World Cup fever has hit Halifax.
On Wednesday, the HFX Wanderers soccer team hosted a viewing party for Canada’s men’s soccer team’s first game of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The Canadian Premier League club’s event, one of several in town for the match, was at HFX Sports Bar & Grill.
Canada’s matchup, its first at the World Cup since 1986, was heavily anticipated. The team took on Belgium, the second-best team in FIFA’s national rankings, in Al-Rayyan, Qatar.
“When I come here, I’m seeing familiar faces,” said soccer fan and Wanderers season ticket holder Denton Froese at the viewing party.
Decked out in Canada merchandise, Froese said it was important he make it to one of the watch parties during the month-long tournament.
“The game itself is going to be 1,000 times more intense than anything. But it still feels good to be here with these people.”
Over 100 people packed into the Wanderers event, many arriving well before kickoff on Wednesday afternoon. The bar erupted with cheers when the TVs showed the Canadians taking the pitch. Everyone then stood for O Canada.
Early on in the game, constant exclamations of “Ooh” and “Ahh” rang out as the red-and-white started strong. Canada’s best scoring chances generated an occasional loud “Whoa”. One of those great sighs came after a missed Canadian penalty kick 10 minutes in.
@signalhfx The #FIFAWorldCup2022 party is on in #Halifax #NovaScotia #Canada #fyp ♬ Tukoh Taka – Official FFF Anthem – Nicki Minaj & Maluma & Myriam Fares
However, fans didn’t get the results they were hoping for. Belgium scored the game’s only goal to seal the win.
But the final score didn’t define the experience, with many thrilled the Canadians gave one of the world’s best teams a challenge.
“Being a fan for so long and watching Canada perform, it was supporting my mediocre team and feeling bad for them. But to finally get to this point, it feels like they took the whole country with them and went forward with it,” Jacob Lechowicz said. He sat on the top floor near the middle of the restaurant, with one of the best views of the bar’s big screen.
Sarah Gallant grew up as a fan of Canada’s women’s soccer team, who won the gold medal in the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. But she’s been following the men’s side closer leading up to this year’s World Cup.
“Now, I can say I’m a fan of both teams,” Gallant said.
‘Huge day for Canadian soccer’
The Wanderers were just one organization to host a viewing party for the game. Canadian soccer supporter group The Voyageurs gathered at Niche Lounge, part of a string of viewing parties the group hosted across the country.
Wanderers owner Derek Martin said it was important that his organization help promote Canada’s World Cup progress, inspired by the support fans have shown at Wanderers games since the club began playing in 2019.
“This is a huge day for Canadian soccer,” he said. “I think there’s a big soccer culture here in Halifax and it’s growing across the country. Sometimes, all you need to do is get people an opportunity to get out, celebrate and have fun together.”
The Wanderers will host viewing parties for Canada’s remaining games, of which the team is guaranteed two more. The team takes the pitch again on Sunday against Croatia.
About the author
Luke Dyment is a Halifax-based reporter from Prince Edward Island. He has written for the Globe and Mail, The Signal and the Dalhousie Gazette....