An Orillia family was in Qatar on Thursday to cheer on Canada in the FIFA World Cup.
Karmi Shami, his wife, Erin, and daughters, Ava, Lauren and Mira, are currently on a 10-month trip around the world.
“This has been a plan many years in the making,” Shami explained, noting he and his wife are teachers at Orillia Secondary School on a sabbatical. “We’ve taken our kids out of school to travel the world and go to places where they can learn different cultures and languages.”
The trip started in Egypt, where they are staying for two months while taking in some side trips such as the World Cup. The Shamis are going to meet up with some family in England for Christmas, and then will be heading to France for six months, where their children will be enrolled in a public school.
While Shami attended the Argentina-versus-Poland game by himself Wednesday, the whole family tagged along to cheer on their home country Thursday as Canada took on Morocco.
“The experience was amazing,” Shami said. “It wasn’t a game Canada could advance on, but still, the atmosphere was incredible.”
He described the feeling inside the stadium as loud, festive and fun.
“There were quite a few Canadian fans in the stands,” he said. “People were decked out in gear. We had a couple of Mounties around us, a couple of guys wearing hockey helmets, and everybody had flags and tattoos.”
The expectations for Canada coming into the World Cup were high, so Shami says it wasn’t surprising to see so many Canadian fans in attendance.
“There are also a lot of Canadians who work in the surrounding gulf countries,” he said. “There are a lot of people here who didn’t just fly from Canada but are already in the area and have come to support their home country.”
Shami says his daughters, who are 12, nine and five years old, had never experienced anything quite like the World Cup before.
“It was overwhelming, to say the least,” he said. “I don’t think anybody is going to have a voice tomorrow, especially our youngest, who was probably screaming the loudest.”
While making it to the World Cup for the first time since 1986 is an incredible achievement for Canada, Shami says it’s disappointing the team was unable to advance to the playoff rounds.
“It’s unfortunate that they got put in a really strong group,” he said. “They had to face Belgium, which is one of the world’s best, Croatia, who was the runner-up the last time, and Morocco, who is ranked within the top 25 in the world, if not better, and they ended up at the top of the pool.”
He and his family would like to travel the globe again if the opportunity presents itself.
“We have to factor in the ages of our kids and factor in what their life is going to be like,” he said. “It’s been a big change for them, taking them away from their routines, activities, friends, and regular school. It’s a lot for them.”