Vancouver lawyer Brent Loewen has been slow to come, who will travel with his sons to attend the World Cup in Qatar this fall.
Loewen describes himself as a “longtime supporter of the Canadian men’s soccer team since 1986.”
He still remembers qualifying in 1986 when Canada played Mexico at the World Cup and lost.
“Since then it’s been disappointment after disappointment after disappointment.”
Loewen recalls a recent disappointing moment for Canadian soccer fans: the 2012 qualifier, in which Canada faced Honduras and lost 8-1.
“My friends from the football team I was playing on at the time, we were all excited for the game. And Canada lost. Huge disappointment. I legitimately thought they had a chance this time around.
So, as a huge soccer fan, Loewen says it was a no-brainer to go to Qatar and see the Canadian team play. This game is a big problem for the country.
“It’s the first time in 36 years that they’ve returned to the World Cup,” he said. “At the start of the game, when I hear the national anthem, I will probably cry because Canada has made such a long journey to get to a World Cup again.”
And regardless of the result Team Canada faces, Loewen says he thinks Canada has already won.
“If they lose the game, it won’t have any effect. I’ll be happy. If they win, I’ll be absolutely jubilant. And maybe I’ll look to stay longer in Qatar to watch more games.
World Cup in Qatar: a “multitude of matches” in one day
The World Cup is due to start in November and Qatar is about 11,700 kilometers from Vancouver.
For those who wish to attend in person, this trip is a commitment.
At present, Faris Al-Mudaffer plans to be in the area with his father, but he is unsure about going to see the matches.
“We plan to go to the region, not necessarily to Qatar. I know I can get tickets. I have a lot of friends who work in sports who can get tickets,” says Al-Mudaffer, who works in sports management and runs the 5 Aside Club in Metro Vancouver.
Like Loewen, Al-Mudaffer has been a football enthusiast and player since childhood.
“My parents don’t care. Being in Britain, the country is passionate about the game. That’s really how it started. I remember watching games on TV by myself when I was six years old.
His passion for the sport, in addition to coaching and playing it, extends to his commitment to watching the big games unfold overseas as early as 4.30am.
“Weekends, not every weekend, but some games start at that time. If it’s on at 4:30 a.m., I wake up at 4:20 a.m. It happens, I would say, at least once a month, It’s certain.
Al-Mudaffer hasn’t played in a World Cup so that’s something he would like to do while he’s in the area.
“I would really like to go there. Qatar is going to be the most unique World Cup because you can go and see so many games in one day. Because the proximity to all the venues. It would be a rewarding experience because you can go from one game to another, compared to the North American one that comes four years later,” he said.
If he does attend the World Cup, Al-Mudaffer says he will be cheering on England, the country that fueled his love for the sport.
“Canada will be there to try to do their best, and I think they will do well. They have a very, very good team. But I think they’re going to say, ‘Hey, we’re happy to be here.'”
Football culture creates lifelong friends
Even though there are Canadians who love soccer, it doesn’t compare to other communities around the world.
“Even though Vancouver is a great soccer city compared to other cities, I live in Montreal and Toronto. I don’t think cities are really hooked on the World Cup,” says Vladimir Beciez, senior planning analyst for the BC government.
Beciez has already participated in a World Cup. But due to time and expense, he’s unsure if he’ll make it to this year’s event.
Beciez, who is originally from Mexico, recalls once going to a sports bar when the Seattle Seahawks were playing, while a soccer game between Canada and Mexico was in progress.
“They didn’t want to change the Seahawks game for the Canada vs. Mexico game. I ended up leaving the bar and watching the game on my phone,” he recalled.
In contrast, Beciez says places like Mexico, Brazil and Argentina are “paralyzed” when a match is in progress.
“Nobody is in the street. It’s a day off. People are not going to work. I ask for the day off when Mexico plays. I lose part of my vacation when Mexico plays, even if I don’t go to the World Cup. I don’t want any interruptions during this day.
And like Loewen and Al-Mudaffer, Beciez says football has made important connections in his life.
“The friends I made playing soccer have been my best friends throughout my life. And I’m 37. I think, overall, football is a great opportunity to get to know new people and hang out with your old friends,” he says.
When it comes to the team he will be supporting, Beciez is loyal to his home country.
“(Canada) are direct rivals to Mexico in qualifying, so we wouldn’t encourage each other. Not because I have anything against the country, it’s just that we are direct rivals. The United States does not want Mexico to be better than the United States. I think the same for Canada.
It’s not uncommon for fans to shed a few tears too, whether they win or lose. That’s because a lot of them have seen the players grow up, Beciez told Glacier Media.
“As fans most of us play the sport, we understand the frustration, but also the amount of effort and time the players put into it is enormous. We follow them every week. We watch interviews with them,” he says. “So that makes it very emotional.”