How Calgarians are Celebrating the World Cup
From getting up at dawn to wearing jerseys to work and teaching kids about family traditions, this is how Calgarians are cheering on their favourite countries in the World Cup.
Photo of Rose & Crown Calgary by Tina Shaygan
Here in Calgary, we’re well acquainted with the rush of excitement sporting events like the Olympics and the Stanley Cup playoffs bring to the city. It wasn’t too long ago that the Calgary Flames playoff run brought even the least likely fans of hockey to 17 Avenue S.W.. And watching Team Canada play during the early hours of the morning with the bars opening at 5 a.m. is a cherished memory for anyone who was present.
But the FIFA World Cup may seem like new territory. With the Canadian men’s team not qualifying historically, some say they have little reason to watch this summer. On the other hand, the World Cup brings out how truly multicultural Calgary is. While other sporting events bring Calgarians together as they cheer on the same teams, the World Cup brings the city closer through support for the different countries represented in Calgary.
“We get a lot of people who have recently moved to Calgary and a ton of people whose families are from different countries,” says Dennis Madden, manager of Rose & Crown in Calgary —a popular spot for watching the games. “Everyone likes to fly their own colours and wear their jerseys. It’s all good fun.”
“Last World Cup, we had [people dressed as] cowboys [for the Calgary Stampede] partying outside, people watching the World Cup inside, and corporate parties on the patio. It was quite a spectacle,” Madden says. “And for the final game, we had over 350 people celebrating Germany in our beer garden.”
But fun doesn’t stop when the games end, Madden says. “[After the Germany vs. Sweden game], the German fans bought a round of Jägermeister for the Swedish fans and they wanted us to play ABBA. It’s good-natured fun.”
Rosemary Abella is one of those passionate Calgarians. She was cheering for Portugal as her mother is Portugese and her dad is Italian, but Italy didn’t make it to the World Cup this year. “I’ve watched the World Cup since I was a kid,” Abella says. “I began following it even more when rivalries grew between my friends and I from different countries.”
Abella says she tries to watch the games at the Portuguese Community Centre hall. “If the games are during work hours, [my friends and I] still wear our jerseys and try to meet up somewhere to watch at least part of the games.” Adding that she hopes Canada’s men’s team makes it to the World Cup one day. “It’s a great time watching the games and I hope [the World Cup’s] popularity in Canada grows even more.”
Another Calgarian, Levi Nilson, has his fingers crossed for Sweden. His father’s side of the family is from Sweden and over the last few years, he’s had a chance to visit the country and his extended family there. “With Canadian men’s team not being there, Sweden is the other country I can feel a real connection to,” he says. “And plus, they’re the underdogs and it’s the first World Cup they’ve made it to in a while.”
Nilson watches the games early mornings when getting ready for work or during his lunch-hour. He says there is also nostalgia of watching the last World Cup in 2014 with his friends. “I got into the World Cup because I was in Montreal during the last one with my friends who are soccer fans and it was incredible. It’s not the same as watching the Flames or Stanley Cup finals in Calgary, but I know a lot of people are excited about it,” he says.
One of Nilson’s friend, Signe Spencer, was cheering for Denmark this summer because of her Danish parents. Her father passed away in 2015 and now she continues the tradition by teaching her own kids about the Danish team and watching the entire competition. “My father made sure I was playing soccer from age five onward,” Spencer says. “And he made our cheer ‘we are red, we are white, we are Danish dynamite.’”
Like Madden, Spencer has witnessed the crossover of Stampede and the World Cup. “Denmark won the Euro Cup in 1992 and that year, the Danish Canadian Club of Calgary had this incredible soccer ball float in the Stampede parade,” she says, adding that the real fun of watching the World Cup is the opportunity for Calgarians to celebrate their backgrounds.
“I have a neighbor who is half Danish and half Dutch and, in 2014, he wore a hand-sewn jersey that was Danish-red and Dutch-orange on each side,” she says. “I absolutely love seeing all the cars with their favourite team’s flags hanging or homes with their flags displayed on their front deck.”