Now I do admit, I’m not the biggest supporter or follower of the UK’s most popular national game – namely, football – but I have been known on occasion to make an exception and turn on the box to watch one of the more significant games involving England. It’s usually ended in defeat but the addictive process of having raised national expectations and the optimistic hope that this time ‘could be the chance they need’, only to be dashed when the whistle blows after 90 mins is an inevitable tortuous cycle of emotions.
So it wasn’t until I kept driving past adverts in Edmonton for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015, that I suddenly realised our current city of residence is one of the Canadian hosts. Not only that, my Dad – who is an avid follower of the sport – would be staying with us during this time and as such, a trip to see a World Cup game would be right up his street. Tickets were hastily procured and excellent seats reserved for the semi-final match. Seeing a football match (albeit the intent had been a Canadian version of the sport), was also an item on our bucket list (click here to see the full listing!) so there’s the opportunity to tick yet another item off our list in the process 🙂
Image courtesy of FIFA
It wasn’t until the Sunday prior to the match, that whilst sat in a pizza place watching the quarter-final match between England playing Canada (we had to keep the cheering fairly low profile based on the clientele), that the dawn of realisation hit us. Our semi-final match would be between our national team and Japan. I couldn’t have planned it better. In fact, I didn’t – it was sheer luck.
Edmonton have a brilliant approach to encouraging the right behaviours with the appropriate incentives. All public transport to and from any of the World Cup matches is free to those with match tickets for the 2 hrs before, during and after a game. So, onto the LTS we went and over to the Commonwealth Stadium, just north of the city centre. I took my parents and middle kid, and all made an effort to dress in England colours – I even painted the flag on our cheeks and hands as a sign of encouragement!
Excited wouldn’t come close to describing the atmosphere. The English supporters (of which there were many) were in full voice and just watching the reaction to the vocal support from other nations was amusing. For those used to watching and being at English matches, it’s the norm, but it clearly had other nations slightly baffled as to whether the correct protocol was being observed by the English. It was addictive, and as the match commenced, my middle kid looked at me and my parents in amazement as we shouted encouraging comments to the players and obvious instructive insight as to what they needed to do to win the game. Offering advice and instruction to others whilst having no skill or qualification in the activity whatsoever, has often been a common characteristic of mine ….. 😉
By the end of the match (and yes, we lost), I could well understand why friends of mine invest princely sums of money for season tickets to support their football teams of choice. I loved it, and just watching the action from the edge of the pitch gave a different feel about it to seeing it cold on a TV box. My Dad has reached a new iconic status as he has been able to inform his friends and grandsons that he’s not only been to a World Cup match, but has seen England play in the semi’s – the highest level any football team from the UK has reached since 1966 ….
Our return journey on the LTS was an interesting game of ‘how many people can we fit into a train carriage in one go’. Very civil and good-natured, everyone took turns and as it was ‘Canada Day’, some well-liquored travellers started a verbal rendition of the Canadian National Anthem as hordes of people waited and shuffled patiently towards the trains. The refrain was picked up, and by the end, everyone waiting was either singing or humming to the words with huge cheers going up as it finished. It was one of those ‘hairs on the back of your neck’ moments in life. Fantastic.