“Ottawa is so clean you can eat off the sidewalks,” said 12-year-old Kaitlyn Haughey, a center midfielder with Philadelphia Soccer Club. “It’s clean, clean, clean.”
Haughey and members of her under-13 girls youth soccer team were recently in the nation’s capital to watch some FIFA Women’s World Cup matches. Team USA’s arrival at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier drew an emotional reaction from 13-year-old midfielder Mia Gallagher. “I saw Abby Wambach walk off the team bus and she was only a foot away from me,” said Gallagher, her eyes welled with tears. “Ottawa is where I saw that happen. I’ll never forget this trip for as long as I live. Ottawa’s a nicer version of Philadelphia.”
Twenty-three players from Avon Grove High School in southeastern Pennsylvania spent a week at the University of Ottawa residences and trained with the West Ottawa Soccer Club. The school group watched Germany-Sweden, England-Norway and the United States-China matches at TD Place Stadium within Lansdowne Park. “The stadium is so beautiful and new-looking,” said 17-year-old Jessica Simkins, a Grade 12 student. “All the people were so nice. It’s like everybody is your best friend.”
Approximately 50 players, parents and coaches with the South Jersey Barons youth program made the trip to Ottawa from Thetford, New Jersey. “We went to the Clock Tower on Bank Street and they accommodated us at the last minute,” said Matt Evans, a part-time coach. “The chowder soup there was simply outstanding. Then, we had to get to the game and the public transportation system was right on time, so that was perfect.”
Jessi Paul and her travel partner, Brian Rockas, both hail from Cleveland, Ohio. They formed a strong impression despite only being in the city for a few days. “We were talking earlier about maybe moving here one day,” said Paul. “The people are all extremely nice, the food is amazing and it’s so clean. We’ll come here again, again and again. We absolutely love it.”
Said Rockas: “We’ve been walking around everywhere because it’s so easy to navigate. East, West, North, South. Everything’s laid out perfectly. There’s always something to do here. If you got bored here it’s because you’re not trying.”
Even members of two-time World Cup champion Team USA praised Ottawa’s appeal.
“The people in Ottawa have made us feel like royalty,” said U.S. midfielder Carli Lloyd, whose 51st minute header was the lone goal in a 1-0 victory over China in Friday night’s quarterfinal. “We’ve enjoyed the cool vibe of the downtown markets and we’ve really felt the love from the people.”
There were a total of nine World Cup matches at TD Place Stadium throughout June, but none were louder than the crowd of 24,141 on Friday evening. “An incredible atmosphere,” said U.S. defender Becky Sauerbrunn. “It was like a home game for us. American flags and jerseys everywhere. Earlier, my family was here and we watched the boats go up and down the locks. There’s a lot to see in a small area.”
U.S. defender Ali Krieger has been to dozens of countries while representing the United States over her soccer career. She rates Ottawa tops on the ‘clean’ scale.
“I thought Munich was one of the cleanest cities I had ever been to, but Ottawa has clearly taken the lead,” smiled Krieger. “I respect that so much. To be able to go out and walk around Ottawa and see how the people care about their city is extremely refreshing.”