It was an undeniably cold and rainy night, but Team Canada fans came out in droves at Saputo Stadium to give a warm welcome to the players after their epic Tokyo 2020 Olympic run.
The Olympic champions made a pitstop in Montreal to play against New Zealand during their Celebration Tour.
Players came onto the pitch donning their gold medals, which they snatched from their archrivals, Team USA.
The crowd was loud and roared as each player entered the field, reserving special energy for captain Christine Sinclair and goalie Stéphanie Labbé.
“It really warmed our hearts to see so many people come, even during bad weather,” said Team Canada defender Gabrielle Carle.
“They brought so much energy to the game. It was a very, very cool ambiance.”
The moment was all the more special to Carle, who is from Quebec and was playing in her home province as a member of Team Canada for the first time in her career.
“That’s an experience I’ll cherish for the rest of my life for sure,” Carle said, adding that many friends and family came to show their support.
“It was so cool. I would just look up at the end of the game and see my friends and was like, ‘Whoa, you’re here, I didn’t even know!'”
This is the second of two friendly games against New Zealand, the co-host of the 2023 Women’s World Cup along with Australia.
The first was in Ottawa on Oct. 23, where Canada took it 5-1.
After winning gold, members of the Canadian team returned to their respective club teams.
The two-game tour was a chance for players to celebrate their big win with their fans on home soil.
Aspiring soccer stars also attended the game and even got to meet their heroes in person.
“It’s amazing; they’re my idols. I’ve looked up to them since I was a young girl,” said Katerina Vassilounis, a player at Quebec’s REX soccer program, an elite program that brings together the best players at the national youth level under 20.
“Seeing that they cannot only win but also come here and play it’s amazing. I’ve never seen them play live before, it’s my first time, so it’s a big deal. It’s really cool, I’m really excited,” Vassilounis said.
For others at the stands, players were family or long-time friends.
“It’s amazing to be able to see this, to be able to watch the best team in the world right now… we’re really lucky to have that in Montreal,” said Samantha Rogers, who came to support a friend in Team Canada.
For Pascal Labonté, it was a chance he couldn’t miss. “It’s like a dream come true. It’s a great moment,” he said.
But the game was not only about celebrations.
Shortly before kickoff, players came together at the centre of the pitch and held together in a moment of silence in honour of those who have suffered abuse while playing the sport, something that was also done in the previous game in Ottawa.
The initiative comes as the former coach of Canada’s U20 national women’s team, Bob Birarda, faces charges of sexual assault and exploitation.
The Canadian National Women’s National Team Players Association had previously called on Canada Soccer to build a safer environment for athletes and start a third party investigation looking into allegations against Birarda, among other demands.
Soccer Canada has agreed to honour them.