London·Photos

London's biggest soccer centre hosts World Cup watch party

What might be London's largest World Cup Watch party took place at BMO Centre — the southwestern Ontario city's largest indoor soccer facility.

Hundreds of soccer fans gathered for the first Canadian men's game since 1986

Soccer fans take in men's World Cup soccer action at the BMO Centre's largest meeting room, which the facility opened to the public on Wednesday to see Team Canada take on Belgium. (Isha Bhargava/CBC News)

What might be London's largest World Cup Watch party took place at BMO Centre — the southwestern Ontario city's largest indoor soccer facility.

Hundreds of fans gathered at the facility to watch Team Canada take on Belgium in Canada's first men's team entry in the international tournament since 1986. Canada gave a valiant effort, but lost to Belgium 1-0.

BMO Centre had announced earlier it would open the building's largest meeting room for the public to watch the hotly anticipated match on a projector screen for free.

"It's amazing to see people from all over the world actually identifying as Canadian and coming together," said Jonathan O'Neill, one of the players from London TFC, who came to see Canada play with his adopted community. 

London TFC Academy coaches were in support of Team Canada as they face Belgium. Jonathan O'Neill (second from the right) says it's amazing to watch people come together to watch the sport. (Isha Bhargava/CBC News)

He said with Ireland out of the tournament, he's rooting for his temporary homeland. 

"As an Irishman who came to Canada for work, this is now my second team, so I'm supporting them today," he told CBC News.

Isabella Bilewicz's family has been waiting a long time to watch Canada play in the World Cup. The sport has been in her family for generations, she said.

Her five-year-old son, Yakub, is training to play with the London TFC Academy. 

"We're very excited, soccer's been with us for our entire lives," she said. "You know, even before he [Yakub] started walking, he was kicking a soccer ball so we knew we had to sign him up right away."

One of Team Canada's young fans, Yakub, 5, was proudly cheering his team on and holding up their flag while sitting in his mom Isabella's lap. (Isha Bhargava/CBC News)

Bilewicz says despite Belgium taking this win, Canada will come back stronger in the next match. She hopes to one day see her son play for Team Canada.

Among other fans were brothers Simon and Elliott Greenwood who play for the London TFC and Whitecaps London. They hope to represent Canada in a future World Cup.

It's [soccer] very important to me, I play every day," said Simon. "The next match will be really tough like this one but I think they can win if they pull hard."

The Greenwood brothers Simon, 12, and Elliott, 9, have faith that Canada will put up a strong fight against Croatia in its next match on Sunday. (Isha Bhargava/CBC News)

Wednesday's game was just the beginning from Team Canada. The men's team faces Croatia on Sunday.

A replica of the World Cup wrapped in a Canadian flag at the BMO Centre in London, Ont. (Isha Bhargava/CBC News)

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