Calgary bars to open in the morning for World Cup fans

The Ship & Anchor on 17th Avenue S.W. will open early through the World Cup to serve fans gathering to watch the games.  (Dave Gilson/CBC - image credit)
The Ship & Anchor on 17th Avenue S.W. will open early through the World Cup to serve fans gathering to watch the games. (Dave Gilson/CBC - image credit)

Not since 1986 has the Canadian men's national team played in a FIFA World Cup.

And the sight of Canadian soccer returning to one of the biggest stages in all sport is not something Tasos Doganis is going to miss.

The Calgarian is set to travel more than 11,000 kilometres to Qatar, where the nearly month-long tournament is scheduled to start Sunday.

"First time going to a World Cup, it's going to be marked off my bucket list, especially watching Canada play," Doganis said Thursday from his garage, which is lined with scarves from his soccer-related travels.

Dave Gilson/CBC
Dave Gilson/CBC

While he'll be in Doha to watch all three of Canada's group stage games, Canadian soccer fans will also be cheering at home, although much earlier in the morning than they might be used to.

'It's gonna be busy'

Bars in the city are planning to open early — in some cases, even before sunrise — to serve drinks and food to those who've cleared out their schedules to digest as much of the World Cup as possible.

Nicola Trolez, marketing and promotions manager with the Ship & Anchor in Calgary's Beltline neighborhood, said the bar will open at 5:30 a.m. Monday for the England-Iran match.

WATCH | Calgary bars to open early for FIFA World Cup fans:

"It's gonna be busy," she said, describing the morning crowds expected during the 29-day tournament. "This is the holy grail of soccer."

For the rest of the group stage, which is scheduled to last through Dec. 2, the Ship & Anchor plans to open at 8:30 a.m. ahead of the games that are set to kickoff at 9 a.m. During the knockout stage, the bar plans to open even earlier — at 7:30 a.m.

There's a 10-hour time difference between Alberta and Qatar, a tiny Gulf state that will be the first Middle Eastern country to host a World Cup. Games there will be played in the evening to avoid the daytime heat, which can still reach temperatures over 30 C even at this time of year.

Breakfast and beers 

Also getting up early in Calgary will be Nanica Brown, a member of the Canadian Foot Soldiers and the Voyageurs sports clubs, which support Calvary FC and the Canadian national team, respectively. Doganis is also a member of both clubs.

Dave Gilson/CBC
Dave Gilson/CBC

"I'm absolutely going to be getting up really early to watch as many of the World Cup matches as possible, especially in our group," Brown said.

She plans to drive from her south Calgary home, picking up fellow fans along the way to attend watch parties at Calgary bars.

"Have breakfast and a couple pints in the morning, sounds like the perfect way to start the day," Brown said.

The Canadian national team's first group stage match is set for Wednesday against Belgium, the No. 2 team in FIFA rankings. Kickoff will be at noon Mountain Time.

At the Ship & Anchor, former Team Canada players and current Calvary FC players will attend the watch party, Trolez said, who described the World Cup as "fantastic for pubs."

"It's a really great lift during hours when you're typically not that busy," she said.

Normally, bars and restaurants in Calgary can't serve alcohol to customers early in the morning. However, the Alberta Gaming, Liquor & Cannabis commission issued a blanket licence for the city allowing bars and other establishments to serve customers early during the World Cup, Trolez said.

'Looks at us now'

Doganis's journey to Qatar started with a joke.

He was with a friend in Edmonton watching the World Cup qualifier game last year when Canada beat Mexico 2-1. In excitement, he flipped his friend's beer in the air, and his friend quipped that he had to buy him another one in Doha.

"Look at us now," Doganis said, "We're going to Doha, and I have to buy him a beer."

Like his fellow Voyageurs, he has watched the Canadian team develop under coach John Herdman to reclaim a spot in the World Cup after an absence of nearly four decades.

"This team is actually for real, they're not a joke," Doganis said. "They're not going to go and just humiliate themselves."

Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images
Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images

Doganis estimates that 3,000 to 4,000 Canadians might be traveling to Doha for the World Cup, including roughly 1,000 Voyageurs, who are planning to bring as many Canadian flags as they can to wave in supporter sections.

How far could the Canadian team go? Doganis believes Croatia and Morocco are beatable, although the game against No. 2 Belgium will be tough.

"If they don't make it out [of the group stage], they've done well for us so far," Doganis said. "It's not like we're going to walk away from this team."

The match against Croatia is set for Nov. 27 at 9 a.m. MT. The match against Morocco is scheduled for Dec. 1 at 8 a.m. MT.

Should Canada come out in the top two of its group, the team will move on to the knockout stage, which stars with a round of 16 and advances to the final.