For the first time since 1986, the Canadian men’s soccer team is headed to the World Cup after Canada beat Jamaica over the weekend 4-0.
It’s only been a day but the result is being felt at the minor league level in Manitoba.
Chris Lourenco, the technical lead of the Manitoba Soccer Association, said the last time Canada was in the World Cup he wasn’t born yet. He said watching the win was an unreal experience.
“When the final whistle hit is when it kind of really, a whole lot of emotions came through,” said Lourenco. “Growing up and watching soccer as long as I have and not really having that feeling of Canada being involved in it, to all of a sudden actually being there, it’s a kind of emotion that is hard to describe.”
Lourenco noted the Canadian women’s soccer team has already helped improve soccer on the grassroots level with their recent success, including the gold medal at the Olympics, but he thinks the men’s success will push the program even more.
He said those who may have not been interested in soccer before are now taking notice.
“I’ve seen a little bit already of how big it’s really become recently, with just friends and family around that don’t really watch soccer, not really involved with, but they start asking questions.”
He said events like the Women’s World Cup in 2015 really started pushing the popularity of soccer upward in the province, but it took a hit due to the pandemic.
Lourenco thinks with Canada’s men’s national team win, the Manitoba Soccer Association will again see the sport’s popularity climb.
“But with the Canada men now qualifying, that might be the push and the kick everybody needs in the other direction coming out of the pandemic. We’re hoping that hopefully things will continue along that trend.”
Lourenco said growing up he was always hopeful that Canada would make the World Cup but noted it felt like a long shot. Now that it has come true, he said the feeling is euphoric and he can’t wait to see the team on the international stage.
The 2022 World Cup is scheduled to take place in Qatar from Nov. 21 to Dec. 18.
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