Skip to content

COLUMN: Barrie well represented among 'giants' at World Cup

Canada's roster includes Atiba Hutchinson and Cyle Larin from the Simcoe County Rovers FC, while club president Julian de Guzman and co-owner Janine Beckie are providing commentary on TV

The World Cup is underway and the historic run of Canada has many connections to our city for anyone needing any more reason to watch high-level soccer.

The world’s most watched event began Sunday and wraps up on Dec. 18. During tha time, Canada has at least three games to play in Group F. The first is this afternoon (Nov. 23) against the No. 2 team in the world — Belgium. On Sunday, the Canadians will play Croatia and on Dec. 1 they have a game many believe they can win against Morocco.

I typically cheer for England, but they're my second favourite this year, because there's no way I cheer for anyone over Canada. (I'm looking at you Greek basketball fans of 1994.)

Two of the stars of Canada's World Cup squad are co-owners of the local League1 Ontario team, the Simcoe County Rovers FC. 

Atiba Hutchinson has more appearances in the red and white than any other Canadian male, while Cyle Larin is currently the top scorer in men’s national history.

As for Rovers FC club president Julian de Guzman, he's representing the local squad while providing insight and commentary on TSN.

Also providing insight on the TSN panel is Rovers co-owner and women's national team star, Janine Beckie.

It's been talked about before, about Canada being in only their second World Cup tournament and their first since 1986, and about how they never scored a goal in that event. Not scoring in the 2022 version is not a thought many die-hard fans are having, and some believe Canada can even make it out of the group stages.

Me? I’m 'some'.

Seriously, I think we are taking second place in the group behind Croatia and moving on.

The downside of this year’s event — besides being held in a country like Qatar with a disgusting record on human rights — is that it's in November instead of the summer when it is typically held. It has been easy to recruit new and casual fans to soccer by sending an invite for a day on a patio to watch a game.

Ontario has announced that establishments can serve alcohol beginning at 7 a.m., during the World Cup.

For anyone looking for a Canada World Cup party, the Rovers are hosting an event Sunday at The Canadian Brewhouse in Park Place, beginning at 11 a.m. There will be raffles and prizes, while Rovers players and coaches will be on hand for meet-and-greets. The club begins its second League1 season in the spring.

Having local connections at the World Cup is a huge benefit to local soccer. When contacted by BarrieToday, de Guzman said the buzz in Qatar is one of “excitement."

"The boys are keen and eager to get on the field and have a world-class match against world-class giants," he said. 

Locally, soccer had its first taste of Barrie at a semi-pro level this past season when the Rovers men's and women's teams played their inaugural year.

Canada making it to the World Cup this year and then also hosting matches in 2026 should only build that hype to massive levels nationwide. With so many big names on the world stage being involved with our Barrie club, I think soccer is about to be very big in town.

Maybe big enough to one day even have our own stadium? That would be very cool.

While it isn’t ideal to have the World Cup in November, maybe this is a sign, a Canadian sign.

Maybe Canada does well at the tournament and allows Canucks to make videos of themselves jumping into snowbanks. 

Maybe the pain of your favourite hockey team not doing well will be comforted with a deep run by the men in the maple leaf.

For Canada, it all starts on today and even a draw will be the biggest result in our history.

Soccer is Canada.

In Barrie, the game is here to stay, so you might as well get into it.

Shawn Gibson is a staff reporter at BarrieToday and a longtime soccer fan.