Skip to content
Join our Newsletter
Join our Newsletter

U-20 World Cup soccer: Visiting fans bring swirl of colour and emotion to Victoria streets

Sure, like 1994, it's rent-a-city all over again. But what a group of tenants. Your city really isn't your own during an international sporting event such as the FIFA 2007 Under-20 World Cup.

Sure, like 1994, it's rent-a-city all over again. But what a group of tenants.

Your city really isn't your own during an international sporting event such as the FIFA 2007 Under-20 World Cup. But that's what you want, isn't it, when you bid to play host?

There haven't been scenes like this on Cook Street since, well, maybe ever. There were the Nigerians, some in the flowing national gown, and the Japanese fans in blue. And one guy was hedging his bets with half his face painted with the yellow sun symbol of Uruguay and the other half with the red sun symbol of Japan.

Zambian natives and U.S. residents Chalwe Musosha of Dallas and Victor Mwaba of Birmingham, Ala., stood on Cook Street after the games proudly displaying their green T-shirts reading: "Zambia. We Believe."

They were happy with the hospitality shown the team in Burnaby and Victoria but very upset over Canadian media reports that most of the Zambian players were AIDS orphans. Not true, they said, and a typical stereotype of Africa.

It was all part of the passing parade inside and outside Royal Athletic Park. The human swirl of emotion, colour and attire may be what a World Cup is all about.

Maybe this is why they call it the Beautiful Game, off and on the pitch.

For one beautiful, joyous moment, the Zambian players were kids again and did head-flips and cartwheels on the lush new turf of Royal Athletic Park after going up 2-0 on favoured Uruguay.

The crowd loved it. It mattered little that this was the worst possible news for the floundering host Team Canada. The last thing it needed was another minnow nation guaranteeing itself a playoff berth and leaving Canada one less spot to claim.

But who would begrudge the Green Buffalos -- as the Zambian teams are rather colourfully known -- their brief moment of unabashed happiness? With the many pro scouts watching this tournament, it might even lead them out of Africa to a better life overseas.

It wasn't the result that friends Holly Sponaugle, Nicole French and Anna Negrin of Lantzville were hoping for as they came decked head-to-foot in Uruguayan colours and gear. Sponaugle spent time in Montevideo as part of an exchange program.

"The Uruguayan fans are very passionate," noted Sponaugle, recalling her time in the South American country, which has won two World Cups.

Canadian fans could find some connection to each of the four countries playing yesterday at RAP -- Zambia and Nigeria are fellow Commonwealth countries, Uruguay a Pan American nation and Japan from the Pacific Rim.

And when the Czech Republic comes to town to play Japan in the Round of Sixteen playoff game Wednesday, there will be the common bond of ice hockey.

The kids -- obviously locals -- with faces painted in the colours of Nigeria or Japan, showed there is plenty of soccer passion to go around in the B.C. capital, too. Before the World Cup, there were concerns of "being held captive" during group round doubleheaders in the six stadiums across Canada because of the strict no in-out privileges during FIFA events. The question now, after six of the seven games here, is who wouldn't want to be held captive in such an atmosphere?