On the banks of the meandering Yarra River in Melbourne, there is a place called The Wharf.
Waterfront pubs are usually packed with local patrons. But as the Canadian team prepares for the opening match of the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, the pubs are full of Canadians.
At one table, Sherri Ainsley was decked out in red and white, wearing the number 12 jersey after soccer superstar Christine Sinclair.
“We’re here to honor them and be their biggest and loudest fans,” Ainsley said.
She traveled all the way from Ontario with her family to cheer on the players in their opening match against Nigeria.
“I’ve been playing soccer since I was little and I love this sport,” she said. “This team’s level of play is amazing and they have something really special.”
Ainsley’s mother, Susan Cotton, also made the long trip to Australia to support the team. When asked why she loves the sport of soccer, she smiled broadly and replied, “I just love everything. Yes, I love everything about soccer.”
Sherri Ainsley (left) and her family prepare to cheer on the Canadian team at Melbourne’s Wharf Pub. (CTV National News)
Kathy Chapman from Moncton, New Brunswick is also in the crowd of 50+
“For me, coming to see the World Cup is a once-in-a-lifetime trip and having a member of my family play in the tournament is absolutely incredible.”
Chapman’s 34-year-old niece, Alisha, is a left-back for the Canadian national team.
“Remembering her career and seeing how she blossomed makes me so proud and a little tearful,” Chapman said.
Canada’s Alisha Chapman (left) follows Christine Sinclair and Quinn during a training session for the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Melbourne, Australia, July 20, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Scott Barbour
Soccer Canada organized events for fans, friends and family as a way to create a “vibrating rallying point for all those who support Canada”. Similar rallies are planned in each city the teams play in during the group stage and throughout the tournament.
“The players are all very passionate and no one will say they can’t do it,” Chapman added.
This will be the 9th Women’s World Cup and the largest in history with 32 teams participating.
So far, about 1.4 million tickets have been purchased for the 64 games through August 20, a FIFA spokesperson confirmed to CTV National News, surpassing the record total set in Canada eight years ago.
The Canadian team held their final public training session at Melbourne’s Lakeside Stadium. (CTV National News)
The women looked comfortable, confident and having a lot of fun during Team Canada’s last public training session before their first game.
“From day one in Australia I felt at ease. What always separates us is the family we create,” captain Christine Sinclair said at the pre-match press conference.
Sinclair is a firm believer that his talent and tenacity can thrive in tournaments, but admits he still has pre-match anxiety after five World Cups.
“It’s the same as when I played my first World Cup. I still have that tension and excitement, just like when I played my first World Cup in 2003,” Sinclair said.
The 40th-ranked Nigerian team is not Canada’s obscure rival. The women’s team has beaten them in previous games, but head coach Bev Priestman says they don’t take anything for granted.
“Our goal is to grow throughout the tournament, learn from every game and get better and better,” Priestman said in the same media address as Sinclair.