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Why the weather mattered when Canada tried reaching the World Cup in 1985

Chilly temperatures and rainy skies seemed to be on their side when the Canadian men's soccer team was preparing for a crucial match in St. John's in 1985.

'The rain and the cold were exactly what they wanted to see'

A member of the Canadian men's soccer team arrives in St. John's before an important match against Honduras in September 1986. (The National/CBC Archives)

The Canadian men's soccer team has some way to go before it secures a spot in the 2022 FIFA World Cup of soccer.

But a piece of history, in the form of a game ball from the qualifying match that sent the team to the World Cup 36 years ago, might help.

"If we can get this ball in the hands of the team and they can pass it around and use it as inspiration to take them to the next level, that's what I'm looking for," St. John's fan Faron Penney recently told CBC News.

According to CBC News, Penney was 23 when he waded into waist-high water to retrieve the errant ball. He held on to it for 36 years.

'Overcast and a bit rainy'

The St. John's soccer advantage

36 years ago
1:55
Canada's men's soccer team welcomes chilly temperatures before a 1985 match against Honduras that could send them to the World Cup. 1:55
  

"The weather on the day was perfect because it wasn't nice and warm. It was overcast and a bit rainy," recalled Paul Dolan, one of two goalkeepers for Canada at the time.

That was what the team had been counting on for a rematch against Honduras after beating them once in "hot and dry" conditions, according to reporting from St. John's on Sept. 11, 1985 by the CBC's Kathryn Wright.

"When the Canadians arrived here today, the rain and the cold were exactly what they wanted to see," said Wright, as players arrived at the St. John's airport.

Bruce Wilson, a defender with the Canadian crew, said the weather was suiting them "fine," while a team member wearing a shirt reading "Canada: Marching to Mexico" noted the Hondurans wouldn't be used to it.

Paul Dolan, back row with dark jersey, says the 1985 game in St. John's had the 'best home support you could ask for.' Dolan is pictured here at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. (Submitted by Paul Dolan)

"If it works against them, we won't be too unhappy about that," said Canadian coach Tony Waiters as rain fell on the pitch behind him during a team practice. "Soccer teams have got to take into consideration all conditions and get on with the job."

An unidentified Honduran player, who noted his team had been training in a "relatively cool" spot in the mountains, was confident in his team.

But with an outdoor temperature of 11 C, the Hondurans — one of whose players said the team was feeling "really cold" — were practicing indoors in a gymnasium.  

When the game took place days later, Canada won a spot at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.

Canada's next important game in their quest to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup takes place at 9:05 p.m. ET on Friday, Nov. 12. A match against Mexico follows on Nov. 16.

According to CBC News, the club "has eight qualifying matches remaining, with the final one scheduled for March 30, 2022 against Panama."

Canadian national soccer team players Paul James (left) and Randy Samuel celebrate the team's 2-1 win over Honduras in St. John's, Nfld. in this 1985 file photo. The win helped propel the Canadians to the World Cup finals in 1986. (Michael Creagan/Canadian Press)
 

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