Football offers up its poignant moments of celebration and reflection, and this past weekend had no shortage of them. A long weekend with three local matches in five days took it’s toll on my voice. But three wins means it’s a happy form of laryngitis and besides, what could be better than going hoarse for the local boys?
On Friday, The Swanguardians gathered again to support TSS Rovers in their second home game, a Canadian derby against Calgary Foothills. If last week we were finding our feet as a new supporter’s group for a new team with players we didn’t know, this week was about beginning to connect with these young men.
We pre-gamed with Joel Waterman’s family. Between his brother, parents, and grandparents, three generations of his family were out, to share some food at the tailgate and some stories about how he grew through the ranks at Surrey to take his place as a Rovers starter. On the pitch we fell in love with other Surrey United alumni, Andrew Hicks and Zach Verhoven: Hicksy for his game saving acrobatics, and Zach for his winner. It was a proper honour to celebrate the victory on the pitch with these young men, high fives and hugs all round. We might as well have won a cup, such was the joy amongst us.
Saturday, returning to the Pigeon Loft at BC Place, yet another Surrey United kid featured prominently on the night. For supporters this was always going to be about our former VWFC residency player Travis Selje, honouring the 17 year old who died in hit and run earlier in the month. Supporters turned to social media to share Ideas for honouring him and things quickly went viral. The Southsiders and Curva produced banners for the occasion and while the team honoured Travis with black arm bands and a moment of silence, the traditional standing ovation at the 35th minute was directly from the supporters.
Whitecaps Twitter and Facebook can be grim places at times, but last weekend showed the best of what social media can do. As a dad with an almost 17-year-old son of my own, it was near impossible to sing out “He was one of our own…” for the lump in my throat and tears in my eyes.
Davies, the sub on the hour, is a mere five days older than my own boy and just seven months older than Travis. His half hour of youthful, fearless and exuberant play somehow drove home the power of the moment.
They are our own, these guys. Watching Ben McKendry and Marco Bustos, and Alphonso Davies, and the now veteran Russell Teibert, playing against Montreal, remembering that Ben was once a Southsider himself, remembering that these guys are amongst the future of our national team’s midfield, is important. It’s meaningful. They are us.
In the Pigeon Loft, our Robbie was working on a banner that says “Football is Family” and it never felt truer than this past weekend when, during a uniquely Canadian holiday, we got to celebrate three wins built on the backs of local and Canadian players. Boys we know, that may have played against or with our own sons, that have sung with some of us on the terraces, that are dreaming big about their own futures and the impact they can make on Canadian soccer. In all three games we also beat teams that featured Canadians, some of them, like Ballou Tabla and Anthony Jackson-Hamel, special young players indeed.
In the big corporate world of MLS and pro sports, it is this connection with friends and family that makes football here more than just a spectator sport. You are supporting people you know, who play for you, for your club, your city and your country. You support their friends and family when tragedy strikes and you support them when there’s something to celebrate. This is where the tribute for Travis ultimately came from. Like these others, and in every sense of the term, he was one of our own.