Well now that we've all managed to get a full night's rest and tell all our friends about this past Wednesday, it leaves us to reflect on that epic night.
In my opinion, although giving up a last minute equalizer really really sucked, there was some tremendous positives to take away from the Rogers Centre. That game had to be, without a doubt, the most exciting sporting event I have ever been in attendance for. It really felt like soccer was big time, and the electric atmosphere rubbed off on our boys in the first twenty.
Much will be said about what went on, on the pitch, but this post is focused on the hoopla leading up to, during and after the game.Real Sports Bar- Pre Game
I've never been to Real Sports Bar, and I must say I was quite impressed. My good friend Marcus and I arrived there just in time to see Messi score his fifth against Bayer Leverkusen on a mammoth big screen. It cost us 10 bucks to get in the door, at first I thought that MLSE was charging cover because they knew how many people would be showing up. But to my surprise, 10 doll hairs got me a beer and a choice of a number of awesome appetizers, plus all the money collected went to MLSE's Team Up Foundation.
Real Sports Bar was packed. Almost everyone was wearing TFC gear, and everyone was glued to one of the 397 HD TV's showing the APOEL and Lyon game. Unfortunately, the bar lacked truly diehard fans and had more of a rich soccer fan vibe to it. Not that authentic footy supporters all have to be living on a shoestring budget, but you get what I mean.
There was a DJ, and some cool TFC paraphernalia for the suits to bid on, but other than that, there wasn't a whole lot to the pre game party at RSB. Although I must say, the free appetizer plate of nachos my buddy got was really big, it was great to see more than 5 tortilla chips sprinkled with processed cheese.
The "Official" March
When the DJ announced that the bagpipe led march was leaving in 5 minutes, I really thought they meant 5 minutes, but apparently not. Because as soon as I got out there, the march was already half down Bremner. There didn't seem to be a whole lot of organization by MLSE to really get everyone out at the march. And in all truth, I figure they just used the march idea to get people to the stadium faster to help fill it up, and save people strolling in at the end of the first half.
However, the bagpipes and marching band was a sweet idea, and from what I saw, the march was lead with people singing their hearts out with their scarfs held high. It just would have been nice to actually have almost everyone from RSB in the march to make for a gigantic scene for onlookers.
Once everyone got inside the stadium, the Rogers Centre filled up very nicely. I wasn't too optimistic about how full the 500's would actually be, and although it took a little while, by the time the 2nd half started the placed was pretty darn close to full.
One of my favourite sites of the night was the fact that the majority of the 100's and 200's were decked out in red. Most of the time, we're used to seeing the exact opposite, with suits and nice pea coats close to the action at Leafs and Raptors games. But Wednesday was not a normal night, and it was great to see fans taking up the best seats in the house.
There were so many well made (and hilarious) signs that were made for the special night. The supporters section banners were at another level, and covered most the section behind the net. Don't get me wrong, the TIFOs were freaking insanely sexy, but the minute I saw a Bieber blown up head alongside Gerry Dobson and Craig Forrest, I couldn't stop laughing. Seriously, imagine the conversation that took place before those were made.
"So who should we get?"
"I don't know, Frings, Justin Bieber, maybe Geovanny Caicedo?"
"I'm cool with the first two, but what we really need is the Dobber and Forrest to really solidify our love for Canada's favourite two TV personalities. Plus we'll get on Sportsnet Connected."
As for the supporters section, I don't know what words to use that can even begin to give it justice. You've all seen the photos by now, and even after experiencing the game from the supporters section, I still needed the photos to really illustrate to me just how epic the set up was. The amount of flags, banners and streamers really had me believing we were in Milan for a couple hours.
Speaking of streamers, although many voiced their displeasure with the amount of streamers being throwing before and during the game (especially corners at the very fragile David Beckham), I was loving the streamers. I thought they added to the atmosphere and were part and parcel of the grand occasion. Come on, they were allowed back for this one game, and we all knew this was going to happen.
Beer Can vs Becks-Gate
If Donovan doesn't score on that play, no one would have given a crap about the beer being thrown. And in all likeliness the guy would have been applauded and laughed it off with his bros. But that didn't happen and now everyone is pissed at whoever it was decided to drill Becks with his $12.75 tallboy of Keith's. I personally thought the whole situation was funny, and was almost expecting something horrible to happen after David decided to make such a big deal and take forever before finally kicking.
On a side note, I loved the consistent amount of streamers that mummified Beckham on every corner he took. Brought me back to the good old days of the honeymoon at BMO Field.
The After Party
Apparently there were some flares, which I really wished I got to see, but I was so thirsty and pissed from the late equalizer, that I just got the hell out of the Rogers Centre to find the closest store that sold water that didn't cost 5 bucks per bottle. It would have been nice to hold onto that one goal lead because I'm sure the celebrations would have been a little more than Toronto is used to on a Wednesday night (Steamwhistle Brewery would have been dry by sunrise).
When the players were walking out and everyone started to throw their streamers at the same time. There were some fireworks and confetti machines pumping out a stupid amount to add to what was the most intense intro I've ever been a part of. Flags were flying, smoke was blurring my vision, and everyone was signing their guts out after waiting several long, cold months to support their Reds once again. It was well worth the 20 bucks and even more so for the wait.