While Team Canada’s fate wasn’t ideal, for a few Calgary gatherings the outcome they wanted was about more than the score.
Team Canada fell 4-1 to Croatia at the 2022 FIFA World Cup on Sunday morning, leaving many fans at city watch parties with long faces. The loss eliminates Canada from play beyond the Group Stage.
Even with the loss, Ward 5 Calgary city councillor Raj Dhaliwal said it was a good opportunity to bring the community together. Dhaliwal and his ward team held a watch party for families at the Genesis Centre in northeast Calgary on Sunday morning.
“It’s just celebrating two things. First is community. As you look around, you see people from all walks of life, different demographics,” he said.
“I just wanted to bring them together have those conversation, that spirit of neighbours to each other, and sometimes we don’t talk to each other, but just bring them together.”
The second thing, he said was being able to cheer on Team Canada.
“For the last 36 years, Canadians have been adopting a team at every soccer World Cup and cheering for them today, it doesn’t matter where you come from,” he said.
“You see people here from Bangladesh, Nepal, I grew up in India, but today we are cheering for Team Canada as Canadians.”
Dhaliwal himself played a little footie, before a torn ACL and meniscus. He had to give it up a few years ago. Both of his kids play in the Calgary Minor Soccer Association.
Croatian team brings that community together
Frano Cavar with Calgary’s Croatian community said that it’s tough that the teams were in the same World Cup grouping.
“I think this is such a moment for us really proud Croatian Canadians and the fact that both teams qualified in this year’s tournament is awesome,” he said at a gathering Sunday morning at Limericks Pub on Macleod Trail.
“It’s a bit bittersweet that they’re playing against each other.”
Tony Damjanovic has been a lifelong supporter of the Croatian team, though born and raised Canadian. He said he’s never been able to cheer for a Canadian team in the World Cup until now.
“Getting to cheer for both teams is a great experience,” he said.
“Although I’m a little bit torn, and pulled to the Croatian side right now, you know, it’s a win whoever wins.”
Cavar said the Croatian team is the best ambassador they have to bring their community together.
“There’s few functions that we can actually bring all the Croatians in Calgary together and time and time again, whether it be the Euros, whether it be the World Cup, we’ve all really rallied around this team,” he said.
“The fact that we’re all together again, sharing in our community and our values and spirit through sport, really is a unifier that this tournament brings that we’re really excited about.”
Giving young soccer players something to look up to
The Calgary Minor Soccer Association (CMSA) held a watch party at the Seven Chiefs Sportsplex on the Tsuut’ina Nation Sunday morning.
CMSA executive director Carlo Bruneau said having the team play is a really special experience for Canadian soccer.
“It’s emotional to see our men’s national team on the world stage competing with the best teams in the world, inspiring our nation and our youth in giving them icons to look up to,” Bruneau said.
Post pandemic, Bruno said they’ve already started seeing soccer registration numbers rising. Having international profile for both the women’s and men’s teams supercharges interest in the sport.
“The great thing about the beautiful game is it brings community together,” Bruneau said.
“When you have diehard soccer fans here, and those on the doorstep of becoming diehard soccer fans, nothing’s better than the game bringing people together and unifying us.”
Canada will look forward to their next game on Dec. 1 against Morocco. Morocco upset Belgium 2-0 Sunday giving them a shot at moving on. Canada could play spoiler with a win. They’d also like to get Group Stage points and finish on a high note.
- with files from Aryn Toombs