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'It’s a huge experience for these kids': Canada’s World Cup appearance entices younger fans to watch

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Canada’s gut-wrenching loss to Morocco at the FIFA World Cup may have left a bitter taste for Canadian soccer fans on Thursday, but it also shined a light on the future of soccer in Canada.

Hoping to witness Canada claim its’ first-ever point at the Men’s World Cup, close to 300 students packed the gymnasium at St. Timothy Catholic Elementary School in Kitchener.

Kids from Kindergarten to Grade 7 we’re on-hand for the game, supporting a team that hadn’t qualified for the World Cup since long before they were born.

“When my dad was 11, that was the last time [Canada] made the World Cup,” Grade 4 student Tiago Martins told CTV News.

Martins has been playing soccer since the age of two. He says watching Canada play in Qatar drives him to reach the highest level.

“I’ve always wanted to be a professional,” Martins said.

Former St. Timothy student, David Edgar, has a long history of representing Canada on the world stage. The 35-year-old played for Canada during both 2010 and 2014 World Cup qualifying.

The long-time pro joined Thursday’s watch party at St. Timothy and hosted a Q&A with the students during halftime.

“I think it’s a huge experience for these kids to grow up and wear that maple leaf with pride,” Edgar said.

Edgar has noticed more kids are interested in soccer than when he was their age. He adds that the fanbase will continue to grow if the national program keeps improving.

“People ask why there were no Canadian fans. It’s because we weren’t that successful. Now the team’s successful and the fans will come because the fans have always been here,” Edgar said.

St. Timothy’s faculty has seen the fanbase grow first-hand. School teacher Justin Carvalho said the passion for soccer has been there all along.

“[The students] have been asking ‘what’s the score, can we watch a little bit of the game?’ There was already such an energy and enthusiasm,” Carvalho said.

Canada will return to the World Cup in 2026 as a host country.

Looking at the future of the national program, Edgar said it’s not just about four years from now, but 40 years.

“What’s the longevity of the program? Where are we going next with it?” Edgar asked. “You’ve got kids here in this gym that hopefully can look and be the next Alphonso Davies.”

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