London, Ont., soccer fans rally for Canada’s World Cup return in Qatar | CBC News


Soccer fans in London, Ont., are counting down the days before the Canadian men’s soccer team kicks off their World Cup opener against Belgium on Wednesday.

This marks the first time Canada has qualified to compete in the World Cup since 1986. A single goal at the 2022 FIFA tournament in Qatar would make history for the men’s team.

“It gives us now a reality of hope,” said David DeBenedictis, director of soccer operations for London TFC and FC London. Canada’s World Cup qualification has given London’s young players motivation, he added.

DeBenedictis was nine years old when he saw Canada at its last World Cup tournament in Mexico 36 years ago. The team would need to score a goal or win a game to break its decades-long streak as a “running joke,” he said.

‘We’re not afraid of anybody,’ says London TFC director

The Canadian men’s team officially made the cut for the World Cup in March, at Toronto’s BMO Field, after beating Jamaica 4-0 in a qualification round.

“We’re not afraid of anybody. We’re showing our Canada pride, we’re going to come out to battle. I don’t think we’re going to have any issue scoring goals,” DeBenedictis said. 

Stars such as Tajon Buchanan, Jonathan David or Alphonso Davies could score goals on Wednesday, he added.

London TFC and London FC director David DeBenedictis watched Canada’s last World Cup matches in 1986, and wants the team to break its curse in Qatar this year. (Clement Goh/ CBC News)

Londoners can tune into Canada’s game with Belgium for free at public watch parties on Wednesday. One will start at the BMO Centre at 2 p.m., said BMO CEO Tom Partalas. Another watch party at the centre is planned for the World Cup final next month. 

“We want them to make as much noise as they as they can,” said Partalas. Canada’s games will be played on a big screen for up to 300 people at the BMO Centre, he added.

“This is something we’ve all been waiting years for. It looks like all the work we’ve done for soccer is going to pay off, and we’re going to see the fruits of everybody’s labour.”

Footie and a pint, anyone? 

Billy Thomson, owner and general manager at The Scot’s Corner on Dundas Street, has been getting ready to show most games by lining his pub with World Cup decorations, offering prizes and special dishes based on FIFA’s 32 qualifying teams.

“If you’re going to take a day off, or a little sick day or something like that, you pick it on the day so you can come to the pub and enjoy yourself,” Thomson said.

Billy Thomson, owner and general manager of The Scot’s Corner in downtown London, Ont., says they’re making the most out of Canada’s first match against Belgium with special menu items, prizes and 18 TVs ready to go. (Clement Goh/ CBC News)

The Scot’s Corner will turn on all 18 TVs for its viewing parties ,and it’s expected most fans will show up for Canada and England matches, he said.

“The fan support is getting bigger. You can already tell that there’s people that might not have liked soccer four years ago in the World Cup. They’re [now] watching it because we have a team in there.”

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