World Cup soccer fever spills over to Calgary pro team

The successes of the men’s national soccer team (CanMNT) this year partly explain Calgarians’ enthusiasm for the round ball according to many, including the head coach of the Cavalry F.C., Tommy Wheeldon Jr.

Tommy Wheeldon Jr. standing on the team field.

Tommy Wheeldon Jr. has been at the helm of the team since its inception in 2019.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Evelyne Asselin

The qualification of the men’s team for Qatar energized everyoneargues the coach.

Canada’s National Men’s Soccer Team will be taking part in the FIFA World Cup for the first time in three decades in Qatar in less than a month.

 » The excitement around John Herdman [l’entraîneur-chef de CanMNT] and its group of players is exactly what we needed at the end of the pandemic. [Leur exploit] caught the attention of Sunday fans and we can see the consequences of that in our stands. Our numbers have gone up and we see the soccer fever taking hold of them. »

A quote from Tommy Wheeldon Jr., Head Coach, Cavalry FC

Not just a question of numbers

The average number of spectators per game at ATCO Stadium, the home ground of Cavalry F.C., only increased by 200 spectators for the year 2022 compared to 2019, the year the Canadian Soccer Premier League was created. According Ian AllisonChief Operating Officer and Team President, the team’s growth is on course.

We have always been cautiously optimistiche believes. When we established the league model, the goal was 2026 and Canada’s automatic participation in the World Cup [en tant qu’hôte].

Brody Booth plays the drum.

Young Brody Booth is a fan of the team.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Evelyne Asselin

Ian Allison admits that the women’s team’s gold medal in Tokyo, the men’s team’s qualification for Qatar and the historic game in Edmonton where 50,000 spectators gathered to watch the team play against Mexico in the snow in November 2021 have been nice surprises.

There were many items in the colors of the Cavalry F.C. in the standsremembers the president of the team.

The team enjoys an average of almost 3,500 spectators per game, figures comparable to those of the fourth soccer league in the United Kingdom. But you have to look beyond the numbers, believes midfielder Elijah Adekugbe, who has been part of the adventure since the start of the Cavalry F.C..

Between day 1 and today, the interest of fans after the matches is much more present, ”explains the player. “There are a lot more young people who look up to us, older people from all walks of life who now have an interest in the team. They are more invested.

Elijah Adekugbe on the team pitch.

Elijah Adekugbe hopes to one day achieve great honors. An injury in 2021 undermined his progress.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Evelyne Asselin

Of course, the successes of Cavalry F.C. in the field play a large part in the growing interest of amateurs.

The team finished as league champions in their first regular season only to lose in the championship final. This year, the team’s journey ended in the semi-finals, losing the final match against its eternal rival, the FC Forge.

 » You feel the energy on the pitch, it’s different of course if there are 1,000 people instead of three. The more people there are, the more energy there is and the more electrifying it is. As a player, you want to give your all. »

A quote from Elijah Adekugbe, midfielder, Cavalry FC

And if the team’s fans interviewed during the first game of the league championship semi-final in early October are to be believed, the team hasn’t seen a thing yet.

We are entering a golden age of soccer in Canadabelieves Logan Krupa, who was watching the match dressed head to toe in the colors of the club. I believe that interest in soccer will take off in the next few years, thanks to the World Cup.

A dream made possible

Participating in the Men’s World Cup in Canada is also a game-changer for the players, and not just in terms of public interest.

The former central defender Cavalry F.C. Joel Waterman could get invited to the World Cup, according to experts. He was sold to CF Montreal in Major League Soccer (MLS) after his first season in Calgary and is having success there.

Karifa Yao smiles at the camera.

Defender Karifa Yao, 22, is inspired by the journey of Canadian players and hopes to one day play for the big soccer teams.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Evelyne Asselin

For us, it’s a kind of way to see that anything is possible, that club performance, that when you do well, it showssays defender Karifa Yao, 22, a CF Montreal player who has been on loan in Calgary for two seasons.

 » I came to have playing time, to have minutes, to make mistakes, to improve. I think that so far it has only been positive for me to come and for the next few years I will improve when I arrive in MLS, and that I’m finally ready to play in the big leagues with big teams. »

A quote from Karifa Yao, defender, CF Montreal

According to the coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr., the team has proven that it’s possible for young Calgarians to dream of becoming the next Christine Sinclair or the next Alphonso Davies because they get to see professional soccer at home.

In our short history, we have sold Joel Waterman in Montreal [et Mohamed] Farsi now plays for Columbus in MLS “explains the coach. “Calgarian youngster Aribim Pepple is at Luton Town [2e ligue du Royaume-Uni], and we are only four years old! It’s not fair anymore […] how we see the interest growing here. The rest of the world takes notice of Canadian players.

Canada’s first match at the World Cup will be Nov. 23 against Belgium. Meanwhile, the team will play two friendly matches against Bahrain (11 November) and Japan (17 November). The final list of players who will participate in the World Cup has not been publicly released by Soccer Canada.

As for the players Cavalry F.C.their next season will begin in April.

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