ALSO ON SLAM!
Tuesday, May 30, 2000
Making noise in Canada
For years, their effort has brought silence and indifference.
In their own country, players on the Canadian men's soccer team usually had to strain their ears just to hear someone cheer.
Most nights, those shouts of encouragement would come only from mom.
Wherever they went in Canada, if they made a nice touch, a good pass, or a great save, the stands remained library-like.
But, of course, they have never played in Winnipeg before.
And that's why, when the national side arrived here yesterday for tonight's friendly against Honduras (7:30 at the Winnipeg Soccer Complex), the lot of them wore the look of giddy schoolboys hired to tutor the head cheerleader.
They know how it can be here. They know the people sing the words to the national anthem. They know about the passion, the glory, the flag-waving.
They've heard the stories about last summer's Pan Am Games.
And in a place where the flag is usually good enough to stir up fever, the soccer team has provided reasons of its own.
They're red-hot, unbeaten in 12, and climbing the long ladder of respectability in the world rankings.
And of course, they went out and shocked the world by winning the Gold Cup in February.
SHOCKED THE WORLD
Even Hogtown dropped its guard a little over that.
"We went into Toronto the other day (May 27) for a match (against Trinidad and Tobago) and it's always been the visiting sides who get the support and the cheers there from the Canadians who come from that country," said 29-year-old veteran forward Paul Peschisolido, the Fulham English first division game-breaker who has played 32 international games for this country's soccer side. "But this time, the crowd was pro-Canada and loud. A lot of people were waving Canada flags.
"And we were so flattered. There was great support for us this time."
Finally, they felt some energy.
"To look up in the stands there and see people waving Canada flags, it's a great feeling," said Carlo Corazzin, the former Winnipeg Fury star. "Sure, it helped fuel us. Why wouldn't it? We appreciate the support."
It was pretty unexpected in Toronto.
But you can understand why the team has a few expectations heading into tonight's game, a warmup for the real-deal World Cup qualifying home-and-home series against Cuba of which the second game will be held right here June 11.
"Winnipeg is a place we know is going to have a very pro-Canada crowd," said Peschisolido. "We know about the people here."
And not many know them better than Rob Aristodemo, a 23-year-old who played with Canada's entry at the Pan Ams last year.
"Remembering what happened here in Winnipeg last year, you just can't beat the support we got," said the speedy 5-foot-6 forward looking for his sixth international cap. "Seeing everyone get excited about what you're doing, it's the greatest feeling."
And necessary for success, say some.
"It's just really good to see Canadian people cheering for a Canadian team," said head coach Holger Osieck, who has often complained about the lack of support shown by this country towards his team. "And I think 8,000 fans would be really nice (for tonight's game)."
That'd make organizers happy. Still, it's a real longshot.
But as long as Mom doesn't have to carry the loud load, the players will feel more than pleased.