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Marathon Man: The FIFA World Cup – a family affair

Cochrane Eagle columnist Martin Parnell has some conflicting loyalties as he tunes into this year's FIFA World Cup, with hopes of success for England, Canada, and Wales.
Martin Parnell's deck showcases his conflicting loyalties at this year's FIFA World Cup, with the flags of England, Wales, and Canada on full display.

As a young lad in England, I would be out night after night playing football (soccer) with my two younger brothers. We’d only come in when our mum yelled that it was supper time.

My love of soccer continued when I came to Canada and in 1986, the unbelievable happened – Canada qualified for the World Cup. We were scheduled to play Hungary, the Soviet Union and France and the bookies were offering hundred-to-one odds that Canada would not even score a goal. Well, I thought that was crazy, so I bet $10, thinking I was ready to make some easy money. Unfortunately, the bookies must have known something I didn’t, and Canada never scored a goal in their three games.

Fast forward 36 years and Canada were finally back at the big table. Sue and I followed the Canadian team's progress keenly as they qualified for the tournament by topping their group ahead of the USA and Mexico.

However, Canada was not the only team being cheered on in this household. Sue and I are both from England, so they get equal billing. Over the years, there has been a lot of heartache following the "Three Lions," as England's squad is referred to. The typical scenario is that they reach the quarterfinals and then lose – usually during a heart-wrenching penalty shootout (and for some reason, often to the Germans).

The other team we will be cheering for is Wales, which is a bit complicated as they are actually in the same group as England. Our son Calum lives in Cardiff and it’s been 64 years since the Welsh have been in the tournament.

Our grandson Nathan, who lives in Ottawa, is using the World Cup as part of a class project. He and several of his class mates have been assigned to learn about the countries in Group D: France, Australia, Tunisia and Denmark.

So, on Nov. 20 the first game of the World Cup was played and we hung our Canada, England and Wales flags on the deck. At the time of writing this article, all the teams were in with a shot of making the last 16 – even though Canada had a hard fought loss to Belgium.

Unfortunately for the Canadians, a 4-1 defeat in their second match against the last World Cup's runners-up Croatia resulted in an early elimination from the tournament. But it was exciting to see Canada score its first ever goal at a World Cup, nonetheless.

By the time you read this column, the picture of who else will have been eliminated and which countries are moving onto the round of 16 will be a lot clearer, as the third and final rounds of the group stage get underway. 

Despite the disappointment of Canada going out early, the good news is that we will be back in four years’ time regardless, as the 2026 FIFA World Cup will be co-hosted in Canada, USA and Mexico. 

© 2022 Martin Parnell

[email protected]

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