Despite another World Cup loss on Sunday, fans in southwestern Ontario were delighted to cheer on the players – especially a midfielder with roots in Leamington.
It was a bittersweet moment for Canada against Croatia on Sunday in Qatar.
Alphonso Davies entered the history books, scoring Canada’s first goal in World Cup history. The team would eventually lose 4-1.
That hasn’t tarnished the local pride of Leamington native Stephen Eustáquio, who delights his hometown.
“The pride factor is huge right now. Being Canadian and involved in the soccer scene, not just in Leamington, but all over Canada,” said Dan Santos, founder and president of the Leamington SC United Soccer Club.
“It’s a big moment now and we’re going to continue for years to come.”
Santos said the local club has encouraged the whole team, especially Eustáquio. It created a video on social media expressing its support.
Canada lost to Belgium and Croatia, so it is already known that the team will not advance to group play at the tournament.
The last action for Eustáquio and his teammates is against Morocco on Thursday.
“He and his family alone, just exceptional people,” said Carlos Soares, head of club player development at Leamington SC and a friend of the Eustáquio family.
“We grew up, basically through friends of the family, we share the same relatives, so I remember them when they were here, and then I followed Stephen’s journey since he started playing football. Family is incredible, and that’s honestly not a surprise.”
Soares said he remembers Eustáquio’s dedication to his sport, practicing and training during family vacations as a young teenager.
Now Soares enjoys watching his successes.
“I can’t even begin to explain the emotions that go through your body,” he said. “It’s nothing but pride, I’m so proud of the team.”
Davies lived in Windsor for a year when his family arrived in Canada from Africa.
Soares and Santos said their hometown connections inspire their young players.
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