Thousands of people across the Greater Toronto Area gathered to cheer on Canada in their first World Cup appearance in almost 40 years.
The Canadians lost 1-0 to Belgium, who are ranked number two in the world, despite generating 21 shots to Belgium’s seven.
Belgium’s goal, by forward Michy Batshuayi, came just before halftime.
Ray Siger is one of thousands of Canadians who made the trip to Qatar to cheer on team Canada in person.
Her joined CP24 from inside the stadium in Doha during the match.
“It’s an unbelievable atmosphere. It’s a dream-come-true. And to see all the Canadian fans – there are tons of Canadian fans here all over the stadium… it’s a true honour,” Siger said.
Café Diplomatico on College Street held a watch party for the game. The restaurant set up a large tent on its patio for the occasion.
Owner Rocco Mastangelo Jr. has branded the restaurant as “soccer headquarters” for the World Cup, encouraging fans of any national team to come and watch the games.
He told CP24 last week that he expects fans to brave the cold and come out to support Canada for all of their games.
“We’ve got heaters, we’ve got the enclosure and we’ve got the roof. So, we’re doing our best and we saw during covid that, especially Canadians, don’t mind being out there when it’s even minus one or minus two,” he said.
Toronto FC legend Sebastian Giovinco joined fans there.
Giovinco said he was happy to see so many people out supporting Canada, but added that he wasn’t surprised because he’s seen the sport grow in popularity in recent years.
“In the last four or five years [soccer in Canada] has grown a lot, so I’m not surprised. I think soccer is the best sport in the world and it’s good to see all the people behind the team,” he said.
Giovinco is Toronto FC’s all-time leading goal scorer and helped lead the squad to the MLS cup in 2017.
A watch party was also held at Garden Square in Brampton, where seven members of Canada’s national team are from.
Sanford Carabin is the director of soccer at the Brampton Soccer Club. He said there’s a lot of local pride in Brampton, having produced so many players who are now on soccer’s biggest stage.
“There’s seven players that are from Brampton, the majority of which played at our club, so there’s a bit of club pride in the fact that players that grew up in Brampton are now on the world stage for the first time in 36 years. So we’re here to support them, we’re here to show our club colours and just enjoy the atmosphere,” Carabin said.
He says without the efforts of local Brampton youth soccer coaches, those players wouldn’t be where they are today.
A group of fans gathered at Toronto’s Eaton Centre to watch the game alongside Canadian women’s soccer star Christine Sinclair.
“As a Canadian and as a soccer fan I’ve been waiting for this for a long time. And to be able to share this first game with fans here in Toronto, I just can’t wait to watch the game,” Sinclair said.
“I’m excited to see what [the Canadian men’s team] is capable of on the world stage.”
Canada’s head coach John Herdman previously coached Sinclair and the Canadian women’s national team to two straight Olympic bronze medals in 2012 and 2016.
“I think the world of John, he means so much to me, he means so much to this country and just as much as the players, he deserves this opportunity, he deserves to show the world what he’s capable of,” Sinclair said.
“I think they’re going to surprise some people over there.”
Canada’s second of three guaranteed group stage matches is against Croatia on Sunday at 11 a.m. on TSN.