This being my fourth year shooting the World Cup in Toronto photography project, I’ve still only once been with there to photograph fans of the country that won the championship in real time. In 2006 I was on College Street when Italy defeated France in a shoot-out, epic photos pursued. In 2010, I was with the Netherlands fans as Spanish celebrants swung from TTC lines. In 2014, I got some half-assed Argentina fan photos before having to leave for an actual paid gig in Vaughan. All that being said, Croatia might not have won the championship today, but there is no place in the GTA I would have rather been than Croatia Park in Mississauga. It was magic. It was thousands deep. It was Croatia World Cup Finals Toronto. Man, I loved it! Croatia fans, you are spectacular!
Since my last visit to Croatia Park in Mississauga, a lot had changed. The stakes were much higher of course, but then again, how awesome is it to make it to the FIFA World Cup Finals. The real change was in the presentation. Two massive screens were added to the park so at least a thousand more people could actually watch the game. What’s hard to believe is that they only had 3 modest sized screens in other games. Scratch that, they went big for this final and it was well worth it. The sound was awesome, the picture was awesome, not a single technical difficulty. Great set-up.
To set the scene, when I arrived at 8:45, there were already hundreds of fans there and a drone was flying overhead carrying a Croatian flag. I love the smell of Croatian flags on drones in the morning.
Date: July 15, 2018
Score of game: France 4, Croatia 2
Location: Croatia Parish Park near Mississauga Rd and Eglinton Avenue West, Mississauga, ON
Estimated number of fans at location: 2000
My one and only selfie this entire tournament!
Croatia scores it’s first goal to tie the game 1-1.
France eventually ran away with it, and it wasn’t quite as exciting as other Croatia games at Croatia Park, but fans stayed into it until the end.
The second Croatian goal to trail 4-2.
Nearing the end, there wasn’t much fire left. This shot though reminded me of a shot I took in the 2006 World Cup at Croatia Park, 12 years ago. Everything is different including the jersey, the score, the look and feel of the photo, but it’s the exact same spot and the direction of the eye, the sceptical hopefulness, almost in prayer, is the same. At least, that’s the way I see it.
Game over. No shame in finishing second in the world from a country with a population of only 4 million people. Classy end to a great run.
Anther amazing year and another fully humbled photographer. It is such a blessing to be a part of such a magical city where so many fans of so many different countries can share their love of sport and the beautiful game. I love your passion, your embrace and your vulnerability in showing such highs and such lows. Thanks for letting me be a part of it. I’ll see you all in 2022.
All photos by commercial photographer Joseph Michael Howarth of Joseph Michael Photography.