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Soccer fans converge on city


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Soccer fans converge on city

By Ian Elliot

Monday, June 14, 2004 - 07:00

Local News - Fans ranging from the hardcore supporters to the simply curious filled Richardson Stadium yesterday afternoon for an unprecedented chance to watch a World Cup qualifying soccer match.

They came from as far away as Vancouver and Chicago to watch Canada’s national team take on the tiny Caribbean nation of Belize, the first step on a journey to Germany for the 2006 World Cup.

And while 95th-ranked Canada thumped 180th-ranked Belize 4-0 under rainy, overcast skies, the weather didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of Canadian fans who came to Kingston to watch their team play at home for the first time in almost four years.

Not only was it the first time the city has hosted a World Cup qualifying match, it was probably the first time the national anthem of Belize has ever been publicly performed in the Limestone City.

It was also easily the largest Kingston gathering of people sporting European or international soccer jerseys as spectators dressed for the occasion.

The turnout was impressive for Paul de Rosario, whose brother Dwayne plays for Canada and in San Jose for the Major League Soccer Earthquakes.

“I’d like to see us have a lot more games here,” said de Rosario, whose family drove from Toronto to cheer on Dwayne.

He pointed at the 8,200 people who filled the Richardson Stadium grandstand and said there was a lot of public interest in the sport in Canada, but not many venues for it to be played.

“We just need a stadium in Toronto, but unfortunately, we don’t have one,” he said.

Few fans, though, were as excited as a fanatical group of Canadian supporters who call themselves the Voyageurs. Team Canada’s official cheering section, members follow the team wherever they play, whether that is in this country or Europe.

Dressed completely in red and white, with faces and hair painted to match, they stood the entire game and sang throughout, repeatedly singing a rewritten British football standard: “Que sera, sera, the future’s not ours to see, we’re going to Germany, que sera sera.”

The group has 500 to 600 members but most follow Canada’s progress either through televised games or Internet broadcasts. Seeing them in person was a rare treat for most of the members.

“This is the first game here in three-and-a-half years so we’re excited,” said Tyler Adamsky of Brampton.

Members of the group flew into Kingston from as far away as Vancouver and Montreal for a tailgate party and the game. Those who couldn’t attend monitored and discussed the game on their Internet site and message forum.

Younger fans and possible future Canadian team players were also not left out. Members of the Cataraqui Clippers accompanied both teams onto the field for the opening anthems, took part in a halftime display of soccer skills and older players were pressed into service as ball boys during the game.

Nick Knorr, 13, couldn’t get over the skill level of the players, especially witnessing it from the touch line.

“This is the kind of thing you usually see on TV,” he enthused.

While fans of the Canadian team may have travelled long distances to take in the game, they weren’t the only ones. A smaller, but equally enthusiastic, knot of Belizians made the trip to Kingston to cheer on their plucky but badly outgunned side.

“They have a good young team,” said Elton Orozco, who flew in from Chicago to see Belize and watched the game with the national flag of the Caribbean nation draped over his back.

He had to fly back immediately following the game but said he had no regrets about making the trip.

“It will probably be a few years before I get to see them again,” he said.

Stuart Longsworth of Ajax moved from Belize when he was just two years old and attended the game with his entire family. He also said he wished Belize was playing better than they were.

“Their defence is good, but they’re not running the ball,” said

“They’re just not hustling the way they should.”

Indeed, the overmatched Belize put just a single player on offence while everyone else played defence and even then they had little luck stopping the Canadian side. Canada had great difficulty finishing

its chances, though, leading one leather-lunged fan to shout out, “What is this, the Kingston Senior League?” after yet another muffed Canadian chance.

Anthony Adderley, whose father coaches Belize, drove up from New York City to watch the game and sat nervously in the front row, a New York Yankees cap on his head and a towel bearing Belize’s national flag across his knees.

He clutched the towel nervously and never took his eyes of the pitch as he spoke, sounding eerily like a diehard Toronto Maple Leafs fan in April as he found the silver lining in the Canadian cloud smothering Belize.

“We need to get some chances to score,” he said with assurance.

“If we can get the ball in front of their net, it’s going in.”


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