Play football. See the world. A branch of the military used that slogan once upon a time but football wasn’t part of the hook.
For Red Deer’s Joe McQuay however, it’s the scenario which played out for him, playing football for the U-19 Team Canada squad and visiting places like Arlington, Texas, Milan, Italy and Kuwait within the span of several weeks.
The loss against the United States in Texas wasn’t the outcome the team was looking for and the same could be said for McQuay as he wasn’t picked to be on the roster headed overseas for the World Championship in Kuwait.
“The list came out and I wasn’t on the list so I figured, ok, it was a great experience,” said the recent graduate of Notre Dame High School.
But then he received a phone call which changed his summer plans slightly. A player on the national team roster was injured and he was added to the team.
“I was actually up in Edmonton with the Golden Bears workout and they called my house and my mom called me and she said ‘Joe, what are you doing this weekend?’ and I said not too much and then she said ‘Well, let’s go to Kuwait’.”
Training camp for the team was in Milan for six days of two-a-day practices in temperatures reaching the low 30s Celsius.
“We didn’t get to see much of Italy,” said the six ft. six-inch, 260 lb offensive lineman who went through the ranks of Red Deer Minor football and is a graduate of the Notre Dame high school system. “We just called it a business trip so just practice, eat and sleep.”
While the location changed, the weather didn’t cool off as the players stepped off the plane at 7 a.m. and into a blast furnace of 38C.
“That was a struggle but it was really nice because our hotel was a five star hotel because the Prince of Kuwait covered all of the fees for the tournament.”
The Prince is apparently very interested in growing the game in his country and there was a local team entered in the tournament but Canada wasn’t such a polite guest, thrashing the Kuwati team 91-0.
“We couldn’t do anything (about the score),” said McQuay.
“We’d run a play and then we’d score. We pulled back as much as we could without actually quitting.”
The Kuwati players were game to keep going but the level of their play was much closer to a Bantam program or maybe a lesser high school program and not close to the international game, he said.
On a personal level, McQuay says it really helped him with his outlook on the game, being the youngest player on the team and it was some good preparation for when he steps onto the field this fall at the University of Alberta.
He added, the speed of the game and the strength of the older players was a real eye-opener.
“It was also different because we were playing American rules while we were over there so there is no yard on the line,” he said. But he prefers the Canadian game more.
This was the last time he will be age-eligible for the international game but there is a push to get football into the Summer Olympics so he might get to wear the maple leaf another time but for now he’ll cherish this lasting memory.
“Representing my country was something I loved doing. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and my goal when I was over there was to seize the moment and I think I did winning a silver medal.”
A good end to a business trip.