That was quite the performance under the lights at BMO Field last Saturday night. There were positive vibes all around, and The Canadian Men’s National Team was at the heart of it. That’s right. You’ve read that correctly. The Men’s National Team. Around Canadian soccer circles, it is usually the Women’s program that creates buzz and excitement. But now, us fans may have another source of glee to go along with our Ladies. This is new, and to be honest, I’m quite liking it. And so should you.
Let us delve into this a little further. Our younger players are becoming big contributors. Junior Hoilett has become a legitimate threat in attack. Last Saturday was arguably his best performance in a Canadian shirt. The Gold Cup opened our eyes as to what he could do when he’s on his game, and last week’s match was a continuation of his growth. Raheem Edwards was a threat all night down the left flank. He has used his standout campaign with TFC as a springboard, which will eventually lead to a starting spot over Marcel DeJong. Canada’s left side seems to be in safe hands with him and Alphonso Davies for the considerable future. Anthony Jackson-Hamel has given another option for goals. Samuel Piette provides some much needed steel in defensive midfield. Manjrekar James is rounding into a reliable centreback. Under the stewardship of Octavio Zambrano, the injection of youth has provided a spark. One that was sorely needed with the eventuality of Atiba retiring from the international game.
Then there was you. The supporters. This has been a long time coming. Close to 21,000 strong in BMO Field, on a long weekend for a friendly, versus an opponent that has historically been made to feel like the home team. The group stage of World Cup 2018 qualifying in Vancouver gave us a taste of how we can mobilize. Last Saturday really impressed, and many observers took notice. We were loud. We were proud. And most importantly, we were there in droves.
Toronto has historically been sticky. For the players it is a convenient location due to the easy accessibility of flights from Europe and other spots in North America. On the flip side, it is the home to one of the most diverse populations on the planet. Toronto’s population have tight connections to their ancestry, which has not been beneficial to the Canadian Men’s National Team in terms of home support. But now, those tides are changing. Canadian soccer is becoming cool. The crowd last Saturday proved it.
Don’t get me wrong, the Reggae Boyz support was strong – by rough estimation about 4-5K. What was really noticeable though was the great number of Jamaican fans that sang O’Canada. We know that you’re Canadian and we know that you’re proud. Hopefully you can be proud of the Canadian National Team now too, just as much as your Jamaican one. Supporting more than one national team in today’s world is normal. It happens all the time, especially in families with different backgrounds. This reality even applies to me. I cheer for The Netherlands through my mom. Now come cheer us on against everybody else in the world. Let’s build this thing.
According to Zambrano, there is another friendly that is tentatively scheduled for October with El Salvador in Houston. With the unfortunate events in that region, that match is totally up in the air. I say it’s time we bring more friendlies home. Let one of our great cities host that match and show how our support has grown. If you were a Jamaican supporter at BMO, become a Canadian supporter for this one. Go to the match, or join a Voyageurs viewing party, or just cheer from your couch. Become part of something special. And once this match is done, we want the El Salvadorian fans to do the same. Help us grow this thing. It’s always better when you buy in early on the blueprints.
Let’s keep the CanMNT ball rolling.
By William Jamieson