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'Bouncing with excitement': Newmarket roots for Canada at World Cup

'It means everything,' fan says as men's team competes at tournament for first time in 36 years

Like many Canadian soccer fans, Newmarket resident Sean Konopud said he has waited for his whole life to cheer for the men’s team at the World Cup.

“It means everything,” he said. “Kids can now cheer for the country where they live, and it gives them something to shoot for … This is the ultimate. This is the game on the world stage. I can’t wait to see it.” 

Newmarket soccer fans gathered together Nov. 23 to watch the national men’s team compete in the world cup for the first time in 36 years. The Newmarket Soccer Club is hosting a series of viewing parties at the Old Flame Brewing Co. as the team competes in round-robin play, which began with a game against Belgium.

President Petra Fera said it was a way to bring their members together, and the club has been “bouncing with excitement” about the tournament.

“It’s beyond measurable. It’s an incredible opportunity for our youth to see that with a little bit of hard work and some dedication, their dreams really can come true.” 

There will be some local area representation on the team. Alistair Johnston grew up in Aurora, playing for squads in Aurora and Richmond Hill. York Region District School Board, where he attended school, posted a video interview with him Nov. 18.

“You could really sense we were pushing the boundaries. We were creating new history as a football country,” Johnston said in the video. “To even think I played a part in that is just unbelievable. I can just see the pride it’s put into people. It’s just everywhere, even York Region. It’s something I think everyone can get behind. It’s soccer. It’s a world sport.” 

The men’s team has rarely been able to compete at this level. This is only their second-ever appearance at the prestigious event. 

“I’m just happy to see that Canada is finally on the world football stage,” local Sarah Howson said. “As players of the game, it’s nice to see we’re finally in with the rest of the countries in the world.”

Another fan, Catherine Rae, noted that the country has had a very successful national women’s soccer team, which earned gold in Olympics last year.

“It’s great to see the men finally catch up to where the women have been for a number of years,” she said. “We’re extremely proud.” 

The team is not considered among the favourites to win in the competition. Several fans expressed a desire to see the team score a goal, which did not happen in 1986.

“They proved to the world they deserve to be there,” Newmarket soccer club coach Dave Cawthorne said. “Now it’s time to perform.” 

Fera said there are “big plans” for viewing parties if the team can progress further in the tournament. 

The group stage features 32 teams broken up into groups of four. Canada must finish top two in its group to advance to the knockout stage of 16 teams. After Belgium, Canada will play Croatia Nov. 27 and Morocco Dec. 1.

“I want to see them score a goal, and a result,” Konopud said. “Not just happy to be there now. We’ve got a good squad.” 

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Joseph Quigley

About the Author: Joseph Quigley

Joseph is the municipal reporter for NewmarketToday.
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