WWC Fan Diary: Representing your country

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The ball is passed back to the central defender causing a few bays of gold shirts at Edmonton’s Commonwealth stadium to breathe a slight sigh of relief as an early Swedish attack is calmly dealt with.

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I look down at my beer, look up, Lisa De Vanna. Left Foot. Chaos.

Tom Bell’s loving Canada!

As any football fan will tell you, that 30 seconds or so after your team has scored, before you really take in the who and the how of it, is about as euphoric a feeling as is possible with your clothes on.

On top of this, as anyone who has ever done an away trip of any kind will confirm, doing it in another stadium is often even better. Doing it at a World Cup where you, as a fan, are representing your country? It’s something special and on that slightly steamy Tuesday in central Alberta it did not fall short.

Now I’m far from the most patriotic Australian going around to say the least but putting on a bit of green and gold in the morning and stepping out into a foreign city brings on a whole new perspective.

From meeting fellow Australians in the common room of our hostel to walking around the streets of Edmonton getting all kinds of curious looks from the locals there is certainly that feeling of pride and, dare I say, a bit of tribalism.

Arriving to the pre-match function, kindly hosted by the FFA, the anticipation was as evident as the match was important. Stories, jokes and opinions fluttered amongst parents, friends, ex-A-League coaches, journalists, current Matildas coaches and other hardened supporters and for a few hours there was a small but passionate slice of Australia in Canada’s great oil producing province.

Edmonton itself had a bit more about it than Winnipeg. A big World Cup sign upon arrival at the airport, bars showing the matches left, right and centre along the always buzzing Whyte avenue and, of course, plenty of locals willing to get in on the fun.

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We were however, victims of a vicious attack at the hands of some of those locals. In central and western Canada walking under trees is as risky as picking Matthew Jurman thanks to what I have dubbed, “drop worms”. These squirmy, green caterpillars weave a small string down from the trees and sit in front of you, suspended in the middle of your vision as if they were expecting you.

One fateful day they turned sour a leisurely afternoon stroll along the North Saskatchewan River with seemingly thousands sat in our only pathway. I can still feel them crawling over me when I awake with a cold sweat deep in the night. Beware.

Pushing through this nightmarish episode it is off to the Round of 16 game against Brazil in Moncton, which I happened to book back in February due to my football clairvoyance and appreciation that the United States will often scrounge their way to topping the group, via Montreal where, I have been assured, bugs don’t fall from the sky like the four horsemen.

Until next time, Go Matildas!

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