Canadians with ties to other nations face tough choice on who to cheer for at World Cup

Canada defender Alphonso Davies kicks the ball during practice ahead of the World Cup in Doha, Qatar, on Saturday. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Canada defender Alphonso Davies kicks the ball during practice ahead of the World Cup in Doha, Qatar, on Saturday. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Some B.C. soccer fans who are first- or second-generation Canadians say they are facing a tough choice when it comes to who to cheer for in this year's FIFA World Cup.

For the first time in 36 years, Canada's men's team has made it to the tournament, which is being held in Qatar. The last time the team appeared was in Mexico in 1986, when Canada finished with zero goals scored and three losses in three games.

That means Canadian fans generally find themselves cheering for another country.

That's the case for West Kelowna actor Matt Riseley Forster, who was born in England and raised in Newcastle upon Tyne, about 30 kilometres north of Durham, the birthplace of Team Canada's coach, John Herdman's.

Forster says it has been a family tradition to cheer on England in the tournament, and that's not changing this time around.

"We're going to win it. We're bringing it [the trophy] home," he told CBC's Joseph Otoo. "Being an Englishman, I'm going to support England."

Matt Forster/Facebook
Matt Forster/Facebook

On Monday, England beat Iran 6-2 in its first match in the tournament, and Canada is set to play its first match on Wednesday with Belgium.

Forster said despite his English loyalties, he is supportive of the Canadian team, as well.

"Canada is doing this for the first time in 36 years," he said. "If you can't get behind a nation for any reason … you're not gonna get behind anything again."

Getting behind a winning team

Kelowna catering company owner Adam Relvas was born in the Okanagan to immigrant parents from Portugal.

Relvas says the FIFA World Cup is a great opportunity for family and friends to get together — and he's very certain he will cheer for Portugal in its first game on Thursday and beyond.

As a second-generation Canadian, he says he prefers Portugal to Canada, not only because the former is his ancestral home but also because he believes it has a better chance of winning games.

Relvas Catering/Facebook
Relvas Catering/Facebook

Team Portugal was ranked third at the FIFA World Cup hosted by England in 1966 and fourth at the one hosted by Germany in 2006.

"I'm just excited to have Canada there, but I think in my heart, I may have to go for Portugal here," he said.

Kelowna restaurant owner Barbara Dumbovic, who immigrated from Petrinja, Croatia, says she will spread her love equally between Canada and her country of origin, which are placed in the same group and are set to have their first game with each other this Sunday.

"I'm going to cheer for both teams, They're both my teams, because I live in Canada now, [and] I was born and took my first breath in Croatia.

"Let's see who wins," she said.