By ALAN SHACKLETON
Beach residents can be forgiven if they did a double take while walking along Leuty Avenue and thought they saw a Canadian Men’s National Soccer Team player standing on the front porch of a house this week.
It’s all part of local resident Les Jones’ celebration of the fact the Canadian men have qualified for the 2022 World Cup.
Several years ago Jones purchased the six-foot tall polystyrene figure of a standing soccer player to be used to celebrate a friends birthday party. He has used it for other celebrations over the years as well, and thought the occasion of the Canadian men qualifying their first World Cup since 1986 was the perfect time to update the figure’s uniform.
He said he was thinking about modernizing what had been a fairly dated soccer uniform on the figure, but as the Canadian men’s team got closer to qualifying for the World Cup he decided it needed to be wearing the current Canadian kit.
So Jones reached out to the community to see if anyone knew an artist who could paint the figure in the red uniform of the Canadian men’s team.
He was put in touch with local artist Marie Gosling who was able to take on the assignment, and she was actually finishing the work on Sunday, March 27, as Canada qualified with its 4-0 win over Jamaica at BMO Field in Toronto.
Jones said the figure has been a big hit in the neighbourhood.
He said people have been stopping as they walk by his house to look at it and take photos. “Our living room window faces the porch and we can see people stop on the street, and then come over for a closer look and take photos. It’s a great way to get talking with all the neighbours and helps build community.”
For Gosling, it was many hours work of researching the Canadian men’s team uniform so she would get the details exactly right. It was also an almost seven-hour paint job painting the figure as it also required some repairs to its nose.
Jones and Gosling decided the figure would have number 22 since it is the 2022 World Cup. They have also given it the name “Moose” on the back of the jersey as opposed to honouring a specific team member.
She said the figure is very life-like. “I would jump sometimes when I walked into the room and saw its reflection in the mirror.”
Gosling said she happy to be helping to spread the pride the entire country is feeling regarding the team’s accomplishment.
“I think it’s an amazing thing about the World Cup. I saw the game on TV and it really sunk in. We are so very proud of the Canadian team,” said Gosling who lives in the Main Street and Gerrard Street East area.
Jones has a long history with soccer, and attended the World Cup in Mexico the last and only time the Canadian men have competed in the tourney. He also remembers being in St. John’s, Newfoundland in 1985 to watch the game in which Canada qualified for that World Cup.
He was a photographer for the Canadian Soccer Association for decades and also created the book Soccer: Canada’s National Sport. Jones has also been a director of with the Robbie International Soccer Tournament that is has been taking place in Scarborough for more than 50 years, and also served as the chair of The Soccer Hall of Fame and Museum in Vaughan.
Jones said that at this time he is not planning to go to Qatar in November of 2022 for this World Cup though given travel concerns and the hot temperatures.
The Canadian men qualified for the 2022 World Cup as the top team in CONCACAF, which includes teams from North and Central America and the Caribbean. Also qualifying directly out of CONCACAF were Mexico and the United States.
The draw to determine which of the 32-teams in the 2022 World Cup are in which of the eight groups will be held on Friday, April 1, at noon Eastern Time in Doha, Qatar.