WWC Fan Diary: Hot places, Cold places

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Football takes me many places. Hot places, cold places and Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

The contender for the worlds flattest city is characterised downtown by a sprawl of office buildings, four lane roads and parking lots – some of which look best explored during daylight, much like the street adjacent to our accommodation.

Tom Bell in Winnipeg

On arrival at the University of Winnipeg hostel we were greeted by a security guard regaling the tale of a man who had walked down the street after dark the night before and returned with a stab wound. Brilliant.

So with all this fresh in our minds, we awoke on Monday morning, kitted up and set out to watch the Matildas’ opening match of the World Cup against the big dogs of the U.S.A no less. En route to the bar we managed to make our local TV debut thanks to a reporter interviewing those heading to the game, safe to say the concept of the eureka flag I was carrying was slightly lost on her.

I’m not afraid to admit that I was unsure exactly how the atmosphere would feel downtown before the game but everywhere you turned someone had ‘Solo’ or ‘Morgan’ on the back of their jersey with the odd ‘De Vanna’ or ‘Fischer’ breaking up the pattern.

Friendly jokes flew between opposing supporters around breakfast tables at classic North American diners whilst some locals confidently reassured us that they would have our backs in the stand that night. There was no escaping that this was game day in the ‘Peg.

Investors Group Field is reminiscent of Robina Stadium on the Gold Coast as it sits right of the fringe of Winnipeg with rather limited transport options however, once inside, the stadium is as slick as the French midfield. It provided a thrilling arena for the ding-dong affair that was Nigeria vs Sweden with the Nigerians winning big points with the 31,000 strong crowd which included some of their own with trumpets and drums.

The result of the Matilda’s match put a slight dampener on things as we dominated a first half against a team that gave us an insight into what it would look like if Sam Allardyce got the Real Madrid coaching job. The atmosphere was fantastic regardless with the throngs of Yankees making plenty of noise, although they seemed to lose their voices for a while after Lisa De Vanna’s first half goal.

Our return downtown saw us head deep into the night with some effortlessly friendly locals, which is one Canadian stereotype that seems to be holding true, and a barman at ‘The Pint’ who treated us to some of Manitoba’s finest whiskey, something of local specialty.

The next few days off will be spent enjoying a few more enticing matches at our adopted local in between seeing if Winnipeg has a bit more to it than pick-up trucks and freeways.

Until next time, Go Matildas!

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