The fans believed USA would win – and for a day, Vancouver belonged to the US
At exactly 2.30pm on the afternoon the Women’s World Cup was won, all transit ceased operation on Granville Street.
The American Outlaws were beginning their their descent upon BC Place Stadium. Cars honked. Electric buses idled, their sparks kicking helplessly off overhead lines. Traffic on the city’s most vital thoroughfare was at the whim of the US’s biggest soccer supporters. And for several minutes on Sunday, it was going nowhere.
The mob grew by the block, pulling so many fans with blue jerseys and painted faces that the street was soon filled with thousands of revelers. It surged over curbs, along sidewalks and around stopped cars. It turned on Robson Street and pushed toward the stadium at the bottom of the hill.
The crowd began to chant… “USA! USA! USA!”
Then: “USA, we are here. Whoa! Whoa! , we are here! Whoa! Whoa!”
And at last the modern anthem of both US soccer teams: “I believe that we will win!”
For a weekend, the US took over Vancouver in an expectation that last chant would prove correct. The fans who drove flew and drove and biked here came with tickets purchased months in advance. They rented cars, reserved hotels and bought flights on an expectation the US would be in this World Cup final.
It was, as many said when asked what would have happened had the US not advanced to the championship game: “I just thought we would be here.”
I believe that we will win!
They came in costume for a coronation many felt the US had been denied in 2011. Women wore Uncle Sam top hats. Men wore red, white and blue tutus. Children dabbed at American flags painted on their faces. They hiked down Robson with an air not so much of determination but an assurance that the soccer team that has captivated a nation would hoist the trophy it nearly won in a heartbreaking loss to Japan, four years before.
Some waved flags. Some pumped their fists. Many held scarves high over their heads revealing slogans of solidarity.
“It’s in the Stars 2015.”
“Soccer City USA.”
As the march tumbled down the hill, police let intersections go free of cars, slower fans stepped out of the way and those already standing outside the stadium began to roar.
“I believe that we will win.”
Those words rang down Granville Street on the night before the Women’s World Cup was won. A line filled the sidewalk outside the Commodore Ballroom where the US hosted a pre-match party long before the scheduled 7pm start. Young women in Abby Wambach jerseys, urged families wearing matching T-shirts and soccer-loving men in shorts and sandals to join them in cheers that rang of the sides of buildings and drew jeers from the homeless perched on storefronts across the street.
They clapped. They howled. They did the wave.
The line grew, stretching the block, then turning a corner. When the doors finally opened and the fans spilled in, more fans replaced them in line. Then more fans. And more after that. Well into the night, a DJ inside yelled: “The line is still as long as it was when you came in,” and everybody cheered because this seemed a validation for a movement.
The DJ called for everybody to shout at once: “I believe that she will win!”
Privately, one network analyst worried what would happen if they didn’t win. The belief had built so much in recent days that it seemed the disappointment of a defeat would be excruciating. Vancouver has had riots before, after its hockey team, the Canucks, lost in Stanley Cup finals in 2011. And while the crowd outside BC place was too tame and festive to do anything violent, a fear lingered that the momentum built for women’s soccer – even US soccer as a whole – might cease right there on Robson Street.
Sixteen minutes into the game that worry seemed absurd. On the plazas outside, where scalpers still held to the misguided assumption they could get $500 CAN for tickets, a series of great roars came from within the stadium as American goals rocketed in the net: boom. Boom. Boom. Boom.
“I believe that we will win!”
In a fan park across the street the Japanese fans so absent in the march of the Americans gathered under a giant tent, waving flags and singing their own hopeful chants. But aside from two goals when the game already seemed out of reach, they were mostly silent. The afternoon, the World Cup and the city belonged to the US.
Then as gold confetti finished falling on the American players, their fans filed politely from the stadium they had taken over. This was not a soccer crowd like a soccer crowd you would expect after a World Cup title. The US fans spilled from the gate in a mostly satisfied stupor. A stray “USA, USA, USA” chant wafted into the early evening haze.
Huge fires to the north of Vancouver left a strange, gauzy film hanging over the city, bathing the revelers in a golden glow. This seemed to make everybody content as a much quieter mob flowed back up Robson.
“I believe that we will win!”
The team still celebrating inside the stadium had captivated one country and led to the siege of another. It pushed some fans to spend thousands of dollars on a whim and made others believe anything was possible. It prompted four former soccer teammates at Macalester College in Minnesota to go on a 50-mile hike in Washington’s Olympic Mountains and motivated two of them: Tressa Versteeg and Rose Heldorf to ride bikes from Seattle to Vancouver and back to see the US in an earlier round.
“We were all about woman power for the last month,” Heldorf said.
In a way they all were, the tens of thousands of them making their way back up Robson Street, toward Granville where the busses were running again and to wherever they had come in the expectation of the crowning of an American soccer champion.
“I believe that we will win.”
Now they have – just as everyone anticipated – come Monday, Vancouver will get its city back.