The buzz around Vancouver Whitecaps in the city right now is tremendous and Saturday’s three goal comeback has only added to the enigma the Club have become.
Off the pitch, this enthusiasm and the gameday atmospheres have led to a surge in membership of the Vancouver Southsiders supporters group and the popularity of the supporters section behind the south goal at Empire.
This increase has not been without growing pains for the Southsiders.
Unfortunately for supporters groups in North America, they find themselves lumbered with the hooligan tag by some, especially the more ignorant non-football loving members of the media.
Supporters culture certainly isn’t for everyone and nor should it be. Football thrives worldwide because of the mix of the types of people attending games. Everybody supports the team in their own way and that’s how it should be.
The fear many have, especially in fledgling MLS markets, is that the slightest hint of trouble will be blown out of all proportion, especially when compared to the regular fights and incidents that happen at NHL and CFL games.
I’m a BC Lions season ticket holder, as well as with the Caps, and with no exaggeration, I have seen at least one fight at every one of the matches I’ve been to for the last three seasons.
Judging by some of the shit that went on on Saturday, this behaviour is also going to be coming to the Caps and, as with the Lions game, the bulk of this trouble looks like it’s going to be in the cheaper corner and “end zone” seats.
Unfortunately for the Southsiders, this is also where they are based.
Supporters groups will always attract a number of hot heads, people with misplaced enthusiasm and idiots who have seen too many films of football “firms”. It’s the nature of the beast. An occupational hazard.
For some, it’s how they supported their teams in Europe, where items such as flares and smoke bombs, as much as scarves and shirts, are an everyday part of the football supporters kit.
Some supporters groups in North America are allowed such privileges. Portland Timbers Army have an arrangement with the Club that sees buckets in place to douse the flares.
This is something which is a long way off from being accepted in Vancouver. I would doubt it ever will be by the authorities and stadium owners.
I love flares and smoke at the football. It adds an amazing atmopshere and visuals, especially at night games. I also accept we can’t do it at the Whitecaps. Others it would seem are not so ready to accept this.
In amongst all the joy from Saturday’s comeback were some pretty nasty tales of incidents around Empire.
There’s been reports of fights between fans, fights with security and aggressive scenes which would have boiled over into something pretty nasty if people hadn’t walked away.
Single game ticket holders abusing and threatening season tickets holders for standing, then security making the seasont ticket holders sit, is not supporting your team.
Letting off a fire extinguisher, with all the chemicals it unleashed on the unsuspecting people around you, is not supporting your team.
Lobbing down shit like near empty cups of beer at the people of the front of your section is not supporting your team.
Hitting people off the back of their head with a frisbee, who are watching and cheering on the players, is not supporting your team.
Also add into these incidents the fact that a number of people have tickets for the supporters section without either clearly understanding what they were buying in to or without having a clear explanation from the Whitecaps FO as to where their seats were.
People stand, chant, swear and waves flags in the supporters section for the whole game. If that’s not what you want from your gameday experience, you’re in the wrong section and you need to ask to be moved NOT spoil the enjoyment of your fellow fans who have bought into that section and that experience.
There’s some serious incidents that the Whitecaps, the Southsiders and PNE security need to address and quickly.
The Southsiders as a group are going to get most of the flak for incidents that happen in the south end as a whole. Members who act irresponsibly need to realise the damage that they are causing to the group. Non members who want to just act like dicks can simply get to fuck.
Growing so fast, so quickly, is going to make self policing impossible on the whole. The balance is now stronger security that clamps down on what needs to be clamped down on but without harming the party atmosphere and some of the minor things they currently let go.
I’m not even sure if this is a balance than can be struck. Having some security positioned at the back of the stands for the whole match would be a good starting point though.
The message to all my fellow Southsiders and those in the south end that want to have the football atmosphere we desire is this.
Don’t let the minority in OUR sections spoil it for the majority.
If you see shit going on, don’t get drawn in to it. Let security know. That’s what they’re there for. Or should be. If you’ve been affected by incidents, let the Caps know. They can’t change it otherwise.
These are hopefully just growing pains. We have an amazing Whitecaps team this year. That’s where all our focus should be, starting against New England on Wednesday evening.
Mon the Caps.[For another take on this issue, have a read of this excellent article over at 86 Forever]