
CAN qualify for a World Cup. We did it before and we can do it again.
I know this for a fact. I saw it with my own eyes.