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Strong support for Team Canada as fans gather to cheer on the players in their opening World Cup match

MELBOURNE –

Perched on the banks of Melbourne’s winding Yarra River is a place called the Wharf.

The waterfront pub is typically teeming with local patrons. But as Team Canada heads into its opening match at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, the pub is filled with Canadians.

At one table, Sheri Ainslie is fully decked out in red and white, including a number 12 jersey as a nod to soccer superstar Christine Sinclair.

“We are here to honour these women and to be the biggest and loudest fans,” said Ainslie.

Along with her family, she travelled all the way from Ontario to cheer on the players in their first game against Nigeria.

“I played soccer growing up and I love the sport,” she said. “The level of play from this team is amazing, they really have something special.”

Susan Cotton, Ainslie’s mother, also made the long journey to Australia to support the team. When asked why she loves the sport of soccer, she broke out into a big grin and replied, “I just love everything. Yes, everything about it.”

Sheri Ainslie, left, and her family prepare to cheer on Team Canada while at Melbourne’s Wharf pub. (CTV National News)

Also in the crowd of more than 50 people is Kathy Chapman from Moncton, N.B.

“For me this is a trip of a lifetime coming to see the World Cup and having a family member playing in the tournament is absolutely incredible,”

Chapman’s 34-year old niece, Allysha, is a left-back for Canada’s national team.

“Thinking of her career and seeing how she has blossomed makes me tear up a little bit because I am so proud,” said Chapman.

Canada’s Allysha Chapman, left, runs followed by Christine Sinclair and Quinn during a training session ahead of the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Melbourne, Australia, July 20, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Scott Barbour

Canada Soccer organized the fan, friend and family event as a way to create “a vibrant rallying point for all those supporting Canada.” Similar gatherings are planned for each city the team plays during the group stage and throughout the competition.

“I think every one of the players has so much passion and no one is going to tell they can’t,” added Chapman.

This is the ninth Women’s World Cup and, with 32 teams competing, it is the biggest in the tournament’s history.

So far, about 1.4 million tickets have been purchased for the 64 matches running until Aug. 20, a spokesperson for FIFA confirmed to CTV National News, which is more than the record total set in Canada eight years ago.

Team Canada holds its final open training session at Melbourne’s Lakeside Stadium. (CTV National News)

At the last open training session before Team Canada’s first match, the women looked comfortable, confident and appeared to be having a lot of fun.

“Since Day 1 being here in Australia it has just been lighthearted and what has always separated us is the family we create,” said captain Christine Sinclair during a pre-game press conference.

Sinclair firmly believes her talent and tenacious squad can go far in the tournament, but even after five World Cups, she admits she still gets pre-game jitters.

“It’s the same as my first World Cup. I still get those nerves, those butterflies of excitement as I did back in 2003 in my first one.” Sinclair said.

The 40th ranked Nigerian team is not an unknown Canadian rival. The women have beaten them before in previous games, but head coach Bev Priestman says they’re not taking anything for granted.

While at the same media availability as Sinclair, Priestman said, “Our aim will be to grow through the tournament, learn from every game, and get better and better.”


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