Let’s hope that one day the Canadian men’s national team will become a part of the country’s popular football culture. What’s happening now in the World Cup qualifiers, as a point of reference, this improbable journey of the 19th electrified championship can finally take the choice to the level it has always wanted to reach: the captain’s level. A product and above all attractive CONCACAF.
Canada’s first victory over the United States in over 30 years, in 2019, wasn’t bad, but it was everything in this 4-1 victory over Panama at BMO Field: goals, individual performance, passion, atmosphere. As if the historic result against the Americans, last Wednesday night best defined the ambitions of the Canadians, who still have two crucial meetings with Costa Rica and Mexico next month, in Edmonton, then six more qualifying matches in the winter of 2022.
Travel back in time to 2012 and just put in your bag the videos of Canada’s latest matches against Panama, Jamaica and Mexico. Find a fan of the Canadian men’s team and show them these photos.
Hit Panama like that? You play that game in Kingston and don’t lose? Are you close to victory in the Azteca? It will ask you who these red-haired scammers claim to represent Canada. Because not so long ago, following this team were the eternal stations of the cross.
Canada qualified for the men’s only World Cup in 1986. Since then, there has been a series of at times astonishing failures, as when the team collapsed, but on the verge of the final stage of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup, 8-1 in Honduras.
Nothing inspires anyone, on the contrary. Some would-be fans may have felt the investment in this team wasn’t worth it. Worse, players like Asmir Begovic, Owen Hargreaves or Teal Bunbury, all of whom were once chosen by Canada, must have done well in picking Bosnia and Herzegovina, England or the United States.
But sports are poetic at times. This is how Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David scored against Panama. The first, born in Ghana to Liberian parents, scrambled to obtain his Canadian citizenship as soon as he became eligible to represent his country. The second, born in New York, never wanted to join the powerful American program – with complete conviction.
The deep desire to go and play for Canada on the international stage, as Montreal coach Wilfred Nancy pointed out in the podcast, has reached an unparalleled limit so far.
Nancy pointed out that when they sing the national anthem – I’m not saying I’d sing it the same way, but they’re proud. They are happy to represent that. For me, these are signals that show that it is important, in their lives, to represent their country, to participate in the World Cup.
Today, the team is younger, it’s not the same generation, it’s not the same vision, it’s not the same approach.
In the past, Canada seemed to struggle to impress would-be stars to represent it. Today, some of the best players on the continent – if not the world – wear the red jersey. And they make moments like Davis’ goal. Moments that a supporter dreamed of 2012 only.
In the salons, in recent days, some young Alfonso in the making, young men full of ambition born of parents from here or elsewhere, of one or more nationalities, have been touched for life by the brilliance of the boy shining in red. They may want to go see this prodigy and his teammates on the field whenever they get the chance.
A few elected officials will become professional players and possibly represent the country. It is possible that one day a reporter will ask them where they are, in 2021, when Alphonso Davies scored his goal.
Perhaps they would answer that they were in the same place where, a few months ago, they saw Giulia Grosso presenting the gold medal for the country? Two proven moments in the collective Canadian imagination that will continue to inspire boys and girls, cultivate talent, and create generations of supporters.
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