Students watch Louis Riel graduate Jonathan David in the first World Cup game

Classes at the Ecole Secondaire Publique Louis-Riel were suspended on Wednesday afternoon as a giant screen projected Team Canada’s first World Cup game in 36 years.

But the students cheered a little louder for one player in particular – Ottawa’s Jonathan David. David is a Louis-Riel graduate and played soccer on the same field as current students.

“Of course, Jonathan David. He used to be a teammate at that school. To see him do it is really special and we are here to support him,” said Year 10 student Meech Mundla. “I’m really glad I’m not in class right now and they’re playing the game!”

David graduated in 2017 and went on to play professional football in Europe. He currently plays for LOSC Lille. The 22-year-old’s passion for the game grew when he played soccer in high school.

Joe Fournier was David’s coach. He says he feels, “Excitement beyond anything I’ve ever been excited about in my life!

“It’s unbelievable that one of our former students and players is playing for our national team at the World Cup, unbelievable feeling!”

Student Radwan Doualeh met David when the soccer star was visiting his alma mater.

“I spoke to him and asked him, ‘How did you make it pro?’ Stuff like that, and he told me he worked really hard,” he says.

According to Fournier, David was a hard worker and showed talent for the game from an early age.

“We knew Jonathan was different and special on the field. He had the right qualities off the field; he was really humble, always in a good mood, never mad at anyone.

“At the same time, if I told you he was going to be the goalscorer that he is and at the World Cup, I would be lying. There are so many things that need to be aligned for this to happen and we know you it with identifying talent, it’s really hard! It’s so hard to predict, but Johnny certainly had the qualities,” says Fournier.

David is now an inspiration to athletes who dream of playing professional football.

Fournier says: “Every day when they come on the first day of school, they realize that Jonathan trained here every day, here he became obsessed with football and didn’t want to leave the field. The fact that they are in the same environment he was in is extremely motivating. Seeing how he behaves, for us as coaches you always try to tell your athletes, make the right decisions, be respectful and Jonathan is a perfect example of that!”

Justin Akili has followed David’s career.

“To be honest, I have a dream. I want to go pro… but hopefully I can play it for Real Madrid!” Akili says: “It’s just a game I love. When I play, I feel better.”

Pharrell Wakakulu is another student. He says seeing David play on the world stage “makes me excited… like I have a bigger shift to make it in the future.”

Commenting on what the whole team is doing for the game in Canada, Fournier said: “It’s just going to keep growing…qualifying for this World Cup is a particularly positive aspect of football in Canada.”

“The best time to be alive as a football fan – I’ve suffered enough!”

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