A heroes' welcome for Canada's Olympic gold medal winning women's soccer team in Ottawa
OTTAWA -- Thousands made their way into TD Place Stadium in Ottawa on Saturday to celebrate Canada's Olympic champion women's soccer team—a team that hasn't played in front of a home crowd since May 2019.
Saturday's match was a friendly against New Zealand—the first game of the Canadian women's national team's celebration tour following their historic gold medal win at the Summer Games in Tokyo.
“I’m sure Ottawa is coming out big time to watch these ladies and it should be pretty loud in the stands today,” said Dawn Ireland Little, who drive five hours from Alliston, Ont. to catch the game. She waited months for this day to arrive and see the team in action.
She had her eye on one player in particular.
“I got to teach Deanne Rose in Grade 7,” said Ireland Little. “So, I’m the biggest fan of her but it’s been great getting to know the players watching them.”
With Ontario's latest measures now allowing full capacity at games, fans from across Canada came out in droves to the support the women's soccer team.
A Friday's practice, forward Janine Beckie said she's thrilled to be in the nation's capital.
"It's been a long time since we've been here," said Beckie. "It's incredibly exciting to just come back and play at home, regardless of the results of the Olympics, so the gold just adds everything to this celebration."
The team hadn't played in front of a home crowd since May 2019. With the Olympics taking place during the COVID-19 pandemic, many Canadians watched the gold medal game from home, including family members.
"No one can be in Japan, none of their families or anything, so they're finally coming home,” said Nick Lowe, who was grabbing dinner at Landsdowne Park Friday. "The Olympians are here and we can actually celebrate them now."
For fans in the stands on Saturday, like Joe Fournier, the former coach of Ottawa's Vanessa Gilles, Saturday's celebration was one to remember, with Canada defeating New Zealand 5-1.
“It’s good to experience live football,” said Fournier. “Women’s football and win a gold medal it couldn’t get any better.”
The Canadian women's soccer team will head to Montreal for their final leg of the celebration tour with another friendly on Oct. 26.