One of the hardest things about being a football supporter in North America, is constantly having to explain to friends and workmates that no, you’re not a football hooligan that is going around trashing cities and beating up opposition supporters.
Of course, it’s not just uneducated people close to you that have this perception of us. A lot of the media do too. The ones that look down on football because it’s not American. These are the guys who will quickly laud the NFL’s Green Bay Packers as ‘world champions’, in a sport where only one country takes part. The ones who will happily extol the virtue of a sport like baseball, whilst knocking football for the lack of excitement and scoring.
I’m a fan of baseball. I’m a fan of most North American sports. I have season tickets to the BC Lions, as well as the Caps. All of them can have their great games and their terrible games. Just like football. And you don’t watch a team like East Fife in Scotland for over 25 years without knowing a thing or too about bad football and unexciting games!
All of them can also have a section of assholes who cause trouble, fight and get thrown out or arrested. It’s just that many of those incidents don’t even merit a passing mention in the North American media outlets. If it happens at a football match though, then it’s big news. You can almost see some journalists rubbing their hands when something happens.
These journos are never going to get it. They’re not going to want to get it. And in a city like Vancouver, where a lot of the media will be worried about losing column inches and airtime to newbies covering the new hot ticket in town, they will take every chance they can to diss football, the Whitecaps, the Southsiders and football fans in general.
There will be trouble at some games. There’s been some mild trouble at some of the Whitecaps-Toronto matches the last two years with drunken, big mouth TFC dicks being taken down a peg or two when they’ve overstepped the mark. Times the attendance by four and of course isolated incidents will break out and not all of it football related. Just like at every Lions or Canucks game I’ve been to where alcohol more than hooliganism plays a big part.
What we have to watch though is that we don’t let the press have a field day about football hooliganism coming to the city along with MLS.
We need the Vancouver public to understand fan culture and what it brings to the game and to the atmosphere. Seeing it first hand or on TV will do this, but we also need the media to help spread this message as well.
So we have it tough with journalists in our own back yard. When a journalist from a respected UK publication comes along and wants to write about you though, you think great. Someone from a country that lives and breathes football wants to do a piece on what it’s like to be a football supporter here.
That’s what happened to the Philadelphia Union fans last year with GQ Magazine.
Check this awful piece out for the kind of writing that sets football, football supporters groups and fan culture back several steps in Canada and the US. Thankfully most people here will never read it.
You only have to look at the first picture and the connotations of the “America football factory” headline to know where this particular article is going and what Andrew Hankinson has up his sleeve.
The opening shots are talking about four skinhead fans and as soon as you read the line “They quieten when two big black men get on”, you’re at first rolling around the floor with tears running down your face before becoming angry that someone is about to do a hatchet job on something that you’re trying hard to help build. As soon as you get a few more lines down, the skinheads point out they’re against racism, so no need for the mention of the black guys at all then.
It may not be about me or the Southsiders or Vancouver fans, but we’re a band of brothers here in many regards. A pop at North American supporters culture is a pop at all of us and great ammo for all the critics, including those at many of the clubs around the league – which possibly includes our own.
For all the sensational playing up of the hard lads act that you find inside, the main feeling you’re left with is what a bunch of numpties the Philadelphia Union fans are.
Now that’s me, a hardcore football fan, that’s thinking that after reading the article. What’s a fan who isn’t in a supporters group or someone with just a general interest in the game going to take from it? We all get tarred by the same stick with shit like this.
I’ve never met a Union fan, but I’m pretty certain that from other supporters groups I’ve had dealings with, this isn’t reflective of a group like The Sons Of Ben. They don’t come off in a good light though, with their ‘leaders’ missing a Union game to go watch the baseball. Wtf?! One guy maybe. But three. Ok then.
Someone else who doesn’t come across well from the piece is Don Garbage. “There are two things I worry about. One is that we’re going to have a terrorist attack in an MLS stadium. The second is that we’re going to have a riot in a stadium” exudes Commissioner Don as he goes on about how worried he is about swearing and “lunatic fringes” in supporters groups. I didn’t even know he knew about me!
This man is in charge of running the League FFS. What hope can we have.
The article is sensationalism at it’s worst. We’re great at that in the UK. It’s nice to be away from it to be perfectly frank. It’s not only lazy but both horrifying and hilarious in equal measure. I’m not even sure that some of the stuff I was roaring in laughter at was meant to be funny. The writer hasn’t covered himself in much glory here (there was some interesting stuff in the middle). He comes across as pathetic as the Union fans he is portraying.
It’s one piece though. Nothing to get too worked up about in the grand scheme of things I know, but it does serve a warning as to what we may find ourselves subjected to by some in the Vancouver media and we need to be on our guard.
If fans shouting “asshole” can create such a storm with press and MLS bigwigs, fuck knows what they’re going to make of us come March.
The one thing that is certain though is that some in the media won’t be ready for it.