It was a tough choice to make for London, Ont.’s Croatian community in deciding who they should root for in the Canada vs. Croatia men’s World Cup match on Sunday.
But there was no doubt, among more than 100 fans, who gathered to watch the game at The Croatian-Canadian National Sports Center “Zagreb” of London and St. Thomas, that Croatia would give it their all.
While the crowd cheered with pride and excitement at Croatia’s 4-1 win against Canada, many Croatia supporters agreed that the Canadians didn’t t go down without a good fight.
“The pride that we have for Croatia is unexplainable. Canada is our home and we love the team, but we knew when they [Croatia] came out, they were there to win and they left it all out on the pitch,” said fan Ana Zovka.
“I support Canada like crazy in other sports but this one’s different. I would’ve liked to see them come out with a win and it’s definitely tough to split your devotion, but Croatia first,” said another fan Andreja Milasincic.
Despite Alphonso Davies making history very early on in the match as the first Canadian man to score in a FIFA tournament, Canada has been eliminated from World Cup contention.
Even so, watching his country score that first goal was a blissful moment for Matt St. Louis, who was sporting a Canadian jersey. St. Louis said he has love for both teams, but felt that Canada needed the added support.
“It was tough for Canadians but they came out flying,” he said. “That goal was monumental and incredible, it was a massive milestone for the Canadian team.”
National pride and unity
Soccer brings a huge level of national pride for all diasporic cultures living in Canada who get to cheer for both the country they live in and their homeland, according to Milasincic.
“Globally, it’s just such a unifying thing and it brings us all together, it gives us a reason to be really proud of our country and gives you a connection to back home,” she said.
Zovka believes Croatia dominated the game and showed the world that they deserved to win. She said she’s very happy with the outcome and the way the team played.
Stjepan Prtenjaca, who plays for the London Croatia club, said he was disappointed to see the two countries playing against each other because that meant he had to choose Croatia over Canada. But he’s confident that Canada will make a comeback in 2026.
“Canada has come up in leaps and bounds, they started against Bermuda and now they’re against Croatia so that just shows the journey they’ve been on and it’s been a great one,” Prtenjaca said.
“I’m very happy they scored their goal, I would’ve cheered for them like life and death but it was against the only team I couldn’t cheer against.”
While the loss means Canada will not move on in the World Cup tournament, the men’s national team still has one last chance to notch their first ever world cup win, against Morocco on Thursday.