If you are reading this I am going to assume that you are a fan of soccer. Chances are that since you are reading on a Toronto based blog you are also from the area or have a connection to Toronto. That means that I have a challenge that is aimed at each and every one of you.
Today the pre-sale of tickets for the Canadian Men's National team games this summer started (see below for details and links). The four matches will all take place at BMO Field in Toronto, same as last year, so if you can get to Toronto for one or all of these games then the simple thing is to do so!
This years games are: June 3 (friendly vs. USA), June 12 (WCQ vs. Honduras), September 7 (WCQ vs. Panama) and October 12 (WCQ vs. Cuba). So you have two chances to get out in the spring and then two more in the fall. To me that seems manageable for most people to at least get out to two of the games.
It may seem a bit in your face of me to tell you that you better get yourself to BMO for as many of these games as you can manage but the fact of the matter is that unless you are willing to put the time and effort into supporting the National teams how can you stand back and expect things to get better?
I know that like me many of you reading this post are sick of seeing the visiting countries colours filling up large portions of the stadium. Fact is that we could very well see that taking place again as each of the opposition teams (USA, Honduras, Panama, and Cuba) will be capable of attracting large numbers of their fans. We have seen that song and dance before but now it needs to be a thing of the past. We should not need to beat this same drum every time that Canada plays but the fact of the matter is that the crowds were not good enough last year for Canada's games. There were a lot of very passionate fans filling up some sections of BMO but there were also a lot of empty seats. The challenge is not getting the South Stand full, that will happen, it is to get the casual soccer fans out and turn them into Canadian fans.This is not a plea that I am alone in making. It was a sentiment that was echoed by Canada's head coach Stephen Hart. On a conference call this afternoon the coach made it clear that for him and the players having a loud and supportive Canadian crowd can actually help them get good results.
Just imagine for a moment that you are a player who has just proudly put on your nation's shirt and then you walk out to the field to be greeted by a crowd that seems to be mainly dressed in other colours. You would feel demoralized before the game has even begun and that is not a good way to go about getting the big results that Canada is going to need. The other side is that you walk out on the same field to be greeted by a sea of fans wearing red and making a lot of noise. That is sure to put a spring in your step which might just be enough to push you towards a better performance and a big result.
In the past Canada has had no home field advantage while every country they visit does. On the dates of these matches Canada will have a fairly friendly climate and will be playing on a good pitch. They won't be greeted by the same in Panama, Honduras, or Cuba where it will likely be hot, bumpy, and most importantly hostile. Even if BMO field is a welcoming setting fans can at least make sure the crowd does its part to make it feel slightly hostile. Being outnumbered by traveling fans and expats will not do that!
If you need more convincing to go out and buy tickets, well Squizz makes another good case for you to be at BMO on CSN. The problem is that for every good initiative that is launched there seems to be something that deals a blow to the momentum. There was a lot of positive reaction when the OSA sent out a letter to their members asking them not to schedule games or practices on the nights that Canada plays but it seems that has come to nothing in the end. As Jason DeVos, referenced by Duane Rollins on CSN, points out, the provinces youth soccer leagues decided to ignore that request and have not left those days open.
The CSA, OSA and Umbro Canada are primed to try and work with Toronto area clubs to get the next generation of fans out in the stands for these games but now they are facing an added challenge of some youth teams having to play games. A club like Oakville, where DeVos works, sent large numbers last season and set a good example by keeping their schedule as clear as they could on the nights that Canada is playing. Problem is that even the clubs with the best intentions do not get to control their league schedules so these Ontario leagues have just ruled out many young fans from attending.
If you are a parent of a young player you should be in touch with your club about sending a group and getting involved in the discount tickets and other incentives that are being offered. You should even consider taking the night off from club activities and possibly missing a game if it allows you to get out and support Canada. In the long run being at the game and developing that kind of love for soccer is actually better for a kid than playing in just one more youth soccer game.
That is enough of me trying to convince you to come to these games now you need the info to do just that. So how do you get your hands on tickets then? Well here are the basic options.
You can join the Supporters Groups in the South Stands by buying tickets through the Voyaguers, Red Patch Boys, or U Sector. All of that info can be found here. These sections will offer a variety of viewing experiences, from the full on supporter experience, general admission, flags, capos all that sort of thing, to a family section where you can sit down but still be guaranteed to be among Canadian supporters.
Starting on April 13th you can get tickets through the general sale on ticketmaster. If you want to get your tickets that way I would suggest checking out the CSA's info page first to again make sure you end up with the tickets that are right for you.
Now you know how to buy tickets so if you can afford to come to even just one game now is the time to get tickets. Fans of these other countries will be ready to buy their tickets so there really is no reason to delay if you want to get good seats and be part of what needs to be a pro-Canadian crowd.
On the Toronto FC front Hart did note in his conference call that at least three Reds remain in his plans for this years games. He has his eyes on Julian De Guzman, Terry Dunfield, and Ashtone Morgan to play some role this year but even though he did not mention them in the call Adrian Cann and Matt Stinson will at least be in the back of his mind for potential call ups if they are playing well.