Welcome to Partially Obstructed View. We are each restrained by the limits of our own perspective, but when we meet to share information a clearer picture of the truth can be revealed. Comments & criticisms are welcome.

Tuesday 7 June 2011

First Person View – Why Support Canada

     On this, the eve of our opening Gold Cup match against the US in Detroit, I’m readying myself for the trip south to cheer on our team. While many fans prefer to cheer on the big teams of Europe, regardless of how vague or passive their association to that country is, a select few endure with a smile the trials and tribulations of being a Canadian soccer fan. There is one selling point for me on this decision of loyalty and it is simply that this is our team.

     The notion of being Canadian is at times indefinable, but perhaps this is an opportunity to put all the petty regionalism and heritage-clinging behind. Though tomorrow will be my first road trip to support the team, I know that I will be there with my fellow Canadians to cheer on our team.

     The lack of success in on the field for the Canadian national team is something that has probably prevented me from becoming a fan early. I’ve always loved the Olympics; something about international competition struck a chord in me. The IIHF World Junior Tournament has been one of my favourite sporting events as long as I can remember, so as a youngster when the World Cup came to North America it opened a whole new world for me. I was too young in 1986 to know that anything special was happening, but in ’94 I was just at the right age to be impressed upon.

     Even though Canada did not make it to USA ’94 I still followed. I adopted Columbia as my team, not because of Pele’s endorsement - not sure that I knew who he was back then - but because a girl I liked was Columbian, and I liked Valderrama’s hair, a good enough reason for me.

     The disappointment of the Columbian progression was not apparent to my inexperienced eye, as I said I knew of no predictions, nor of any qualifying glory. To the best of my knowledge I could not figure out why England wasn’t there, nor did I question the lack of a Canadian team; they loved the game, and we loved hockey.

     I call vividly recall sitting up at the cottage on Lake Simcoe, listening to the final on the radio. I had gathered up newspaper previews of the tournament; I knew Brazil and Italy were supposed to be good. The mists of time have robbed me of any particular memories of regular time, extra time too seems lost, but penalty kicks… that drama stayed with me.

     I did not know of Roberto Baggio’s exploits for Fiorentina or Juventus, I did know he had a ridiculous ponytail. The dynasty of AC Milan (Baresi, Maldini, Costacurta, Tassotti, Albertini, Donadoni and Massaro) meant nothing to me, though I understood how penalty’s worked. Dunga was neither a tenacious defensive midfielder nor a shabbily dress madman of a coach, but I understood the pressure of the situation unfolding upon my virgin ears as I sat alone, in a swampy old cottage.

     I should go back and watch it anew, I have a copy of the match, but I fear the magic I experienced would be dulled by a more cynical eye. My heart went out to Baggio as he launched that fateful kick into orbit, all tournament long he had been talked of as a match-winner, not the loser. Divine ponytail be damned, soccer was a cruel game; that fate could take from you as much as it could give was a stark reality to my young self.

     Further reinforced was this tragic duality when I learned of the murder of Andrés Escobar. It was shocking that a mistake on the field could end with some real consequences. Sport had always been a fantasy, an escape from reality, a gift, not something that could take. Perhaps I changed a bit that day, as we all do as we get older.

     Soccer again faded into the background. There was no internet, well not everywhere yet, and life went on. I caught glimpses of the game every so often, as if to remind me that it was still there. Eventually I came round to the fiend I am for it now, to explain that would take up far too much of your time.

     But had Canada qualified for that World Cup in 1994, it could have changed my life. The fortunes of some far away team have little effect on how we live our lives. But when our team does well it can drastically alter them. That is why I’m going to Detroit in 7 hours to cheer on the Reds. Could this small gesture of support change the lives of countless Canadians in the future? Probably not, but I’d rather not risk this wonderful global game being lost on another innocent soul who can’t see the beauty for the losses and the failure.

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