Local fans of the beautiful game explain allegiances ahead of FIFA World Cup | CBC News

For the first time in more than 35 years, Canadian fans of the beautiful game — and the FIFA World Cup — will have their national team to cheer for alongside giants such as Germany, England and France. And for so many immigrants to Canada who live in the National Capital Region, they’ll be able to add Canada to the country they normally back at the World Cup.

Radio Canada’s Jonathan Jobin caught up with some soccer fans who still cheer for their ancestral teams, and asked them to explain their allegiances as the tourney begins in Qatar.

You can read the original piece, in French, for Radio-Canada here: Ma Coupe du monde de soccer

Kayla Da Costa Pacheco, Portugal
25, physiotherapist

How long have you followed Portugal?
It’s been about 15 years that I’ve really followed them. I’m Portuguese, my father was born in Portugal, my friends are Portuguese and my partner is also Portuguese, so why not cheer for my country? There’s a big Portuguese community in Gatineau (where I live) and when I was young we’d always gather at the Portuguese community centre to watch the games. 

Why follow your team, and how might it be fun and frustrating at times?
There’s frustration, there’s joy, and there are tears. It’s a spectrum of emotions and that makes it fun. I’m hoping for joy this tournament even if there’ll be frustration as well. Portuguese people are very social and they love to get together. We have many great players and a really good team, with veterans and younger talent. 

What’s a good memory of Portugal in soccer?
Without a doubt, it’s our victory at the Euros against France in 2016. I was a bit older so I remember this better than some of the tournaments when I was younger. I had several family members experiencing it there, live, in their own communities. There are no words to describe it, it’s a feeling of pride, we’re happy and we celebrate.

Who is the main player to follow on your team?
There’s Cristiano Ronaldo, for sure. But for me you have to follow Bernardo Silva. I consider him a creative genius for Portugal!

What are your hopes for Portugal?
We’re hoping to get to the final, for sure. My dream would be to face Argentina for the last hurrah between Ronaldo and (Lionel) Messi. I’m hoping to at least make it to the semifinals … But Canada is also there. I’m lucky to be able to watch both sides. 

Bachir Cissé, Senegal
25, financial services director

How long have you followed Senegal?
I was born in Senegal so it’s only natural that I’m a big soccer fanatic. Senegal has had a great team in recent years. I carry love for my country, my people. I first recall consciously cheering for Senegal in 2002, during the African Nations Cup. I was young but remember it like it was yesterday.

Why follow your team, and how might it be fun and frustrating at times?
It’s a feeling of pride, ultimately. We’re champions of Africa so one day maybe the world. Why not? 

Who’s the player to watch for Senegal?
Before his injury, everyone would have said Sadio Mané, without hesitation … You have to look toward Kalidou Koulibaly, in central defence … He’s physical, aggressive and by any measure, our captain.

What are your expectations for Senegal?
I’m not really worried about Ecuador and Qatar, even though they’ll have a lot of support as the host country. The big challenge will be The Netherlands. At minimum, we need to clear the group stage and get to the quarter-finals. Why not make history and make it to the semifinals?

René Garcia Lozano, Mexico
47, telecommunications engineer and cybersecurity specialist

How long have you followed Mexico?
I’ve followed the team since 1986, when my dad took me to the World Cup final. It really changed my life. It was a unique experience at the Azteca stadium and a really great memory. 

Why follow your team, and how might it be fun and frustrating at times?
It’s always a party with Mexicans. From hopping on to the train for the stadium, we sing, it’s very exciting. We never stop! If we win, we celebrate. If we lose, we celebrate all the same.

Is there an anecdote you can share about your country and the World Cup?
My first final in Mexico was superb, obviously. As well as the World Cup Final in 1994, which I also attended. But my favourite memory was from the 2006 World Cup in Germany. It was a match against Iran. Osvaldo Sanchez had just lost his father and the Mexican fans were there to support him. It was a great victory and there was really a great celebration in Nuremberg. 

Who’s the player to follow on your team?
I think you have to follow Hirving Lozano. He’s having a really big season for Napoli and he’s dangerous in the 18-yard box. 

What are your expectations for the team?
Great question! I think it all depends on the first match. If we manage to stop Poland, I think we can do something. The game against Argentina will decide our fate because the cards will have been played when we face Saudi Arabia. 

This piece and the quotations used have been edited for length and clarity from the original French article

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