Bittersweet win for Canada over U.S. in Parapan Am...
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Aug 09, 2015  |  Vote 0    0

Bittersweet win for Canada over U.S. in Parapan Am Games 7-a-side football

Trevor Stiles, Canada’s star player, likely out of tournament with knee injury


Rowdy Canadian and American fans faced off in the stands, trying to drown out each other’s chants during Sunday’s heated 7-a-side football match against the two rival nations, which Canada won 2-1.

Decked out in a towering Uncle Sam hat, John Ballou led a small but boisterous American contingent.

“We’re all out here for the love of the sport,” Ballou said at the University of Toronto’s Parapan Am Games field. Ballou, accompanied by his wife and three daughters, was cheering on his son Adam, an American player.

“There’s no rivalry — we’re sitting side by side,” he laughed, when asked if his get-up had made him a target. “Y’all are awesome hosts.”

Standing nearby, Karen Secher, who cycled up from the Beaches with a group of soccer-playing friends, led local fans in chants of “Ca-na-da.”

“We want Canada to beat the U.S.,” she declared with a grin. “We want to show them who’s the boss in soccer.”

The match was intense, with the Americans playing a strong offensive game. Halfway through the first half, they scored their first and only goal.

Canada’s star forward, towering Trevor Stiles, evened out the game within minutes. But before the first half was over, he was forced out of the game with what appeared to be a serious knee injury. Stiles is not expected to play for the rest of the tournament, a blow to Canada’s medal chances.

With five minutes left on the clock in the second half, Sam Charron scored Canada’s second goal. The 17-year-old native of Ottawa is the team’s second-youngest player.

“There’s a lot of pressure playing at home,” the jubilant teenager said after the match. “It’s very satisfying to beat the Americans.”

The U.S. outshot Canada 26-17. Damien Wojtiw tended Canada’s net in the second half.

“To put on the maple leaf and work for Canada is a true blessing, and I don’t take it lightly,” the Mohawk-sporting athlete said after the game.

He paused and looked out over the leafy campus.

“I’ve walked through these streets all my life,” he added wistfully. “I’m a west end kid from the city. It’s hard to believe and hard to think that this is actually happening to me.”

The Canadian team finished 10th at the Cerebral Palsy Football World Championships in June, where Stiles scored Canada’s last six goals. On its first Parapan Am game on Saturday, the team lost to Argentina 3-1.

Canada must win gold at these Parapan Am Games to qualify for the 2016 Paralympics in Rio. A Canadian football team has never made it to the Paralympics. A powerhouse in the sport, Brazil has the highest-ranked 7-a-side team in the Americas.

“The Brazilian team is so powerful that if we had seven Trevor Stiles, it would be difficult still,” the team’s coach, Drew Ferguson, lamented after Sunday’s match.

Ferguson, formerly a member of Canada’s national soccer team, says he’ll have to re-strategize with Stiles gone.

“There’s no doubt it’s a big factor if you take your strongest player off the field in 7-a-side-football.”

Parapan athletes in 7-a-side football have cerebral palsy or other neurological conditions. A Paralympic sport since 1984, the game is played on a reduced field with seven players, including a goalkeeper. There are two 30-minute halves and no offside rule. Each athlete is given a classification between FT5 and FT8, with a lower number denoting a higher degree of physical impairment. A team must always have at least one FT5 or FT6 player on the field at all times and is not allowed to have more than one FT8 player.

Canada faces off against Brazil on Wednesday and Venezuela on Thursday. The medal matches are Aug. 15.

Toronto Star

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