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Edmontonians head to Qatar to cheer on Canada at World Cup

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Canadian soccer fans head to Qatar for World Cup
WATCH ABOVE: The countdown is officially on for the FIFA World Cup soccer tournament. Some Edmontonians are so excited for the Canadian men's national team they've invested thousands to go to Qatar and show their support in person. Sarah Ryan has the story of some very passionate fans – Nov 16, 2022

We’re officially one week away from the Canadian Men’s National Team making their first appearance at the FIFA World Cup in 36 years.

Some in Edmonton are so excited, they’ve invested thousands of dollars to go to Qatar and cheer on the soccer players in person.

READ MORE: FIFA WORLD CUP: How Team Canada has ‘captured the imagination’ of a country

Jose Villanueva is one of them. He and his friends leave Friday for the adventure of a lifetime.

“We’re passionate football fanatics. We love to play the sport, we love to watch the sport — everything from World Cup to Champions League. This year we decided it’s time to pull the trigger. It’s time to go,” he said.

But getting to Qatar isn’t very straightforward. There are no direct flights from Alberta.

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Villanueva’s group is flying first to Toronto, then to London, England and finally to Doha, Qatar.

That involves 17 hours of air travel, but he says it’s worth it — especially to see hometown hero Alphonso Davies live at the pinnacle of his sporting career thus far.

“As an Edmonton soccer player myself, it’s nice to see someone who made it from here, to the big leagues, to international superstardom. It really gives hope to any player from here,” Villanueva said.

His group won’t be alone. The Voyageurs, a dedicated group of fans passionate about Canadian soccer, have supporters heading to the Middle East from across the country.

That includes Edmonton’s Shawn Mann. His Dad took him to his first national team game back in 1993 when he was just a child.

That experience instilled a love of the game and team in Mann that persists to this day.

He regularly travels to cheer on Canada.

“Canada is my team, Canada is my country. If they’re there, I’ll be there no matter where it was on the planet,” he said.

In addition to taking in eight or so games, Villanueva’s group plans to take some time to explore Qatar while there. They’re planning excursions to see the sand dunes and ride camels.

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They’re also bringing summer clothes since the temperature next week looks to be around 30 degrees.

Mann though is really focused on the soccer.

“We’re there for 10 nights and we’re going to see 10 games — one a night. It’s going to be a marathon,” he said with a smile.

He expects Canadian fans to be loud and proud.

“The first match, the national anthem is going to be a special moment. A few of the players have talked about how it will be some tears, some emotion and I think I’ll be the same way in the stands,” Mann said.

READ MORE: FIFA World Cup: ‘Dress conservatively, behave discreetly,’ Canada warns fans in Qatar

The odds-makers haven’t given Canada a lot of credit. The gamblers are currently betting against the team, but Villanueva doesn’t care.

“It’s a success already. Just making it to the World Cup shows that we are capable of competing at the highest level. It’s an inspiration,” he said.

“I think we’re a dark horse. I want to keep expectations in check,” Mann explained.

He said he would love to see Canada score a goal at one of the three matches he has tickets to.

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“The beauty of this team is it represents Canada. It’s first-generation Canadians, multi-generation Canadians, it’s immigrants, refugees, it’s us — it’s everyone,” he said.

“Let’s get behind this team and support them.”

And even though he doesn’t leave until Sunday, he’s already getting all the essentials ready to go.

“I’ve got a few jerseys. There’s a few packed in the suitcase already, some scarves, maybe a toque. It’s going to be warm but it’s kind of the signature Canadian item.”

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