It is well for the heart to be naive and the mind not to be. -Anatole France
I have a confession to make, I only recently began following Canadian soccer, and only shortly before that soccer in general.In fact, I have never been to an actual soccer match (youth soccer doesn’t count).Sure, for years I would watch the World Cup or the European Championship on television because it was a big event, and there is an intrinsic flow to soccer which no other sport has.
My first, memorable, non-World Cup or European Championship match was Newcastle’s Premier League home tie against Arsenal in the 2005-06 season, as it was the reason I began watching football matches on a regular basis.The only thing I remember from the match (everything else I looked up) was Scott Parker running around like a madman after he had his teeth knocked out (or chipped), gauze with some numbing agent in his mouth, diving head-first all over the place. It was a remarkable performance and I (foolishly) decided to take up Newcastle as my favourite side.I began to pour hours into playing Football Manager (the best learning tool for a new football fan), seek out websites, and find matches on television to watch.
So, as of 2005 I had found my club, but what about following my Country?As we all know, following the national team is a logistical nightmare.Nonetheless, in 2006 Sportsnet decided to show a couple U-20 matches against Brazil, and so I saw my first national team match.Besides David Edgar, I knew nothing of the Canadians.In fact, Edgar ended up scoring in that match, Canada winning, and my support of the national side started off on unusual footing, although Dale Mitchell was the coach of that U-20 side.The next year I watched as Benito Archundia made one of the worst calls I have ever seen in sport, and my sugar-coated view of soccer came crashing down.If there was a silver lining, that horrible offside call galvanized my support.
That all being said, when it comes to our National teams, I am still fairly naive.I don’t know much NT history and, more importantly, I haven’t experienced the anguish most seasoned fans have.The Gold Cup officiating was harsh, but I wasn’t completely invested at the time and didn’t know who most of the players were.I didn’t realize that following the national team would mean getting all my news from the internet, following the Voyageurs’ forum, or listening to World Cup Qualifying matches thanks to the radio broadcasts of the other team (Phillip’s Bakery: A step above the rest!).Hostile “home” crowds, poor officiating, the CSA, and CONCACAF officiating are obstacles which, as far as I was concerned, may as well have not existed few years ago;I am still in the learning and conditioning stage of my fandom.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, there is so much I did not know going into this odyssey that is supporting the national teams.However, now that I am involved, ingrained, in this voyage, there is a sense of pride in being one of the few.Any idiot can cheer for Canada’s hockey team at the Olympics (and possess an unbelievable amount of arrogance even though they cannot name half the players), but being a Canadian soccer fan, there’s something special there, or at least I think so.Then again, I don’t have the cynicism that comes from experiencing heartbreak after heartbreak.