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World Cup mania alive and well at U of T: Venues with big screens bring out the fans

Students cheering on their teams during the Germany/Poland game match. Image: Pascal Paquette

Excited chatter and the roar of the crowd following a goal have replaced the usual murmur of quiet lunchtime conversations in Hart House’s Arbor Room where weekday 2006 World Cup soccer games are being shown on the room’s big screen television.

“It is the biggest sport in the world and a lot of people on campus like to watch the games, so it’s great that Hart House took notice of that and are showing them here,” said Rami Ismail, a receptionist in the Hart House athletics department, while watching the first-round Tunisia versus Saudi Arabia game.

With U of T’s large and diverse student body and its location in one of the world’s most multicultural cities, it’s no surprise that during the World Cup, places on the university’s three campuses where the games are being televised are enjoying a surge in popularity. In addition to Hart House, students, faculty and staff on the St. George campus can catch the games in the first-floor lobby of Sidney Smith Hall, where about 75 people gathered to watch Poland and Germany play their first-round match.

At U of T at Scarborough, games are being shown in the student centre on televisions in the food court, in Bluff’s restaurant and on screens in the waiting area for buses and rides. The waiting area was full when Brazil and Croatia played their first-round match, said Guy Brisebois, business manager of the UTSC student centre. “The atmosphere in the room was good, very loud. And I could see that there were different people cheering for the two teams,” Brisebois said.

At U of T at Mississauga’s student centre, World Cup games are being shown in the main hall, the Blind Duck pub and in the centre’s main event room, adjacent to the pub. During the Brazil-Croatia game, the event room was full and the atmosphere “was fantastic,” said Meraj Delavari, student-centre co-ordinator at UTM. “Everyone was really into it. There was a lot of clapping, cheering and gasps.”

World Cup soccer brings multiculturalism to the fore of public life in Canada, according to Professor Peter Donnelly of the Faculty of Physical Education and Health and an expert on social issues related to sports. “Probably more than anything else, the World Cup is the time where multiculturalism shows itself most evidently in Toronto and other big cities in Canada,” said Donnelly, noting Toronto is home to people from some 190 different countries or ethnic backgrounds. “It’s kind of an ongoing celebration of multiculturalism for a month. We celebrate the complexity of our identity.”

While taking a tour of the St. George campus, Conrad Venker, a medical student from Germany who is in Toronto for an elective course at St. Michael’s Hospital, learned the World Cup games were being shown in Hart House. “There’s people here from Poland and Germany, so it’s a great place to watch the games. Now, I hope Germany scores some goals,” said Venker, during the half-time break of the Poland-Germany game, won by Germany.

Katarzyna Walczak, a U of T student and president of the university’s Polish Student Association, was in the Arbor Room watching the same Poland-Germany game with a dozen friends. “It’s a great opportunity to get together with your friends and watch the game on a big screen,” Walczak said. “Plus, there’s fans from the opposing team here, and that makes the game more interesting.”

© University of Toronto Scarborough