SPORTS

Goalie says Canadian soccer team is a family and the whole country is part of it

04/24/2015 11:16 EDT | Updated 07/22/2015 03:59 EDT
VANCOUVER - Veteran goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc has issued a call to arms to Canadians in advance of this summer's Women's World Cup.

"We're not doing this for ourselves, we're doing this for the country," said LeBlanc. "But we need the country to be a part of it."

The charismatic goalie, a 35-year-old from Maple Ridge, B.C., who is one of the team leaders, is urging fans attending host Canada's games during the June 6 to July 5 tournament to wear red and be loud.

"There will be several moments in this World Cup but there will be one key moment where this crowd, playing at home, will be the difference for us," LeBlanc told The Canadian Press.

"Affecting the game the way they can," she continued. "Affecting the game when we are tired in the 89th minute."

The Canadian women stirred the country at the 2012 Olympics in London, taking the U.S. to overtime in a gutsy semifinal performance before dispatching the French in stoppage time to win bronze.

This summer they want a partnership with their fans.

"There's nothing about our team that isn't about making this country proud," said LeBlanc, who has made more than 100 appearances for Canada. "Every single player on this team understands that.

"We don't do it for ourselves. We don't do this for the name on the back of our jersey, we do this for right here," she said, pointing to her heart. "And that Canadian flag and making them proud. But we want Canadians to be the difference-maker.

"We don't take this as pressure playing at home. It's an honour, it's a glory, it's like a dream come true. But Canada now needs to understand that this team is a family and they are part of our family. So act like it. Back us.

"It's not going to be a perfect World Cup. We're not going to play perfect every single game. We're not going to be the perfect story. But what we need from them is just the support and the loud, proud pride of Canada."

LeBlanc says she and her teammates have got goose bumps from attending Canucks or Whitecaps games, or watching other Canadian NHL playoff games, where fans ramp up the volume of the anthem when it comes to the words "True North."

"Wow, imagine that at the World Cup," said LeBlanc.

The power of fan support was shown at the London Olympics, she said. While there weren't many Canadians at the stadiums there, the players heard them.

"Now imagine a stadium full of fans that had the passion that those people had in London."

And she says the Canadian team, after losing to the U.S., was energized by footage of fans showing their support back home.

"People need to understand the importance of the role they play in what inspires us," said LeBlanc.

The 23-woman Canadian World Cup roster will be announced Monday in Vancouver.

Canada, ranked eighth in the world by FIFA, will play No. 16 China on June 6 and No. 17 New Zealand on June 11th in Edmonton before completing first-round play June 15 against the 12th-ranked Netherlands in Montreal.

Vancouver, Winnipeg, Ottawa and Moncton are also hosting World Cup games at the 24-team tournament.

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