If you’re an MLS fan, you probably don’t want to read another damn article about Toronto taking 2,300+ supporters across the border to Columbus last week for the season opener in Crew Stadium. We all know that’s a mightily impressive number and almost certainly an MLS regular season record for away support.
But it is worth talking about the reaction to and consequences of the Canadian Invasion.
Toronto fans were both praised and criticised. The National Post reported that “They came, they drank, and some of them urinated next to a church,” with one man arrested. Not surprisingly, having only a few portable toilets to service a couple of thousand fans drinking didn’t work that well.
The police were unimpressed. “They’re pissing all over the damn place, and as you can see, they’ve littered it up considerably,” Columbus police lieutenant Kevin Conley said. “And then they decided that they were going to surround one of our cars like they were the Indians and the car was Custer.”
Some Toronto fans themselves were disappointed by the behaviour of their fellow travellers. Blogger Gramsci’s Kingdom told Pitch Invasion that outside of the hardcore support from certain groups, many who went seemed more interested in showing themselves off than supporting the team.
The Red Patch Boys are actually proper ultras. The singing and the boozing are a little more English-style, but they are big on tifos and banners and hiring the plane to fly over the stadium trailing the “Come on You Reds” sign was bloody brilliant.
But a chunk of their road support are really just thrill-seekers. The fact the 2500 people showed up in Columbus was as much a
statement of how much TFC fans are in love with themselves as it was about how much they’re in love with the team (i.e. “look at us, aren’t we brilliant having so many people here?”). The way you can tell is the singing – it’s much better when we have fewer fans. All these extras aren’t especially dedicated.
The smoke bombs were kind of cool when they were in the stands – heaving eight or nine of them onto the field was a really bad idea. That plus the overall loutish behaviour of a number of our heavily inebriated fans means we didn’t set the best example.
Kenn Tomasch, a former MLS announcer, was also critical and asked “Do you think incidents like this hurt the cause of traveling supporters in MLS?”
Perhaps, but there was a lot of positive reaction from Columbus as well. Many Columbus fans were impressed and hoped the example set would rub off on their own fans.
“The FC fans are amazing,” Craig Casto, a Columbus native and a regular at Crew games told the National Post. “They sang every word to our national anthem. I don’t even know the words to the Canadian anthem.
“Our fans could learn something about supporting their team from the Toronto fans.”
Columbus players and staff also seemed pleased that Toronto’s showing did prompt Crew supporters’ to make their loudest and strongest showing yet. Crew coach Sigi Schmid said that “”I think it’s great for the atmosphere. I think soccer players are no different than Saving Jane [band performing in postgame concert] out there now; they’re entertainers and when you have a crowd and you have an atmosphere, you want to perform. From that standpoint, I thought it was great. I thought our fans stepped up to the plate as well.”
So what do you think about the showing? Were you there, and if so, were the reports on the behaviour accurate?
Photo courtesy of Gramsci’s Kingdom,