From Mexico to Qatar, Jamie Lowery's Canadian World Cup adventure continues

DOHA, Qatar — Thirty-six years later, Jamie Lowery is back at the World Cup.

Lowery, one of two amateurs on the Canadian team that played at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, has returned to the soccer showcase, this time as a fan with a group of eight friends. They plan to meet some fellow Victoria fans in the days to come at the tournament.

Originally it was just to watch the Canada games. But the group, which is staying at local apartments they secured, saw other matches they wanted to take in.

"We're going to six games total. I may go to nine," he said.

A native of Port Alberni, B.C., Lowery played for the University of Victoria Vikes and Vic West in the local Vancouver Island league. He was good enough to catch the attention of the national team, making his full national team debut in 1983 at the age of 22.

He had won seven international 'A' caps by the time he made it to Mexico, appearing in two games against the U.S. in 1983 and matches against Paraguay, Uruguay, Mexico, England and Wales in 1986.

Lowery didn't have long to wait to make his World Cup debut. Coach Tony Waiters sent him in for Mike Sweeney in the 54th minute of Canada's opener against France.

"Tony said 'You're going in,'" Lowery recalled

The instructions from Waiters were simple.

"Do not let Michel Platini play … Do not let them play or they'll destroy us."

At the time, Platini was the three-time European Footballer of the Year and France was European champion.

"I was a defensive midfielder. Full of running, (which was) Tony Waiters' forte at that time," said Lowery.

Despite Platini's gilt-edged credentials, Lowery said there was no fear.

"Somebody said (later) 'Weren't you nervous?'" Lowery recalled.

"I said 'What did I have to be nervous about? He can pass, I can pass. He can trap, I can trap. I'm expecting him to do it better than me because he's the European player of the year for three years. I'm not,'" he added with a chuckle.

France eventually won 1-0, dispatching the underdog Canadians on a 79th-minute goal by Jean Pierre-Papin.

Lowery recalls standing in the narrow tunnel below Estadio Nou Camp in Leon, waiting to take the field with the star-studded French side alongside.

"You're looking over there and you're going 'Oh my God.' Here are these seasoned professionals."

Lowery says the Canadians earned $1,000 a game for their World Cup adventure. He believes the French each made $200,000 with Platini earning US$25,000 for just talking to the media.

"It was kind of like a bonus to me. I didn't expect to have a cent I was going to the World Cup," said Lowery.

He recalls proudly Platini telling the press after the Canada game he didn't realize a country that played hockey was this good at soccer.

"I still remember (those words) to this day," Lowery said proudly. "And I will take it to my grave. He was very complimentary."

The Canadians went on to lose to Hungary and the Soviet Union, both by 2-0 scores.

Lowery roomed in Mexico with the other amateur on the team — forward George Pakos, who was a water mechanic in Victoria.

"We were two guys that just played soccer," said the 61-year-old Lowery who has spent the last 22 years driving a city transit bus in Victoria.

Lowry played 32 times for Canada from 1981 to 1991, including 19 international "A" appearances. He scored his only goal in his final match — a 3-1 loss to Mexico before 45,797 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum at the inaugural 1991 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

After the World Cup, Lowery played professionally for the Vancouver 86ers, appearing in 112 Canadian Soccer League matches from 1987 to 1992.

He was one of three Vancouver Islanders on the 1986 World Cup team, along with Victoria’s Pakos and Ian Bridge.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 22, 2022

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press