On Monday morning, the Montreal Alouettes lifted the Gray Cup at home for the first time in 13 years.
The beaming players landed at Mirabel airport, about 50 kilometers northwest of Montreal, still reveling in their championship victory Sunday night against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in Hamilton.
“I’ve been waiting my whole life to be a champion,” defenseman Marc-Antoine Dequoy told reporters from the court.
Having grown up watching the Alouettes play, he said winning the Gray Cup with his local team has been “a childhood dream.”
The Alouettes clinched the cup in the final seconds of Sunday’s game with a 28-24 upset victory over Winnipeg thanks in large part to quarterback Cody Fajardo.
Fajardo, named most valuable player in the 110th CFL championship, secured the victory with his 19-yard touchdown pass to receiver Tyson Philpot with 15 seconds left in the game.
He told reporters Monday that he couldn’t be prouder of his team.
“The way everyone wrote us off is what brought us together,” Fajardo said. “Having that cup on that plane home makes all the blood, sweat and tears worth it.”
Sunday night’s victory earned the team its first CFL title since 2010 and eighth overall.
Alouettes superfan Augustis Mantelis said he “never gave up hope” that his team would take home the cup this year.
“Since the Bombers beat us last time, we’ve gotten a lot better,” said Mantelis, who has attended 20 Gray Cup championships, including last night.
He said “all the emotions were experienced” when Fajardo made that winning pass.
“We stood up in our seats, jumped for joy… some of us started crying. I thought I was going to have a heart attack,” he said.
Mantelis said the exciting victory has created a buzz in Montreal that hasn’t been felt in more than a decade and he hopes new fans will show up at next season’s games.
Fan parade on Wednesday
Jason Maas, head coach of the Alouettes, said the team came together and “made Montreal and Quebec proud.”
“We tried hard and obviously achieved our goal,” he told reporters.
Mass said the team will enjoy celebrating in the coming days once the players regain their energy.
“When you give everything you’ve got for an entire season and it culminates in a Gray Cup win, I think you’re as exhausted as you can be,” he laughed.
SEE | Montreal wins the Gray Cup:
Maas said the team will soon be on “a completely different level” of exuberance.
The Alouettes will hold their victory parade on Wednesday at 11:30 a.m.
The festivities will begin at the corner of De Maisonneuve Boulevard and Crescent Street and go down Ste-Catherine Street to Place des Festivals.
Lack of respect for the French language.
On Monday, defensive back Dequoy addressed comments he made Sunday in an impassioned postgame interview with RDS, the French-speaking arm of TSN, where he criticized the media and the CFL for what he viewed as a lack of respect toward the Alouettes and towards the French language.
Dequoy had said that no one had believed in the team and noted the lack of French signings in the Gray Cup.
He also said TSN’s TV guide had Toronto and Winnipeg facing off in the final game before the playoffs even started.
“But you know what? Keep your English because we’re bringing the cup back to Montreal,” he shouted.
Speaking to reporters, Dequoy admitted his emotions ran a little high after the Montreal win and said he meant no disrespect to English speakers.
“The comment I said was mainly about you being able to stay with the English.” [signage],” he said.
“When you’re live after a win, it’s hard to find 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 there was a lack of respect for French Canadians and the French language.
“It’s nothing against the English,” he said.