Sunday, March 27 was the day that Canada clinched their spot in the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar on a blustery day at BMO Field in Toronto with a 4-0 win over Jamaica.
Now some eight months later with their opening match of the tournament fast approaching – the Canadian Men’s National Team face Belgium on November 23 – Toronto FC’s contingent reflected back on that incredible day.
“I woke up that morning and knew that that day was going to be the day we qualified,” said Mark-Anthony Kaye. “It was a freezing cold game.”
“Unfortunately, I didn't have an opportunity to participate because of the red card that I had gotten earlier in that window, but it was a special moment to be able to do it at BMO, in front of our home fans, in Toronto,” he continued. “It was a really cool experience and everyone was just elated and had so much emotions it was hard to talk – they didn't know what to say.”
“It was unreal. It's hard to find words for those moments,” Kaye added, even so many months later. “I was just really happy that I got to actually be there with my wife and my mom. It was an amazing experience.”
Canada could have clinched their berth in that game in Costa Rica, the first match of the three-game March window, but fell 1-0 after Kaye’s early red card – he recently spoke about the terrible online abuse he received afterwards.
That defeat ended the 11-game unbeaten start to Concacaf World Cup Qualifying that had ushered Canada into first place, but more importantly it allowed them to celebrate at home.
“If I could take you back a little bit before that,” began Doneil Henry. “Going to Costa Rica, not being a part of that [matchday] squad because of yellow card accumulation, thinking ‘We get the opportunity to go home now and handle our business.’”
“It was a special game because of the World Cup berth, but also playing against Jamaica – that’s where my family is from – it meant that much more. Being a part of the team, in that XI, to start the game and having all the supporters, Canadian supporters, fill the stadium on a real Canadian day. It didn't feel real until the whistle blew,” he explained. “How much you were appreciated that day, taking you back that's what I remember.”
After the final whistle, Jonathan Osorio was near-speechless in his post-match sideline interview. Richie Laryea came over to try to help. Henry, draped in a Canadian flag, as well as Kamal Miller and Dayne St. Clair assembled too.
“Honestly it was so many different emotions,” recalled Laryea. “Being able to clinch a World Cup, first and foremost, was a massive accomplishment for this entire country and for us, but to be able to do it in Toronto, at BMO Field, in the style that we did it. So many different things ran through your mind. Speechless is the first word that comes to mind when I think about that entire process. It was ‘Wow, we really did that’ type of feeling.”
“’Speechless’ is a good word and then just a rush of excitement as well because we realized – maybe not fully – what we’ve accomplished as a team, as a brotherhood, as a country, as a nation. You realize what you've done for yourself and your family, but then also what doors you’ve helped open for future Canadian National Team players. All those things came to mind for me and I'm sure a lot of the other players as well.”
Before attempting to put it into words, moments after the final whistle, Osorio led the stadium through a BMO Field tradition, the Viking Clap, banging the drum in front of the south end faithful in a moment of unity.
It takes work to turn dreams into reality, at that crossover point it all gets a little hazy.
“It was amazing,” said Osorio. “Just so many emotions running through my head that I couldn't really explain to people the amount of happiness and joy that I was feeling. The feeling was just indescribable.”
“That day was a dream come true for all of us,” he added. “It makes you grateful for all the hard work that you put in. It's makes it all really worth it.”