Trying out a new segment here at Waking the Red, which will endeavour to share some of the sights, sounds and reflections away from the action on the pitch for Toronto FC home matches.
The match day experience is rife with those little moments; be they interesting interactions with fellow fans, surprising moments on the periphery of the match, or, the old classic, a good round of jersey spotting.
Waking the Red will share some of their observations and encourage readers to share theirs – each spectator has a slightly different view of the home game and by bringing them together into one forum, all can glean a fuller picture of the pageantry that is live football.
The sheer functional inadequacy of the ball-people at BMO Field over the past seven seasons has been blatantly obvious. The bare minimum required for the position is that the person pay attention to the match and at least know enough about the game to have an inkling that their services may be necessary at a given moment – put bluntly, if the ball exits the field near you, you may be required to provide the one you are holding for use. It’s a rather basic premise of the whole thing.
The dream of them being tuned in and savvy enough to get certain balls back in play quicker, when TFC needs to press the match, or delaying at other times, when protecting a lead, was a stretch too far.
The number of times over the years that a player required a ball, only for the individual responsible to be caught day-dreaming and clueless is innumerable, but something has changed this season.
It is unknown whether there has been a conscious alteration, but such gaps have happened less and less.
And this Saturday, something glorious happened: for the first time ever a ball boy cheekily denied a Houston player, David Horst, the ball then, rather than hand it directly over, dropped it to the ground, forcing the player to retreat from their throwing position to collect the ball.
This observer howled in appreciation, chuckling manically at the invention; though those around were perplexed at such beaming pride and satisfaction at nothing; nothing at all.
Bitchy Under Attack
For about fifteen minutes at the start of the second half, Bitchy, TFC’s official bird-shooing hawk was the subject of a savage bout of seagull jack-assery as one guileless garbage-eagle invaded, repeatedly dive-bombing the majestic mascot.
The offending gull would swoop in, with malice aforethought, whipping past the captive predator, drawing a wince of reaction before whipping around for another run – one could almost hear the cackling from a distance. It must have happened twenty times or so.
Not cool seagull; not cool at all.
Perhaps Bitchy requires a little more leeway in the length of her leash as to prevent such mockery from gaining purchase in the future.
The Once and Future Captain
When TFC captain, Steven Caldwell left the match injured, Doneil Henry was the player who assumed that mantle.
To the best of recollection, that is the first time that Henry has worn the band in an actual league match – he did sport it against AS Roma in last season’s friendly; it’s possible he wore it in the Voyageurs Cup at some point.
Henry was Toronto’s first homegrown signing back in 2010. He is the longest serving member of the club and a local boy to boot - that he is not more celebrated is a blatant oversight.
Yes, he is prone to the odd error, especially when exposed, but that is the nature of defending – second only to goalkeeping for the glare of their errors. And like goalkeepers, centre-backs improve with age; one has to have seen every situation before knowing how to handle each in turn.
A growing threat on attacking set-pieces and a handful for any opponent he faces, Doneil is physically gifted, made for the position; the rest will come with time.
Assuming he does not move on to higher levels of the game – which he most certainly will, sooner rather than later – Henry will one day sport that armband on a permanent basis.
Remember that this day was the first – even if fans must wait for him to return in the later stages of his career to bear witness.
There was also a fan who tried to get a selfie celebration picture of his own with Jermain Defoe after his first goal – he failed. While there were plenty of jerseys in preparation for the World Cup Final on display.
Please share your observations from the match day experience in the comments section below. Spot any classic or bizarre kits? Anything comical happen in other sections? Did anyone else note the savage seagullery?
Apologies for the delay in getting this posted – will have it up earlier in the future.