Growing up in Canada, I was always involved in both winter and summer sports. But unlike many of my white Canadian friends, I didn’t play hockey or football. I played soccer or Futbol if you’re really picky, I don’t care what you call it but it was my favourite way to spend the summer.
My issue with soccer in Canada is that Canadians were rarely part of the equation. I would play with Hispanics, Europeans, Asian’s – kids from everywhere in the world, but rarely any white Canadian kids. You may think that I was raised in diverse or ethnic community, but most of my soccer was played in York Region. This was back when York Region was still the boonies and I was the token brown guy everywhere I went. It was always a pleasure to meet an Italian or English kid because I knew that I’d see them on the pitch in the summer.
I’m happy to say that this has changed and last night truly proved it. Last night Ecuador played Canada in an international friendly preparing both teams for the tournaments that will lead up to the big show down in Brazil. Now before I go any further, I’ll take you back to when I was 8. My dad and I got tickets from his Greek friends, to go see Canada vs. Greece in an international friendly at the old Varsity Stadium in Toronto. I was so excited to see an international FIFA level game with my birth country Canada. It was the highlight of my year and I wanted to see how well Canada could to on an international level. I was disappointed as we lost that game. In retrospect, Canada was out-played, out-matched and even out-fanned. The stadium wasn’t full by any means, but there was a distinct lack of red and white fans as the Greek consortium made it out in a sea of light blue and white.
I was still happy with seeing a FIFA level game and that summer I was juiced to play soccer. I wanted to eventually bring my Ecuadorian heritage to the Canadian National Team and propel my country to the world stage and play in the World Cup. My dream was dashed by injury but there were others out there like me and they have taken on the mantle of raising Canadian soccer to a new level which brings us to last night. Unlike that international friendly I saw years ago, the Canadian presence was strong as the sea of Red and White jersey’s erupted when Canada scored the opening goal. I know that the Canadian fans were worried about being outnumbered by the Ecuadorians, and you were. But you guys still made your presence known and I am proud of that.
Of course I was sitting in the Ecuadorian section, clad in el Tricolor waving my Ecuadorian flag proudly when Benitez scored the first goal. The stadium went nuts and as Canadian as I am, it’s always been a dream of mine to watch Ecuador playing in an international game with my Dad.
So Canada, thanks for showing up and thanks for playing a great game. Ecuador thank you for giving me a chance to see you play, I can finally check that off my list. And finally Canadian fans – thanks for coming out. My dad has always said that Canadian soccer would never be as popular as hockey is in Canada, but last night you proved that Canadian soccer has made some major leaps forward and deserves some recognition.
And in other news, a hockey tournament on the west coast happened at the same time with Canada facing the US. – Canada won (I think) in the first of a best of 7 series.