My football Experience in Europe: What it Means to Be a True Fan.
While there is a growing interest for soccer in Canada, it is difficult to say that it is more popular than hockey, basketball, or baseball - latter 2 especially due to the success of the Raptors and the Blue Jays in the recent years. Instead, soccer is often considered the “auxiliary” sport for numerous people. They don’t follow it too closely and they play it occasionally.
As a huge soccer fan, it was a bit disappointing to hear people saying things like “man, Toronto FC sucks, why would you watch them play?” or even “I support Barcelona/Manchester United (or any other major clubs) but Toronto FC is too boring to watch”. Frankly, I was basically doing the same thing - watching the Premier League/La Liga, but then not watching Toronto FC unless it’s an important game. While the past couple years of success have upped the number of fans, there is still a long way to go.
After experiencing the lack of the “soccer vibe” in Toronto, I came to England with the thought that I would get to experience the soccer at its finest while also enjoying some of the best atmospheres in the world. It certainly didn’t disappoint, and I learned a few things about the sport as well, mostly in regards to how to be a proper soccer fan.
What I realized the most is that perhaps people need to reconsider how they support soccer in Canada. It appears as if people are waiting for the Canadian teams to perform before following them closely.You don’t hear soccer fans proclaiming that they are TFC Fans. Instead, it’s easy to hear people moaning about player and team performances. While the complaints may be justified, it probably does more harm than good.
This is something that European soccer fans seem to understand much better. When I was watching a game in Munich (Bayern vs. Hoffenheim), I was shocked to see the team go down 1-0. For one of the best clubs in the world, how can they possibly get off to such a poor start? However, something even more shocking happened: the crowd got up, the fans around me urged me to stand and get behind the players for the next 4-5 minutes. The crowd got LOUDER as the game went on and the team started playing much better. At the end, the game ended in a draw, which is a huge disappointment for a club of such high standards, but the fans applauded and appreciated the players’ effort (in truth, it was probably one of their worst performances thus far).
Although I initially wanted to watch as many lower level league games as possible, I haven't been able to (living in London is beyond expensive, and tickets are often sold out). Nevertheless, my friends at my school always try to convince me to attend their local team's games. For them, it's a norm to support the team regardless of how they are performing.
This is something that unfortunately doesn't really exist in Toronto - there is an incredible number of "bandwagoners" and a huge lack of true fans. There might be more people that started following Toronto FC/Blue Jays/Raptors in the last couple years than the fans that supported the teams before the glory years (hopefully not…). So why not start supporting Canadian soccer and TFC before they start dominating the MLS? It will speed up their growth and it will be unreal to see a local club competing at a high level along with a crazy atmosphere at the BMO Field - especially because we know how loud Toronto fans can be. No sport can possibly grow without fans and in order for soccer to grow in Canada, we definitely need them.