‘It’s a huge experience for these kids’: Canada’s World Cup performance entices younger fans to watch
Canada’s heartbreaking loss to Morocco in the FIFA World Cup may have left a bitter taste for Canadian football fans on Thursday, but it also shed a light on the future of football in Canada.
Hoping that Canada would claim its first-ever point at the Men’s World Cup, nearly 300 students filled the gymnasium at St. Timothy’s Catholic Elementary School in Kitchener.
Kids from kindergarten to 7th grade, we’re on hand for the game, supporting a team that hadn’t qualified for the World Cup long before they were born.
“When my father was 11, that was the last time [Canada] made it to the World Cup,” 4th grade student Tiago Martins told CTV News.
Martins has been playing football since he was two years old. He says seeing Canada in Qatar pushes him to reach the top level.
“I’ve always wanted to be a pro,” said Martins.
Former student of St. Timothy, David Edgar has a long history of representing Canada on the world stage. The 35-year-old played for Canada in both 2010 and 2014 World Cup qualifiers.
The long-time pro attended the waiting party at St. Timothy’s on Thursday and held a halftime Q&A with the students.
“I think it’s a huge experience for these kids to grow up and wear that maple leaf with pride,” Edgar said.
Edgar has noticed that more kids are interested in football than when he was her age. He adds that the fan base will continue to grow as the national program continues to improve.
“People ask why there were no Canadian fans. It’s because we weren’t that successful. Now the team is successful and the fans will come because the fans have always been here,” said Edgar.
The faculty at St. Timothy has seen the fanbase grow firsthand. School teacher Justin Carvalho said the passion for football has always been there.
“[The students] have asked ‘what’s the score, can we watch a little bit of the match?’ There was already such energy and enthusiasm,” said Carvalho.
Canada will return to host the World Cup in 2026.
Looking to the future of the national program, Edgar said it’s not just four years from now, but 40 years from now.
“What is the lifespan of the program? Where are we going now?” Edgar asked. “You have kids here in this gym who hopefully can become the next Alphonso Davies.”