Nothing like a hard fought soccer game under the open Vancouver sky. This weekend, I got to experience it first hand as the Vancouver Whitecaps took on DC United in their third game of the season. Coming off a two game winning streak, first at home against the Montreal Impact and then (miracles!) on the road against Chivas USA, there were big expectations and a heady sense of optimism about a winning streak that’d last to three games in a row. In the end, we got a tie (certainly better than a loss) – but that’s not all that we witnessed that night.
Equally powerful was the sense of community (particularly in the first part of the second half) when the Whitecaps really turned the electricity on!
It started outside the stadium. Unlike BC Lions games or even Canucks games, the community built by the Whitecaps tends to be young, diverse and the total opposite of “rough around the edges” turkeys that were made famous last summer during the Vancouver’s most disgraceful night.
Milling around the outside of the stadium, thousands of fans clad in blue and white meandered towards the gates. Few were ridiculously intoxicated or surely. Hundreds had goofy grins on their faces.There was a young family vibe to it all.
Once in the stadium, we set up close to the Whitecaps goal next to three dozen fanatical fans equipped with jerseys and dozens of multi-color flags. The super fans included a big burly Scots as well as French, Koreans, Filipinos and even a group of guys who appeared to hail from the Middle East. It’s part of what I love so much about soccer – the multiculturalism of it all. Together we sang a dozen uniquely Vancouver chants inspired by the great European clubs.
On the field, our team mirrored the diversity of its fan base. Players hailed from Brazil, Spain, China, Korea, Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica, the US and Canada. When Long Tan ran on from the sidelines in the late stages of the game, a group of Chinese fans a few seats away gave a mighty cheer.
Talk about a terrific community building event.