Waking the Red hopes to be able to continue to share fan stories of how we came to love Toronto FC throughout the 2017 season. If you’d be interesting in telling yours, please feel free to email us at email@example.com or post it directly via the Fanposts section.
When I was asked to write about why I am a fan of Toronto FC, my immediate reaction was “sure, easy”. Well, let me tell you, it’s been far from it. This club means a whole lot to me and over a couple of pints, I’m sure I could tell anyone why. But trying to articulate the mixture of personal and abstract elements that constitute my fandom in a coherent, genuine and public way has been a challenge.
In general, I love the sport. The drama and spectacle of football is unparalleled. There is an aesthetic beauty to the game that captivates me. I’m also a proud Torontonian, born and raised in East York, where soccer was always quite popular. So naturally, buying into Toronto FC was easy.
And anyone who even remotely knows me, knows my love for TFC. It borders, like most fans, on the unreasonable. My schedule is basically built around TFC. A win makes my day; a loss can ruin the next three. I have given considerably more thought to what my girlfriend’s (hi Holly!) first TFC match should be than to the when and how of her meeting my family. Judgements on my priorities aside, I think you all get the point.
So, with all of that being said, this is my attempt to explain just what this club means to me, and why.
I am fittingly writing this on my old man’s birthday, perhaps helping me be a bit more reflective than normal. My dad and I have always been close, whether it was for sports or a love of music, film, comedy and stupid puns. We have bonded above and beyond any traditional father-son dynamic over a deep love of shared interests, and it always felt like my dad was one of my best friends as much as my father. This deep sense of friendship is very much rooted in our love of football and, in particular, Toronto FC.
In 2006-07, my last year of high school, we both got hit with the footy bug, and hit hard. My dad and I began the year’s Premier League season as very interested neutrals and ended up becoming die-hard Manchester United fans (*narrowly avoids flying pint glass*). And, in the fall of 2006, my parents bought me TFC season tickets for my birthday.
From the very first game, my dad and I were in. It didn’t matter the team wasn’t particularly good; I think we both felt Toronto FC was more of a cause, so to speak, than entertainment. We were happy martyrs, acting as missionaries spreading, with obnoxious zeal, the gospel of TFC to our friends and family. And when the initial excitement turned into an annual tradition of disappointment, my dad and I, like thousands of other dedicated Toronto FC fans, mercilessly bemoaned the state of the club but kept on coming.
Though the squad and its fortunes have changed considerably over the years, a constant has been games at BMO Field with my old man. And I would say it’s brought us even closer together. This is especially true since I moved out of my folks’ place in 2014. Despite not constantly seeing my dad all the time, TFC games are our enduring father-son ‘thing’.
TFC is definitely different - and better - now, but I wouldn’t give up the memories of my pops and I chucking our seat cushions on to the pitch in that magical 24th minute, enduring sweltering afternoon games watching Andrea Lombardo hopelessly chase after an errant long ball, or experiencing the heartbreak of the final side by side.
For many of my closest mates, TFC has become a sort of institution of our friendship. Whether it’s going to the pub before (and after) the match, meeting up at someone’s place to watch away games or merely as a point of conversation, TFC is often a centrepiece of what we do.
Many of my pals are also really into the sport, but for a long time, our only touchpoint was the major international tournaments and European leagues. We are divided in terms of our European club and international team affiliations, and often quite vocal about said divisions. TFC has been an opportunity for us to not only to support and become involved with professional soccer in our hometown, but it’s also, for once, given us a chance to root for the same bloody team. We also started our own men’s league team (Hell’s-Satans FC, the legends of Sundays) the same year TFC began playing, cementing soccer as a mainstay within my group of friends.
The yearning to be part of something bigger. Forging an emotional connecting with thousands of people over a shared sense of joy, excitement and commitment. While Costco membership remains elusive, this sense of community imparted by Toronto FC fandom is real, and is a defining feature of my love for this football club.
While the sheer passion fans bring to each match is truly incredible, I think something more profound underwrites this. It’s our bond forged over our shared commitment to TFC, and the ‘project’ of supporting local and Canadian football. This connection amongst fans, as much as with the players on the field, fuels the exuberant support we bring to BMO Field.
I will never forget, for so many reasons, the night we lost the final. But one thing that sticks out the most is being at Shoeless Joe’s after the game. The vibe felt like a surreal mixture of half pub, half wake. Some were in a quasi-state of shock, a couple of fans were crying, while others were choosing to reflect on what an incredible season it was, as if rejoicing in the memory of a recently passed relative. Sitting there,
pounding nursing a pint, it was clear that despite the heartbreak, I was home. Everyone felt the exact same way as me. I didn’t feel the need to explain to anyone why I was slouched in my chair, barely uttering a word. I could just wallow in my heartbreak, openly and without question.
While the circumstances of this anecdote suck, I can’t think of a better moment to underscore this shared sense of connection and community. It’s also something that, for me, is incredibly profound. It’s a chance to be part of something bigger and, in a way, experience life outside the sometimes narrow confines of one’s own individual existence.
Thanks for reading this. After reading my Waking the Red colleague’s Tej and Charlie’s pieces, this seems vastly unimportant. And I am sure many more of you have equally, or more, compelling relationships with this club of ours. But this is the story of mine. I hope you enjoyed!