On Monday morning, the Montreal Alouettes hoisted the Grey Cup on home soil for the first time in 13 years.
The beaming players touched down at Mirabel airport, about 50 kilometres northwest of Montreal, still riding the high from their championship victory Sunday night against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in Hamilton.
“I’ve been waiting all my life to be a champion,” said defensive back Marc-Antoine Dequoy to reporters from the tarmac.
Having grown up watching the Alouettes play, he said it’s been “a childhood dream” to win the Grey Cup with his home team.
The Alouettes clinched the cup in the last few seconds of Sunday’s game with a 28-24 upset win over Winnipeg thanks in large part to quarterback Cody Fajardo.
Fajardo, named most valuable player at the 110th CFL championship, secured the win with his 19-yard touchdown pass to receiver Tyson Philpot with 15 seconds of the game remaining.
He told reporters Monday he couldn’t be more proud of his team.
“The way that everyone counted us out is what bonded us”,” Fajardo said. “Having that cup on that plane ride home makes all the blood, the sweat, the tears all worth it.”
Sunday night’s win earned the team its first CFL title since 2010 and its eighth overall.
Alouettes superfan Augustis Mantelis said he “never lost hope” that his team would take home the cup this year.
“Since the Bombers beat us last time, we’ve improved quite a bit,” said Mantelis, who has attended 20 Grey Cup championships, including last night’s.
He said “every emotion was experienced” when Fajardo made that game-winning pass.
“We got up in our seats, we jumped with joy … some of us started crying. I thought I was going to get a heart attack,” he said.
Mantelis said the thrilling win has created excitement in Montreal that hasn’t been felt for more than a decade and he expects new fans to turn up at next season’s games.
Parade for fans on Wednesday
Jason Maas, head coach of the Alouettes, said the team came together and “did Montreal and Quebec proud.”
“We put in the work and obviously accomplished a set goal of ours,” he told reporters.
Mass said the team will enjoy celebrating the next couple of days — once the players get their energy back.
“When you give everything you have to an entire season and it culminates into a Grey Cup win, I think you’re about as exhausted as you can possibly be,” he laughed.
WATCH | Montreal clinches the Grey Cup:
Maas said the team will be on a “whole other level” of exuberance soon.
The Alouettes will hold their victory parade Wednesday at 11:30 a.m.
The festivities will kick off at the corner of De Maisonneuve Boulevard and Crescent Street and roll down Ste-Catherine Street to Place des Festivals.
Lack of respect for French language
On Monday, defensive back Dequoy addressed comments he made Sunday in a passionate post-game interview with RDS, the francophone arm of TSN, where he criticized the media and the CFL for what he felt was a lack of respect for the Alouettes and for the French language.
Dequoy had said nobody had believed in the team and noted the lack of French signs at the Grey Cup.
He also said TSN’s TV guide had Toronto and Winnipeg facing off in the final game before the playoffs even began.
“But you know what? Keep your English because we’re going to bring the cup back to Montreal,” he shouted.
Speaking to reporters, Dequoy admitted that his emotions got a little high after Montreal’s triumph and said he meant no disrespect toward anglophones.
“The comment I said was mostly about you can keep the English [signage],” he said.
“When you’re live after a victory, it’s hard to actually have the right words.”
He said his message was that the CFL is a bilingual league, just as Canada is as a country, and he felt French Canadians and the French language had been disrespected.
“It’s nothing against the English,” he said.