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Guelph man taking in 'amazing' World Cup experience

James Roszel is one of many Canadians spending the week in Qatar for the FIFA World Cup
Guelph's James Roszel is spending the week taking in games at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

It's a goal Canada will be talking about for a long time.

For Guelph's James Roszel, he got to see Alphonso Davies' milestone goal against Croatia live and in-person in Qatar.

"I was able to get tickets in the final public sales round around April," he told GuelphToday over the phone from Qatar on Tuesday.

Roszel got his hands on tickets to two of Canada's group stage matches at the FIFA World Cup against Croatia and Morocco.

But those weren't the only games he's been able to witness so far.

He arrived in Qatar Saturday and caught Argentina and Mexico in a large fan zone set up in Doha, Qatar's capital city. 

On Sunday, Roszel got into the building for Costa Rica's 1-0 upset win over Japan, before heading to see Canada's eventual 4-1 defeat to Croatia.

He witnessed the high-scoring 3-3 draw between Cameroon and Serbia Monday, as well as Portugal taking down Uruguay.

"It is an amazing experience," Roszel said. "Six stadium televisions and a sports park, the FIFA museum and vendors, the scale of the event was mind blowing."

Attending big scale sporting events is nothing new for him.

Roszel has taken in UEFA Champions League Finals in Athens, Greece and London, England, various World Cup qualifiers, cricket in India, the 2019 rugby World Cup final in Yokohama, Japan, along with hockey and baseball games closer to home.

The sale of all beer with alcohol was banned in World Cup stadiums two days before the tournament began. Roszel doesn't feel weird not having a cold one in hand watching the matches.

"For soccer at least, this is a North American outlier," he said. "I have been to games in China, Chile, Ecuador, England, Greece and Turkey, all of which do not allow beer in the stadium."

He said in England, there are beer sections in stadiums, but not in the stands.

"I have been fairly fortunate to travel for work and try to attend sport or music as much as possible," said Roszel, who runs a small business developing markets for scrap and waste commodities. "Occasionally arranging work trips around the events."

A new experience for him this time around, however, is the living conditions. 

Roszel is spending the week living in a fan village of about 5,000 converted shipping containers, which he called a "strange multicultural experience."

"I know that several Canadian fans have left for much more expensive hotels because it is not what they expected," he said. "It's not bad but I would equate it to a two-star hotel."

The fan experience, he added, has been great, with all the matches within 60 kilometres of each other.

"The social aspect is one of the best experiences I have had," Roszel said. "I have been surprised – talking to random people – at the number of University of Guelph alumni that are here. I sat beside one who now lives in Miami at the Croatia match, and met one having lunch in a pub."

After watching Canada's match against Belgium in Guelph, he was excited to see the show in Qatar. From what Roszel has been seeing and hearing, Canada's men's team is gaining a lot of support on the world stage.

"The team has gained great respect from fans from other countries around the world, along with a lot of positive support," he said.

Getting to see Davies' goal was a highlight, he said. But also seeing the growth of the Canadian side, highlighting the play of winger Tajon Buchanan.

He has three more games to go to before returning home, but he's already looking ahead four years down the road.

"I am excited for the home tournament in 2026 (co-hosted by Canada, the United States and Mexico)," Roszel said.

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Mark Pare

About the Author: Mark Pare

Mark is a graduate of Canadore College in North Bay in 2011, and his decade-long career has taken him to a number of spots across Ontario in radio, digital and television broadcasting.
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