This is what happiness looks like

This is what happiness looks like: the Canadian women’s soccer team jumping all over each other at the end of their nail-biter of a bronze-medal winning soccer match in Coventry on Thursday afternoon, Aug. 9, 2012.

And what a game it was — the Canadians played really well in the first half (though they couldn’t score) but in the second half France dominated. Les Bleues had multiple scoring chances but luckily for Canada, they could not put the ball into the net. It was astounding: open net after open net, ball after ball sailed wide or high. Sometimes it bounced off the crossbar, in which case a Canadian defender was right there to head or boot it away. Whenever the French had a corner (which was often), the Canadians kicked or headed it off before the French had a chance to get their heads or feet on it.

If you believe in fate, or karma, or a God who has a couple of hours to act as a marionette master at an Olympic bronze-medal soccer game, this was Canada’s just reward for Monday’s game, when a seemingly biased ref made calls that cost the team the chance to play in the gold-medal match. Or maybe France was just really, really unlucky. But Canada capitalized when it counted, and Diana Matheson caught a rebound from Sophie Schmidt and put it right into the net and the crowd went wild. I screamed so loudly that my throat hurt for the next half hour. But it was worth it. What a moment! We saw history being made: the first Canadian women’s soccer team to ever win a medal.

The whole experience was amazing. We went online Wednesday night to buy tickets but none were available. Coventry is only about an hour from where we are staying in Oxfordshire, so on a whim we drove there Thursday morning hoping tickets might be available at the stadium. We stumbled upon a park-and-ride lot across from the main bus station. The lot was fairly empty at around 11 a.m., two hours before game time, and the attendants said that meant there would probably be plenty of tickets on sale.

We hopped a park-and-ride bus (they’re free!) (and parking was a mere £6) for the 10-minute ride to Ricoh Park. In the ticket line, I overheard the clearly North American people behind us talking about weather that sounded suspiciously Edmonton-like. I asked if they were from Canada and they said yes, they were from Edmonton.

That’s when Dave turned to see what the conversation was about and discovered he knew the guy, Patrick Pilarski, on whose dissertation committee he’d sat a few years earlier. Talk about a small world. Patrick and his wife, Nicole, had just arrived from Edmonton. Their friend, whose wedding is Saturday, brought them to the stadium. We sat together, a little Canadian enclave.

You can see from the photo that none of us were wearing anything Canadian (though Noah’s red Cornell tee-shirt looked, from afar, entirely appropriate). Halfway through the game I met a woman in the restroom line, and she gave me an American flag. At one point I got so excited I nearly poked out Dave’s eye. Fortunately his goggle-like glasses provided plenty of protection, and I was able to continue in my patriotic cheerleader mode.

After the game, the Canadian team came over and acknowledged our side of the field.

Then a lot of the girls climbed into the stands, because that’s where their families had been sitting. We congratulated Erin McLeod’s dad, whose reaction to the game was, among other emotions, “Phew. I’ll be able to sleep tonight.” Elizabeth collected autographs from Christine Sinclair and Sophie Schmidt.

Standing in line for the shuttle back to the bus station, we talked to Melissa Tancredi’s mother who was carrying Melissa’s game ball (it was white, with green and pink writing/designs). She told us that she (and presumably the other families) have been following the team since the start of the tournament — two nights in Coventry, one in Newcastle, one in Manchester, and another in Coventry. (I will never again complain about how much it costs to go to tournaments…) The friends and family all traveled by train, while the team had a bus. The friends and family were headed to Canada House to watch the gold medal match, while the team was going to Wembley Stadium, where they’d collect their medals after the game. The team was to stay in the Olympic Village (for the first time, I think) on Thursday night.

After leaving Coventry, we drove a half hour to Stratford-upon-Avon, walked through William Shakespeare’s ‘hood (which is now a moderately charming shopping district), ate dinner, and walked to the river, which is beautiful.

In other news, Thursday’s signs that the apocalpyse is upon us: a naked Randy Travis was arrested for drunk driving in Texas, and Joan Rivers did not get arrested for chaining herself to a grocery cart in Costco as a form of protest against the store for not carrying her books. (Maybe I should try that at my local Costco? They don’t carry my books, either, and my books have no swear words.)

The past two days I’ve seen some very entertaining signs here in England. I’ve decided I should post a sign-of-the-day pic. Here are two. Peter Rabbit is a store in Stratford. The picture below is from the Swinburn churchyard in the Cotswolds.


One Response

  1. What an amazing experience that must have been, watching the Canadian women play and win the game, being able to cheer and celebrate with them after the painful loss to the US days before!
    Wish we were there!

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