Butler: It's U20s - Come all ye Canadian football faithful!

Noel Butler
8/8/2014 2:45:12 PM
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On Tuesday, just as we should be celebrating the kickoff of a third FIFA tournament on Canadian soil in just over a decade (how many have you hosted in this same period, England?), the age-old argument popped up yet again.

You know the one. Canada plays a home game and the supporters of our opponent out-sing, out-chant and outright embarrass our soccer humble selves.

Or do they?

The latest case in point was Tuesday evening and - depending on which newspaper you read or website your frequent - there was either 500 or as many as 1,000 Ghanaians doing their level best to recreate the scenes of the 40,000 seat capacity national soccer stadium in Accra as they cheered on their Black Princesses to the 1-0 victory over the host nation.

Let's be clear here - no manner of moaning and laying blame with the Canadian Soccer Association will change this.

Football has endured in the hearts, minds and pulsating veins of most, if not all the 200-plus nations which make up planet FIFA, for generations. The beautiful game is a birthright. A lifestyle.

Then factor in our splendidly diverse population - comprised of people from these very same FIFA nations. This holds especially true for all our major cities and urban areas, most of which are located by the border.

It's why back in 2008, Saputo Stadium was overwhelmed by the unfamiliar blue of Honduras. A country whose citizens flocked in multitudes in support of their nation at no less a football event than a crucial World Cup qualifier.

Not so much a travelling support from Tegucigalpa or the murder capital of the world San Pedro Sula.  The car parks told the story as you saw license plates from numerous provinces and from as far away as those unfashionable states made famous by the Coen brothers. 

As some obsessively do the CSA, do we also blame with the Canadian Border Services Agency for this?

Personally, I much prefer to take the read of our U-20 head coach Andrew Olivieri who spoke with TSN 690 Thursday evening. Olivieri didn't think there was any issue on Tuesday.

"I don't think it was much of a problem at all, I think that's expected," he stated. "Anywhere you go there will always be visiting fans."

Olivieri was spot on with his assessment of how things are slowly, but surely, improving soccer culture-wise - as Canadians in higher numbers and increasing decibels become emotionally connected to the world's game. 

"You know what a few years ago there may be would have been more Ghanaians than Canadian fans," he added.

"The progress our game has made has been fantastic, and the support we have been getting has been fantastic."

This was clearly evidenced, in that very same stadium as Tuesday's game versus Ghana, on so many occasions during the Brazil 2014 qualification. It was a watershed moment off the pitch for the sport in Canada.

Even the players at times seemed overwhelmed with the support. The scenes and sounds were unprecedented.

Fever Pitch indeed.

Last spring's encounter between the London 2012 semi-final foes was much more memorable for what was happening on the terraces than on the pitch. Irony is a huge force for football supporters.

My, how the 22,000 plus who packed into BMO Field let the 2011 World Cup runners up know this was anything but a friendly! Those days have been over since Old Trafford. 

Long gone are those days the CSA would look to pack the stands with the supporters of our opponents. Or organize half-time entertainment that was more in keeping with the traditions of the visiting nation.

If the locals weren't rushing to the box office and if having Ziggy Marley scrimmage with the men's national team during a media event 48 hours before 2006's Labour Day friendly versus Jamaica in Montreal would help inflate numbers then so be it.

I'm no CSA apologist, but what needs to be factored in to those less than halcyon days was the fact the governing body was so utterly dependent on ticket sales.

Whilst across the hallways of Soccer House on Metcalfe Street, the phones in the sponsorship and partner departments weren't exactly ringing off the hook.

Although I would have preferred to have seen ex-pat Canadians in the same number and beer drinking volume as our Australian cousins during last fall's MNT game in London we can't deny the fact our soccer culture is maturing.

We are a developing soccer nation that will always hit bumps in the road on and off the pitch. And just like when a member of the family, a friend or close work colleague hits experiences adversity our job is simply to support and encourage.

The same holds true for our football fandom. It's why we're referred to as loyal supporters. None more so in the Canadian national team sense, than that truly inspiring football collective, The Voyageurs.

Not sure the American Outlaws or for that matter many other supporter groups across planet FIFA can lay claim that their national domestic cup competition is named for them.

My, how much I look forward to a World Cup Finals for Canada, when - just like in 1967 - the travelling Celtic support descended on Lisbon for the European Cup Final. So much did they enjoy their visit many Celtic supporters stayed on to take up residency in the Portuguese capital.

Football culture at its most supreme.

Makes you wonder how many eight-year old kids are running round the streets of Istanbul with John Lennon accents.

In the meantime, our Under 20s are back on the pitch this evening. Here's to a packed and frenzied house as we go in search of a much needed three points. 

I'll sure to be wearing red and be rather loud in the stands, along with Baby Bear when we play our final group game in Montreal  next Tuesday evening. As will most of her club teammates.

Not confirmed at this point if North Korea has been given its own supporters section.
@TheSoccerNoel on Twitter

Noel Butler

Noel Butler

Noel Butler is an analyst for TSN's soccer coverage and his blog can be read on You can follow him on Twitter at and listen to his radio program oranges@halftime on TSN Radio 690 Montreal.


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