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CanPL? Yes it can.

6 degrees, feels like 2, is what the Weather Network displayed for Hamilton. Having spent enough time at football grounds – especially BMO Field – to know that you should always dress warmer than initially seems necessary, out came the winter coat and my green and yellow Norwich City scarf. The colours were not quite right, but the closest thing I have to York 9’s green, white and black. Appropriate, too, in that I have not fully committed to the club. Geographically it is the closest, but with the league expanding every year that may not remain the case for long.

The scarf was bought for me by my Dad at the first top-flight game I ever attended, Norwich 0 – 2 Spurs at Carrow Road, boxing day, 1994. I considered for a moment how many children would be on their way to their first professional game, and how many would come away with scarves, shirts or some other trinket that would remain with them for many years.

Grateful to have a ride to Hamilton with friends, we were told to leave the car in a parking lot “near the Subway“, the first time I’ve ever heard the sandwich chain used as a navigational landmark.

We were in the ground with 20 minutes to spare. That was not, it turned out, enough time for a cup of tea, as the lineup for concessions was as long as a Roberto Carlos free-kick run-up. I was content to see tea and coffee priced at $2.25 (for a small), and less glad to see the following.

I would like to humbly suggest that a $2 patty or empanada would go a long way. Stadium food should be a) affordable and b) able to be consumed with one hand, leaving the other free to point at the opposition fans you need to deride, wave in indignation at perfectly reasonable refereeing decisions and slam into your thigh in frustration. You can do none of those things while holding a warm domestic poutine, and while I’m aware that legally no sporting event in Canada can take place without PizzaPizza present, the less said about them the better.

Barring the the national anthem which I’m very much hoping was just an inaugural match inclusion, the opening ceremony hit the right notes, those notes being quick and without David Guetta, and Tim Hortons Field was briefly awash with orange firework smoke before the game kicked off a few minutes later than 1pm, but nowhere near MLS-late.

Others have covered the tactical ins and outs of the game, which ended 1-1 (I recommend Mahith Gamage’s spot-on analysis) so on the match itself I will just say the following:

  • The quality was exactly what you’d expect. Early MLS, but with more ambition. These teams pressed each other aggressively. There was no time on the ball other than when play was worked out wide.
  • The officials, I thought, had an excellent game. They let what was a physical match flow, their decisions were consistent, perhaps Bekker could have been sent off (which might have done Forge a favour) but the Aparicio sending off was certainly correct. It will be fascinating to see if this display was this referee’s personal preference or a league-wide pattern.
  • Forge FC’s Smyrniotis won the tactical battle. That Brennan did not adjust York9’s system despite being outnumbered and outplayed for most of the game was slightly concerning.

More importantly, however, the seats were comfortable and the leg room was decent. Not quite as good as a VIA train, not nearly as bad as Air Canada. Someone behind me was vlogging. A man two rows back shouted “send him!” at two minute intervals. It was unclear who was to be sent and where, but it wasn’t a terrible idea.

In the clash of the supporters groups, the home side’s Barton St. Battalion predictably won the decibel battle with York 9’s Generation IX. Some of the Battalion’s best work included “you’re green, you’re white, your team is full of shite, York 9, York9!” and the contextually hilarious “Same old York 9, always cheating!“.

The atmosphere in the rest of the stadium gurgled along happily, reacting to the game in the right moments but with far less misplaced righteous anger than is standard at most football games. That will come with practise.

Outside the ground, boxes and boxes of size 1 Canadian Premier League footballs were given out, which was a lovely touch. Anyone who says they don’t enjoy whacking a small ball around their home, risking the safety of valuable possessions for that perfect one-two off the leg of the dining table is a liar.

 

At the final whistle, Avicii’s Wake Me Up played out around the ground. If it was intentionally meaningful, it was a brilliant piece of DJing.

Capture

A lyric written as if for this moment.

Canada finally has a professional football league. Enjoy it, with humour and patience.


Related

The world’s first poetry about the Canadian Premier League

 

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