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Soccer world cup a dream event for Powell River Villa goalkeeper

"The way I thought about it, when am I ever going to go to the Middle East? I thought I might as well go and take that experience in." ~ Matt Liknes
SUPER FAN: Proudly wearing his Canadian colours, local soccer goalkeeper and fan Matt Liknes takes in a game at the FIFA World Cup of Soccer in Qatar. He was able to attend nine games, including Canada versus Croatia, where Canada scored its first-ever goal in world cup competition.

After the trip of a lifetime, Powell River Villa goalkeeper Matt Liknes has returned from the FIFA World Cup of Soccer after witnessing nine games, including being in attendance for Canada’s first goal.

Liknes set his sights on the world cup a year ago. After deciding to go, he engaged in the raffling system announced for games.

“I put my name in for every ticket that I could, except for the final, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to afford that; I won eight tickets through that raffle,” said Liknes. “It was done before all the teams had qualified. At that time, Canada was almost guaranteed a spot, so I decided I would make the commitment. I put my money down on the tickets.”

Liknes said unfortunately, he did not win any Canada games in the draw, but he was able to find a Canada versus Croatia ticket on the resale app.

“In the end, it was nine games when I picked up that ticket,” said Liknes. “It was cool being there as a neutral for some of those games. There were some games where I didn’t really have a horse in the race.

“I had Denmark versus Australia, where it was just a cool game to be at. How many times will you get the chance to hang out with a bunch of Australians?”

Liknes said this was a solo trip. He made all of the arrangements himself, buying tickets from FIFA and getting his accommodations in one of the fan villages that had been constructed for the tournament. He said that was fun because everyone was there for the world cup. He met a large number of soccer fans from many parts of the globe.

“We all had similar interests,” said Liknes.

His first game for the tournament was on the second day, with the United States facing Wales.

“The place was bumping,” said Liknes.

A highlight for Liknes was the Canada versus Croatia game, which Canada lost 4-1, but Canadian soccer phenom Alphonso Davies scored in the opening minutes of the game. Liknes said other standouts in the game included Tajon Buchanan and Stephen Eustáquio, even though it wasn’t the best show against Croatia.

Iconic players

Seeing the best soccer players in the world was an amazing experience for Liknes. He said he lucked out, getting tickets for Argentina and Portugal. He was able to see both Lionel Messi (Argentina) and Cristiano Rinaldo (Portugal) score.

“It was incredible,” said Liknes. “They are getting older, but they are still, by far, the best. Whenever Rinaldo makes a run, instantly, three people are sprinting out trying to shut him down because they know how good he is. Whenever Messi would pick the ball up at centre, everyone stands up because they know something is going to happen.

“The amount of respect the players have for those two is incredible to see because they know these guys are different.”

Liknes said his favourite game was Portugal versus South Korea. Towards the end of the match, it looked like Korea was going to go out, but they scored in the 94th minute to go up 2-1. Liknes was in the Korean end and they “went ballistic.”

“They realized they weren’t safe because Uruguay was winning against Ghana 2-0,” said Liknes. “As it was, Korea won their game 2-1 and they needed Ghana to not let in another goal.

“We all stayed. All the Korean players were out in the middle of the field. Once the news came in that the game was finished, they started partying. It was the coolest experience, and it was an upset. They got thrashed in the next round, but in the moment, it was great.”

Souvenir scarves

Liknes said all of the stadiums opened three hours before game time, so he would get to the venues when the doors opened for most games. He said there were activities before the games so there were opportunities to stay busy until match time. Liknes collects match day scarves, so he picked up 11 scarves, including one Canada one and one Qatar one.

“They show the teams that played, the stadium and the date,” said Liknes. “They are great souvenirs. I have a collection at home hung up on my wall, so I need to get a new rack to hang them all up.”

The stadiums were impressive, according to Liknes. To help beat the heat, seats had air conditioning. He said all of the seats he had for the games were incredible. There was only one time, in the Argentina versus Saudi Arabia game, where he was high up, in a stadium holding 90,000 people. The rest of the time, he was closer to the action on the field.

“I splurged on the Canada versus Croatia ticket because obviously, it was my home team,” said Liknes. “It was centre field, just a little bit up. It was a great ticket.”

Liknes stayed in Qatar for 15 nights and with travel, was gone for 18 days.

“It was incredible,” said Liknes. “The way I thought about it, when am I ever going to go to the Middle East? I thought I might as well go and take that experience in.”

Liknes said the calibre of soccer he witnessed in the world cup was the peak of what he has seen. He said he has made a trip to England where he has seen Premier League games, but the world cup was on another level.

Liknes said he proudly wore Canadian team colours during his stay in Qatar, and he also wore the orange of the Netherlands when he went to see the national team play Qatar. His mother has Dutch roots.

The trip exceeded his expectations in every way.

“I went there thinking I would be a neutral fan in the crowd, but you get gripped in,” said Liknes. “The games just flew by. I was so into them.”

He has been playing soccer at the highest local level with Villa in the Vancouver Island Soccer League since he was 14, when he started training with the club. He played his first game at 15.

“It’s almost been half my life,” said Liknes.

Itch for 2026

With the next FIFA World Cup scheduled for Canada, the United States and Mexico in 2026, Liknes is looking forward to attending more games. Although there has been talk of games being played at BC Place, Liknes would like to go further afield.

“I’ve got the itch for it now,” he said. “The games in Canada would be cool but I’d like to go to Mexico and watch. Going to the Azteca in Mexico City, which is historic, would be great.”

The FIFA World Cup final will be played on December 18, beginning at 7 am. Argentina will face either France or Morocco in the championship match.