Golden Return: CanWNT ready for ‘special’ homecoming ahead of long-awaited gold medal victory tour in October

Canada Soccer announced the long-awaited return of their Women’s National Team to Canada on Wednesday, sharing details on their gold medal celebration tour, which will kick off in October with games in Ottawa and Montreal. Here’s what stood out from the announcement. 

They’re finally coming home. 

Having gone nearly 2.5 years since they last played Canadian soil, Canada Soccer’s Women’s National Team is set to return home next month, as details on their long-awaited celebration tour were announced this week. 

After winning a historic Olympic gold medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics earlier this year, it was quickly announced not long after that triumph that Canada would have a chance to celebrate that victory in front of their home fans across the country, helping mark a special moment in Canadian soccer history. 

And after a bit of a wait, information on that tour was finally shared this week, which is great news for Canadian soccer fans across the country. 

As announced by Canada Soccer on Wednesday, the victory tour is indeed set to kick off in October, where Canada will play New Zealand in Ottawa on October 23rd and in Montreal on October 26th as part of a double matchup to begin the tour. 

With further games set to be announced at a later date, this will be an exciting set of games, all at home, giving Canadian fans a gold rush of games to content themselves with. 

Plus, by doing that, Canada will also finally get to play on their home soil for the first time since May of 2019, when they took on Mexico in Toronto for a send-off game ahead of the 2019 World Cup. 

Considering that since then, they’ve participated in 2 major tournaments, winning one of them, this been a long time coming, so it’s going to be nice to see this team get the welcome home that they deserve, making it an exciting event for all involved. 

“It’s an exciting time to bring everyone back,” Canadian Soccer Association’s General Secretary, Peter Montopoli, said on Wednesday. “We’ll have an exciting celebration. It’s important that the country gets behind what this team has achieved for our country.”

And while these games will certainly be a chance for fans to welcome back their heroes after a long time away home, this is also going to be a great chance to also introduce new fans to this side, who haven’t had a chance to connect with people in their country for a long time. 

The best way to connect with fans is to play games in your home country, but due to certain circumstances, that hasn’t happened yet, at least not until this tour. 

Despite that, though, the support for this team has been as strong as ever, and is only growing by the day, but to see that there is finally going to be a chance for that support to be felt in person now is a game-changer, and this Canadian team is well aware of that. 

They knew that they had a backing of a nation from afar during the Tokyo Games, where millions of fans stayed up overnight to watch their team play, so that they finally get to play in front of those fans is exciting to this team, who are all eagerly champing at the bit to get back home and on the pitch for these matches.

“The support that we’ve had going into the Olympics prepared us well, and we wrote a moment in history,” Canadian head coach, Bev Priestman, said on Wednesday. 

“And we absolutely can’t wait to share it with our fans, and I’ve spoken to so many people that got up in the early hours of the morning to support us, so to celebrate that moment, with a full stadium, will be a really special moment for the group.”

That sentiment extended to Canada’s players, as well. 

“Just a lot of excitement and emotion,” Canada’s star full back, Ashley Lawrence, added on Wednesday. “Leading up to the Olympics, we weren’t able to play in front of our fans and family. We usually have a send-off match, but because of the context, we didn’t really have the opportunity to get together, so it’s going to be extra special because it’s been so long.

“In Tokyo, we still felt that Canadian support, so now to be able to come back and to really feel that in a stadium with the cheering and the fans, it’s going to be surreal.”

Canada’s full delegation poses after winning gold in Tokyo (Canada Soccer)

But while a lot of talks went into having a celebration tour, giving that moment to truly celebrate this victory, it’s also important to recognize how crucial these home games will be for this team in the long term, especially seeing how long it’s been since they last played at home. 

Obviously, when you play on a National Team, stretches where you go without playing home games for a while can happen, but never to this extreme, showing why the players and staff are so eager for these games to come about. 

Originally, September seemed like an ideal date to make that happen, but that didn’t come to fruition, but that paved the way for October to work out, especially as attendance rules on stadiums in Canada started to loosen, with the game in Ottawa (~18 000) and Montreal (~13 000) set to be played in front of good crowds. 

Seeing what this gold medal has done, and will continue to do, for the growth of the sport in this country, it was only right that these games get played in front of swaths of Canadian supporters, helping inspire the next generation of players. 

The main goal of these games will be to get Canada playing competitively at a high level in front of their fans, all while celebrating their golden moment from the summer, no doubt, but they can also inspire the next generation of fans through moments like this. 

Because of that, it also looks like these 2 games are just the start of what Canada is looking to do with this victory tour, as they’re also working on bringing some games to the west coast, giving fans across the country a chance to celebrate this team.

“We want to get an East Coast and West Coast tour,” Priestman confidently stated when asked on Wednesday. 

But while the main focus on these games will be on what happens outside of the pitch, and understandably so, make no mistake – what happens on the pitch will be hugely important for Canada. 

They might feel on top of the world after their Olympic triumph, but as the champions, they have a target on their back now, so if they’re to keep rolling along at a level like this, they’ve got to keep working hard and improving themselves as a team, or else they could risk getting overtaken. 

With the 2023 World Cup and 2024 Olympics both coming up here over the course of the next 3 years, those will be 2 massive opportunities for Canada to cement their status as a true global power in the game, showing that their win wasn’t just a one-off, but one that they can dream of repeating at future events. 

Considering that they’ve got a deep squad filled with young and veteran talent, many of whom will be in their prime for these tournaments, there’s no reason why Canada can’t make some noise in those competitions, but if they’re to do so, the work starts now. 

With qualifiers for both of those tournaments coming next summer, they’ll have to start preparing for that as soon as possible, which is why they’re playing New Zealand, ranked 23rd in the world, to begin this victory tour, and will look to find a similar calibre of opposition for future games here. 

While the gold medal will leave a long-lasting impression on this country, no doubt, there’s no better way to keep up that growth than finding some consistent success, and Priestman is aware of that. 

So even though Canada is looking forward to having their long-overdue celebration this fall, they’ve also got an eye firmly planted on the task ahead, as they look to continue to push forward into bigger and better things in the future. 

“I think straight away, the technical staff has moved on to looking ahead to the next 3 years and how we can sustain this success, to not make it a one-off moment,” Priestman admitted. 

“Let’s make sure we conquer the 2023 World Cup, and then at the 2024 Olympics, get on the podium again. So it’s been phenomenal, but I think we’re also ready to keep on pushing.”

Up Next: Canada vs New Zealand, Tuesday, October 26th, 2021, time TBD (TD Place, Ottawa)

Cover Photo via: Canada Soccer/MexSport

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