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More Than A Game: A father’s perspective on the CANMNT at the World Cup

As the World Cup approaches, what does it mean to our footballing future?

Patrick and I and only “10,000” of our closest friends in Hamilton on 30 January 2022
Corey Brady - Waking the Red

“You owe me 5 bucks if I get Messi in this next pack!”, Patrick said.

“Fine - there’s no way you’re going to get Lionel Messi in this pack,” I responded.

Guess what - he got Lionel Messi and I was $5 poorer. Well played, son.

Leo cost me 5 bucks.
Corey Brady

That exchange was from my son and I’s Panini World Cup Sticker odyssey a week or so ago. I spent too much money buying two boxes of Panini stickers - each box contains 50 packs of five stickers each. We figured we’d be able to make these boxes last a bit longer by trying to ration the packs by only opening one or two at a time. It didn’t work - I felt like a kid again and couldn’t contain my excitement. We opened 100 packs in the span of about four days.

Patrick was excited to get the big name players like Messi, Mbappe, Kane, etc. However, he was most excited when he opened a pack with Canadian players like Hutchinson, Osorio, and Borjan. (No Alphonso Davies though - interesting trades considered!)

We, as Canadian football supporters, are on the precipice of something big - hosting the World Cup in 4 years. But let’s not look too far into the future, as the 2022 World Cup is almost upon us and we’re able to watch our team compete. The last time we had that privilege was 36 years ago. Why is it such a big deal for the future generation of players?

As the World Cup roster was released on Sunday, we sat and watched the reveal together. It was a special moment for Canadian Football Supporters, but it was significant for us as TFC supporters. I openly admit I was in tears when Richie’s dad was interviewed. I’m a huge Richmond Laryea fan. We went to the Allstate Soccer Show a few weeks ago and had the pleasure of meeting a few of the CANMNT players, which included Richie Laryea, Doneil Henry and Mark-Anthony Kaye. The smiles on these players’ faces after meeting Patrick said everything about them - they’re personable and caring individuals. These men are not just a face on the television or a name on a piece of paper, they’re now bigger-than-life figures for Patrick. What did he remember most from that day? “They were all really nice to me, Dad!”

Richie signed our Al Rihla ball. Soon he’ll be kickng the authentic one at the World Cup.

That memory will be etched in his brain for life. Seeing these players take the field next week will be an historic moment, but allows Patrick to make a personal connection to the team. We can’t underestimate the importance of having our players at the World Cup. Patrick will be able to show off to his friends that he got to meet players that will be on television. Like a drop in water, there will be a ripple effect of enthusiasm through our younger generations. I cannot wait to see a Canadian player score the first goal for Canada (I’m guessing it will be Jonathan David). We’re lucky to see the amplification of the team in the social media era, where we can watch Alphonso Davies watch the CMNT play and have live reactions. Since this generation is plugged into so much of this media, we will see more interest in this team.

Now you’re gonna believe us - We’re going to Qatar!

I need to digress a bit here - I do not want to omit the important contributions of our CW/XNT to our footballing culture in Canada. Patrick was born in 2012, so he didn’t get to witness the Bronze medal achievement at the London Olympics. We made sure to be up early to watch the Gold Medal game in 2021. When it went to penalties, we didn’t sit down at all and woke up our neighbours with screams of joy when Julia Grosso scored the winner. This team showed the men how to win and occupy that spotlight that has been so important for soccer in Canada. You better believe we’ll be watching you dominate in the Land Down Under next summer.

The World Cup roster is made up of players that came from all over the world to call this country home, which is a quintessentially Canadian thing. We don’t expect our athletes to fit into a certain stereotype, which makes this team so much more appealing. Patrick is living in a country that, while not perfect, is able to celebrate diversity and see our population thrive in a sport that speaks a common language everywhere - football. Seeing my son having the opportunity to play with other kids from every background makes it so much more meaningful to have our national team be representative of the population. Herdman’s selection demonstrates the emphasis on “The Brotherhood” and team cohesiveness. We’ll be able to continue to see our national identity be reflected in our teams.

With the proper facilities, Patrick is lucky enough to play year round.

There are lots of important stories too from this team. Overcoming adversity seems to be a common theme with many of these players. Think of Alphonso Davies’ story:

Another great example is Joel Waterman. He played at Trinity Western University. Usually, playing university soccer in Canada means the end of a playing career. Waterman was drafted by Cavalry FC and played in Calgary in 2019. After performing well in the CPL, Waterman was signed by the Montreal Impact (currently CF Montreal) ahead of the 2020 season. He earned his first cap for Canada against Bahrain last week and is included in the World Cup squad. What does someone like Waterman show Patrick? Don’t give up on your dreams if you don’t sign a professional contract at 15. Also, and probably more importantly, you don’t have to leave Canada to make it to the national team.

Another digression - my older son, James, loves baseball. Despite my best efforts, he does not have any interest in playing or watching soccer whatsoever. I don’t want do exclude him because I’ll never hear the end of it. Here’s a picture of us watching the Jays lose to the Mariners in Game 2 of the 2022 AL Wild Card series. Love ya, bud.

We watched the Jays lose yet again. James’ face says it all.

It sounds a bit sentimental, but cherish every moment you can with your loved ones and friends. Even though baseball is firmly in the number 2 position in popularity at my house, I jumped at the chance to experience the baseball game with my whole family. I remember being in the stands at BMO after Canada qualified for the World Cup and seeing tears flowing freely and hugging random strangers. Patrick was right beside me the whole time despite the freezing temperatures. It may be tough for him to understand the significance of what has happened and is about to happen with watching Canada play at the World Cup. However, I am just happy to be able to share these incredible moments with my sons. Maybe I included too many pictures in the article, but I’m just so darn proud! Allez Les Rouges!