CBS football fan enjoys World Cup experience of a lifetime
By Mark Squibb/January 20, 2023
Erick Mathiasen can’t remember a time when soccer was not a joy in his life.
“I’ve been a football fan since I was born,” said Mathiasen. “I grew up with a ball at my feet. I’m from Argentina, and for us it’s the national sport. When I was young my mom just gave me a ball and that was the only toy I needed.”
Mathiasen is now 29, and his passion for the game hasn’t faded.
He’s been involved with CBS Soccer since 2015, when he began training with the Challenge Cup Team, and began working with the Club in September 2021.
This past Fall, Mathiasen was one of well over a million people who flooded Qatar for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
“It was incredible,” said Mathiasen. “It was an amazing experience. It was so well organized. Qatar was ready to receive this many people.”
He noted that, given Qatar’s compact size, stadiums were well within reachable distances of one another, so fans could easily travel from one stadium to the next.
“It was so easy to get around,” he added. “The metros were free, the buses were free — even taking an Uber was very cheap.”
He added the alcohol ban that was implemented, which forbade fans from consuming alcohol on stadium grounds except in designated venues, actually created a better World Cup experience.
“I don’t think it took away anything from the atmosphere or the fans,” said Mathiasen . “It created a safe environment for everyone to enjoy the games.”
Mathiasen landed in Qatar on November 14, a week before the games began, and headed for home December 17.
Unfortunately, the Argentina native missed the finale on Sunday December 18, when Argentina battled France and won 4-2 in a penalty shoot out.
In total, Mathiasen took in 14 games live, beginning with a disappointing loss against Saudi Arabia.
“My first professional game, my first-time watching Messi and watching the Argentina International Team, was a game against Saudi Arabia, and we lost the first game in the Round Robin, and I was shaken, I couldn’t believe it,” said Mathiasen. “My hope going to watch Messi and going to watch the international team was that we were going to be in the finals. So, I really couldn’t believe that after that defeat in the first game, they would bring it back and be able to win it all.”
But, like most of us do when our teams are down and out, Mathiasen kept on cheering.
“Hope is the last thig you lose,” said Mathiasen. “So, I was still rooting for my team. But it was tough. The first game was a shocker, and it was very disappointing, but they pulled together. And the second game, which was against Mexico, there was an energy in the stadium, and you could cut the tension with a knife, because if one of those teams lost, they were out of the cup, so both teams were very pressured to win. In the stadium everyone was tense. But then Messi scored that first goal, and we were able to relax again.”
Mathiasen was one of 88,966 spectators in attendance for that game — the largest attendance at a World Cup match in 28 years.
“That stadium was jam-packed,” said Mathiasen. “You couldn’t fit another soul in there. It was incredible. One of the best games I’ve ever seen.”
It’s a testament to the sport’s enduring popularity that even folks who don’t count themselves among the some 3.5 billion football fans across the world still recognise the name of Argentina national team forward Lionel Messi.
Mathiasen counted it a privilege to watch Messi play live and in person.
“I can’t even describe it,” said Mathiasen. “It was allegedly Messi’s last World Cup. He’s 35, so for the next World Cup he’ll be 39, so he may not make it. Throughout my teenage years, and now as an adult, I’ve been able to watch him play and develop, and he’s becoming the greatest of all time, while I’ve been watching him play. So, for me, watching him play live before he retires was a big thing. It’s poetry in motion — when he does something, his brain must be working differently than everyone else.”
Mathiasen “absolutely” plans on attending another World Cup in the future, noting the 2026 World Cup will be hosted by Canada, the USA, and Mexico.
Apart from taking in the games this time, Mathiasen was able to connect with an old friend from Memorial University.
In fact, much of the trip was built around his friendship with former Seahawks player and Qatar native Tareq Al-Bader.
“We studied at Memorial together, we played for the Seahawks together, we were roommates for two years, and we share many, many memories,” said Mathiasen. “And he’s actually from Qatar. So, when he graduated in 2016 and went back to Qatar, I told him, ‘I will see you in 2022 — I will be there.’ So, this had been planned for pretty much six years. And when we saw each other, we had that same friendship, that same bond.”
Mathiasen and Al-Bader are certainly not alone in their passion for the game.
Most folks are in agreement that football is the most popular sport in the world, drawing fans from every corner of the globe. It’s been dubbed the ‘universal sport.’
“In my home country Argentina, football is religion; when the Argentina national team plays, nothing else happens,” said Mathiasen. “I think what makes the sport so popular is that anyone can play. Like, with basketball or volleyball for example, you have to be tall to play, because its tough if not. But in football, you can be different shapes and sizes, and everyone is welcome to play, and bring their own differences to the game. And I think that’s what makes it so popular. You don’t have to be a certain type to play… The only thing you need is a ball. And sometimes you don’t even need a ball. You can make a bundle out of a pair of socks and play. You can’t get more universal than that. It’s amazing that millions of people travelled to Qatar to watch the game, the beautiful game, as we call it, and the passion it creates in people is incredible. If you go anywhere in the world, football Is a universal language.”
He said that truth mirrors his own experience of moving to Canada in 2014.
“When I first moved here, I started making friends out playing football,” said Mathiasen. “And I still have great friendships with people like Tareq and many others.”