Sask. members of Team Canada soaking up football world championship experience

Members of Team Canada are soaking up the experience of a lifetime at the Women’s World Football Championships in Vantaa, Finland.

Team Canada took off to Finland last month with a strong Saskatchewan contingent. Seventeen of the 45 players on the roster were born in Saskatchewan and many of them play football for either the Regina Riot or Saskatoon Valkyries.

“I think it’s a testament to how awesome Football Saskatchewan has been,” offensive lineman Alyssa Funk said from the team’s hotel lobby Friday. “I think that’s where it starts from … We’re really well supported as females in Saskatchewan and we’re super lucky for that.

“Not everyone can say the same.”

Fellow offensive lineman Betsy Mawdsley said traveling and playing with so many familiar teammates and rivals enhances the trip. Once the roster was finalized, she said it was easy to bury any interprovincial rivalry players may have between the Valkyries and Riot.

“It is nice that we have each other and we can lean on each other and you get to travel with your favorite people. That being said, one thing that the Team Canada program does really well is we’re all one team, and that starts from the day we show up at camp. You are no longer a member of the Valkyries or the Riot,” she said.

Funk is a veteran member of the team after bringing home a silver medal in 2017. After two years of COVID-19 complications delaying or canceling evaluation camps and tournaments, she had trouble believing the competition was actually happening.

“I think for me, it took us landing in Europe to be like, ‘OK. We’re actually here, and we get to do this,'” she said. “Grateful is the perfect word.”

For the first time in the program’s history, Canada won’t be bringing home a silver medal after historically losing out to Team USA in the gold medal final of the eight-team tournament.

The No. 2-ranked Canadians were victims of a massive upset on Wednesday. No. 6 seed Great Britain scored a touchdown with two seconds on the clock to snatch a 20-13 win from the Canadians and move on to play the United States for gold. Canada, which has won silver at the last three world championships, will now play Finland in the bronze medal game on Sunday.

Canada previously beat Australia in its quarterfinal opener last Saturday by a score of 33-6. Team Canada rookie Emmarae Dale said she is doing her best to stay grounded and enjoy the experience despite the difficult loss.

“Just be present in the moment. Remember that we’re just doing our game, doing our jobs (and) at the end of the day just playing (the) sport we love. But it is kind of crazy to know that we’ we’re not in Kansas anymore,” she said.

With the home fans ready to make Sunday’s environment as difficult as possible, Funk knows it will be a tough contest.

“They’re going to be loud. They’re hungry, right? They want to win at home. So I think they’re gonna come out. They’re gonna come on hard. It’s going to be a really, really good game,” she said.

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