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Canada froze Mexico in the World Cup soccer playoffs in Edmonton. Will it happen again in Hamilton?

It doesn’t have to be fun playing football in extreme cold. In fact, Jelani Smith, head of football operations for Hamilton Forge FC, says it is “difficult” and “very disturbing”.

But when Canada’s National Men’s Soccer Team meets the United States at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton on Jan. 30 for a World Cup qualifier, Smith said, freezing conditions will most likely be a challenge for him. the visiting team.

“They’re out of season so they’re not in great shape and then… they move out of the pre-seasons to warmer places, so Arizona, Florida or California,” said Smith, a former pro player. Radio-Canada Hamilton.

“Having to come back here and having to deal with the weather in Hamilton away would be very difficult, which would give the Canadian team the advantage.

The World Cup is set to take place in November and December in Qatar, with qualifying underway.

For the Hamilton game, playing in the cold at the end of January would be unpleasant for both teams.

“Bad weather always makes it difficult, but playing in the cold is particularly difficult from a player’s point of view,” said Smith. “Having to warm up, stay warm, stay mobile and flexible throughout the game – it’s tough in cold weather. ”

On January 30 in Hamilton, the temperature ranged from –4 to –11 ° C with the wind chill, according to Environment Canada.

“Obviously, as far as the guys are concerned [sitting on] the benches it’s just painful or very cold not to move, and the guys who are on their ground especially their breathing, anytime it’s cold it’s a little harder to breathe and harder to lungs.”

Jelani Smith, chief of soccer operations at Forge FC, believes cold weather gives Canada advantage in game against United States (Submitted by Nico Correa)

Smith said playing in the cold affects virtually every part of the body.

“Your feet are frozen, it’s harder to breathe, your hands are cold, a lot of congestion is happening, your chest is starting to ache, the humidity is not there – so these conditions are still affecting the game.”

“It really shocks your muscles”

Jayashree Pathak, goaltender for the Hamilton McMaster University women’s soccer team – has been in competitive soccer for 16 years and has firsthand experience playing in the cold.

Pathak, 22, has been on teams such as Aurora League 1, King City Royals and Unionville Soccer Club.

She said some of her games were “pretty cold weather”.

“When we went to the nationals in my second year [at McMaster] … There was snow on the pitch the day of our game. “

Pathak said she was most recently playing in the cold when her team met Nipissing University in North Bay, Ont., In October.

“It really shocks your muscles in a lot of ways because when you warm up you are literally like warming up. You warm up your body, your muscles,” she said.

“That cold. It’s kind of a counter, you know, thwarts that process. So it’s a lot of constantly keeping your body moving.”

Canada froze Mexico in the World Cup soccer playoffs in Edmonton.  Will it happen again in Hamilton?
Jayashree Pathak, goaltender for the Hamilton McMaster University women’s soccer team, has been playing competitive soccer for 16 years. (Submitted by Jayashree Pathak)

Pathak believes the Canadian team will have the advantage of playing in the cold.

“When you grow up playing Canadian soccer you are used to playing in all kinds of weather conditions, and that I think gives the benefit of having that kind of experience,” she said.

“When you’re a kid in Canada and you play soccer, you play in all kinds of environments, so you get used to it more and more. “

Special permission required for leggings

Smith said team leaders and equipment staff would typically give players upper body gloves and underarmor, but special permission is needed for leggings.

“Some guys wear neck warmers,” Smith said, adding that hats aren’t allowed “unless you maybe are a guard.”

“Sometimes we try to get heating pads for their hands and feet [pouches that insert into gloves and shoes], but it really depends on the governing body regulations if they allow them to wear leggings. If they do, the leggings should match the shorts, but generally you don’t see players playing with leggings. ”

Smith said the soccer ball is also affected by the extreme cold.

“The ball itself is more like a stone because it loses some of its elasticity. It’s no fun, to say the least,” he said.

“In my personal experience, it’s very unpleasant. It’s just that your feet are numb, isn’t it? And hitting anything or even any movement that you feel is very unpleasant and unsettling … it’s unbearable. “

Home team advantage

Canada defeated Costa Rica in Edmonton on November 12. The match took place in conditions 1 ° C warmer.

On November 16, Team Canada beat Mexico 2-1, also in Edmonton, where snow accumulated on the side of the field.

Hamilton’s game could be one of the coldest in the series.

“I think it will be unsettling for the US national team to come here. A lot of players play either in warmer climates in Europe or in the UK, and if not, other players are playing. [Major League Soccer]”said Smith.

“It was obvious that Edmonton made the Mexican team very, very, very uncomfortable when they played, not to mention the Commonwealth surface which is not the best either,” he said. added.

Forge FC strength and conditioning coach Jacob Miller agrees the cold will be an advantage for Canada against the United States

Canada froze Mexico in the World Cup soccer playoffs in Edmonton.  Will it happen again in Hamilton?
Canada is celebrating its 4-1 victory over Panama after World Cup qualifying in Toronto in October. (Chris Young / The Canadian Press)

“I think it probably is, given that the body adapts to the things it’s been exposed to,” Miller said.

“We had, even recently, the playoffs here a short while ago… very cold temperatures.

“It would be safe to assume that we will be much more acclimated to these conditions than the opposition could be,” Miller added.

Uncertain capacity limit

It’s not clear whether the Canadians on the home team will have a full-capacity crowd to cheer them on.

The City of Hamilton confirmed this week that although there is a 50 percent capacity limit for spectator events, under pandemic rules it is only set until January 26.

Tickets for the game – in a hall that holds around 24,000 – sold out quickly, as CBC reported in December.

“Right now I think we’re fine until we hear something different,” Smith said.

Either way, “this will be an exciting opportunity for Hamilton sports,” Smith said.

“I know Hamilton is a great sporting city with Forge FC and Ticats. To be able to host a World Cup qualifier in such an important game against a viable and competitive country… it’s exciting for Hamilton, for Tim Hortons Field and for Canada Soccer, ”he said.

“I think we have to get everyone out en masse. I hope it’s not too cold for the fans, but cold for the guys from the United States.”