Let me begin by saying that, if you knew anything about my life, you would’ve never thought that I would’ve ended up a football supporter. I grew up in a conservative family that not only hated sports with a passion, they had the so-called belief that “girls don’t play sports.” I was also what I would like to call "pathetically un-athletic” as a child. I once nearly, and very accidentally, decapitated my gym teacher with a discus during Track and Field Day in 8th grade.
So yeah, I’m definitely not the kind of person one pictures when they think of someone in a supporter’s group. If someone asks me how I became a fan of “the beautiful game”, my answer is always the same: Sheer, utter accident.
It all started in May of 2005. I was at home on my day off and was desperately trying to find something to watch on TV. I ended up changing the channel to the Chelsea vs Charlton Athletic match where Chelsea won the Premiership for the first time in 50 years. At the end of the match, I thought to myself “ok, this was actually pretty good. I’ll certainly watch this again if nothing else is on.” Fast forward to the 25th of May 2005. Again, I had the day off and was once again trying to find something on TV. It just so happened that there was another football match on TV, so I switched the channel.
The match in question was the 2005 UEFA Champions League Final between Liverpool and AC Milan.
To this day, I firmly believe that it’s the greatest sports comeback of all time, let alone the greatest football match or Champions League final. What makes it so special to me is that there isn’t just one spectacular moment in the final, but several. There’s the Liverpool supporters singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” at halftime as if they were audibly giving CPR to a team 3-0 down. There’s Steven Gerrard scoring the first Liverpool goal, then waving his arms about to spur on his team and supporters.
There Smicer's second goal. There’s Jamie Carragher putting his body on the line to stop another AC Milan goal from being scored. There’s Dudek's two great saves against Shevchenko, the nod and his saves in the penalty shootout (which are big reasons why I have a soft spot for keepers to this very day). Lastly, there’s Xavi Alonso's equalizer, which very nearly resulted in what I like to call a “death by goal celebration” (it’s still one of my all-time favourites).
However, I stopped watching football for a few years as of 2008. Myself and my ex-partner didn’t want cable, as we didn’t watch much TV and refused to pay for channels we didn’t watch. So footy fell by the wayside for a few years. I’d watch it intermittently, for example the 2012 London Olympics (the Canada vs. US semifinal is to this day, the match that made me swear the most at the TV) and the 2014 World Cup final, but that was it.
Fast forward to 2016. I reunited with the beautiful game after watching COPA90 videos on one of my all too numerous YouTube binges. Again, through sheer happenstance, I found out about the Ottawa Fury. In June of that year, I attended my first watch party at Centertown Pizza and Donald on Bronson Ave. A month later, I attended my first home match in the supporters section (I must've waved the flag for at least 45 minutes) and I attended nearly every home match ever since and made a bunch of new friends. I still have the ticket to this day.
Keep in mind that I became a supporter during what I'd like to call "the Dalglish years", which were certainly lean times in terms of the team's standings. Then we switched leagues from the NASL to the USL, then declined to be a part of the CPL in its inaugural year. Did I once think of deserting the team? Not once, and I'll tell you why. If I stopped being a supporter, I'd be giving up on much more than a team. I'd be giving up on the chance to build supporter culture from the ground up. Supporters for teams like Sheffield Wednesday, which has literally been around since Canadian Confederation, only wish they could do that. There's no TARDIS that exists to allow people to go back in time and do that.. So when you actually have the extremely rare opportunity to build it, there's no excuse to not grab it by the horns. You support the team when it wins, but especially when it loses, regardless of the league the team is in.
In that same time period, I also found out about, and grew to respect, the 2. Bundesliga team FC St. Pauli from Hamburg, Germany. As someone who is a community activist, it's comforting to know that there is a team who stands steadfast against racism, sexism and fascism. Those "isms" are still rife within the football world. In the fall of 2018, I discovered, via the CapCity Cup, that there was a local FC St. Pauli supporter group, as they posted a tweet about the friendly match. I joined soon after that and got to know even more great local supporters.
So what led to me joining the Capital City Supporters Group? First of all, I was impressed by their statement supporting Black Lives Matter that was released soon after the death of George Floyd. They also strongly support the #RecognizePFLcan campaign. As somebody who is also a woman on the asexual spectrum, I needed to be in a group of people that made me feel valid and accepted. So far, they have passed with flying colours. The footy scene in Ottawa isn't immune to the same hatred that one sees overseas either. I have come across extremely transphobic comments from some local supporters who say that if someone has pronouns listed in their bio on their social media accounts (which I happen to do), don't follow them. If I as a cisgender person am angry at their transphobia, how in the heck is someone who is trans, genderfluid, or non-binary supposed to feel? And if those people aren't willing to change their behaviour and grow up, you have to make the hard, but moral choice to no longer associate with them, which I did.
I didn't choose to join Capital City Supporters Group for myself as a result of the recent transphobia I saw. I did it for my friends, as I want to be able to bring them to a group that would make them feel included as a supporter.
After all, isn't that what supporter groups are all about in the end?