They say every cloud has a silver lining, but in this case that idiom would be far from the truth. Last night a cloud of smoke emerged from the pitch of BMO Field after a supporter threw a smoke bomb on the field during a match between Canada and Belize.
While the incident was largely lost in the news cycle after a dominant 3-0 victory for the home side, it should hardly be forgotten. It is the kind of behaviour that needs to be highlighted so that it is not repeated.
For the most part since its doors opened in 2007, BMO Field has a strong track record for being a stadium with respectable supporters and only minor incidents to mar that record.
However, potentially the biggest stains on that record occurred in 2009 when a lit flair was thrown on the field during a match between Toronto FC and Chivas USA. Another was hurled into the stands injuring a woman.
While there is a difference between smoke bombs and flairs, the former less likely to cause injury hence its tolerance by BMO Field security, that difference is not noted under FIFA laws. The rule on objects thrown on the field reads as follows:
If an object thrown by a spectator hits the referee or one of the assistant referees or a player or team official, the referee may allow the match to continue, suspend play or abandon the match depending on the severity of the incident.
If the smoke bomb thrown on the pitch had made contact with anyone, there was a chance the result from last night would have been reversed. The ruling indicates that Canada could be subject to an automatic 3-0 loss.
This was the case in March when a supporter from Montenegro threw a flair onto the field which made contact with the head of Russian goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev during a Euro 2016 qualifier. Akinfeev was injured during the incident, and Russia given a 3-0 victory.
So an incident that was otherwise forgotten could, worst case scenario, have cost Canada a spot at Russia 2018.
This may be dismissed as minor, or an overreaction by a country that does not have a strong history of soccer supporters culture, but it is hardly either. As Canada continues to make strides forwards in the sport, these are the kind of things they need to insure get left behind.
It is unfortunate, because flairs and smoke bombs when used correctly, can truly add to the atmosphere of a supporter's section and ignite the crowd. For the most part they have been used responsibly by any group in BMO Field's south end.
Not that the Voyageurs should be held responsible for this incident as a whole. In these cases supporter's groups always get vilified for what is usually the actions of a single individual, or a small group.
In many ways it was good to see the outcry on social media last night after the smoke bomb occurrence. Many Canadian supporters made it clear that this type of behaviour was not excepted within their ranks.
Whoever is responsible needs to be found, although not in a witch-hunty publish his name and face and make him a villain sort of way. He needs to be found privately, and it needs to be made clear to him that should he want to support Canada again this behaviour needs to stop.
If these sort of occurrences are highlighted and properly dealt with than they can avoid being repeated in the future. Then those who support this program with the end goal of seeing it truly improve can do so without interruption.