Canadian soccer fans hope for a 'good journey' to World Cup after qualifying win in Hamilton
Just getting to the tournament would 'be something else,' says Vancouver resident Zee Samnani
Kaitlin Coward was just trying to make it back to her seat when she started running and screaming with joy.
Minutes into the World Cup qualifying match in Hamilton, Team Canada scored its first goal against the U.S.
"We're already beating the states. That's a big deal," she said.
The Whitby, Ont., resident was among 12,000 fans at Tim Hortons Field on a cold and windy Sunday to watch the match between the two national men's teams.
It’s 1-0 Canada! <a href="https://t.co/x0tdkIPYrs">pic.twitter.com/x0tdkIPYrs</a>—@bobbyhristova
Normally there would have been twice as many fans, but public health measures aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19 capped the arena at half-capacity.
Dr. Dominik Mertz, an infectious disease specialist with McMaster University in Hamilton, told CBC radio program Day 6 that outdoor events like the soccer game aren't as risky as indoor matches.
"It's a setting with a relatively good track record when you look internationally with soccer games or other outdoor games," he said.
The potential risk didn't stop U.S. supporters Nick and TJ Cleavelin from travelling to Hamilton.
The two Texans were surrounded by a boisterous red-and-white sea of Canadian fans who drummed, screamed and chanted.
"We got some booing, some thumbs-down, got a little heckling, but it was fun," TJ said.
The U.S. was down 1-0 at the end of the first half. The team had a free kick in the final minutes of the second half that could have tied the game, but Canadian goalkeeper Milan Borjan, who grew up in Hamilton, made the save.
The crowd roared and didn't quiet down again.
With minutes left in the game, Canada scored to seal a 2-0 victory.
Some fans yanked off their shirts and started swinging them in the air, bare-chested despite the sub-zero temperatures.
Omar Diaz, who came from the state of Georgia, went farther than most, jumping into a pile of snow while shirtless after the game.
His team didn't win, but he was happy to watch the match.
"Canada won and my respect to Canada," he said.
Dressed up snugly, Clinton Mitchell said the win was everything he had hoped for.
"It's good to see all the fans here and everybody giving them support because, man, this could be a good journey for all of us," said the Brampton, Ont., resident.
The journey to qualify at the World Cup in Qatar later this year is not over — Canada has four more matches in the final World Cup qualifying round.
While not all fans are confident Canada will end up winning the Cup itself, most are ready for the ride.
"Just getting to the World Cup is going to be something else. Since 1986, they haven't been there and so I'm really excited for them to be able to go there," said Vancouver resident Zee Samnani.