Monday, August 29, 2011

The plight of the TFC supporter

In the 75th minute you could feel the anxiety in the air, the sense of ininevitability that 1-0 just wasn't enough. 

At the 85th minute Saturday night you could have come up with about 100 different cliches to describe TFC's capitulation of its slender one goal lead. Granted TFC were robbed of a goal as Joao Plata was clearly onside when he seemingly put the Reds two up.

By the 90th minute you could see the frustration on both supporter and player faces alike.

Another defensive collapse, another performance that went begging, another lead squandered. This has been the 5 year story of a Toronto FC supporter. For those who are not up to speed on the events of the last four years, watching one match can give you glimpse into the disarray of the club. From the consistent movement players in and out of the club, to the ineffective management on and off the pitch, all the way to the shockingly bad scouting of player talent. It is been clear for sometime that something fundamentally is, and has been from day one wrong with the club. There is no one thing that you can point your finger at, no single smoking gun that explains the poor results on the pitch. There are several things mainly behind the scenes that have caused this. However this blog post is not dedicated to those reasons, this is dedicated the the loyal almost to a fault TFC supporter.

This blogger does not sit in the south end (Still on the waiting list...and will probably will be there for awhile) however he's watched just about very TFC game there has been either live when it was still nearly impossible to get tickets, and now when you can walk up to the box office. On T.V when it was carried, online through at times terrible feeds with massive lag times. I've skipped work for games, brushed off dates with ex-girlfriends to be home to catch a game (Hence the ex). I've even hung outside BMO on days I could get match tickets just so I could hear the game and the crowd and feel a part of things. I've watched the team get completely thrashed 5-0, I've watched heartbreaking 1-0 defeats in which the losing goal was scored in the 92nd minute....and I came back for more. But after 5 years for losing football and no chance of the playoff come August, as the reality is TFC will not make the playoffs again this year, you have to ask...how much more of this can one take?

The club now seems to be on the right path towards building a winner. A strong emphasis on youth and the academy has always been the key to strong long lasting sides. The senior squad under manager Aron Winter are playing, at least offensively a more attractive style of football. However this style of rebuilding takes time, a long time and do TFC supporters have the patience to wait? This town is craving for a winner, and the first team that does it will win the hearts of the people, TFC had the chance right away. Duane Rollins made a good point in his post today on Canadiansoccernews.com, those who were 27 when the club started are now 32 with kids. Renewing TFC season tickets will not be on the top list of priorities, nor should it, and frankly my age group (I'm 28) may not have money to afford to spend on a losing football club. I personally will be there, along with many of the die hard supporters, but that may only fill one end of BMO field, what about the rest of the stadium? Will people care enough if the rest of this season is a dud?

The crowds this year have been falling short of previous years, it was evident at the home opener something was different. Even for the notoriously late arriving Toronto crowd you could see the games was not a clear sellout. The trend has continued through out the year, with some Canadian Championship games only drawing 10-12,000 people. After the end of last season it was clear that some casual fans had enough, for them the side show was over. Depending on how this season ends a lot more casual fans may just say forget it when they get the season's tickets call from their sales rep. Contrary to what is shown on the televised games or the ticket packages, the casual fan is the key to TFC's success. The die hard soccer fans in Toronto were always going to come out in numbers, but those numbers are small compared to the amount of so called "part-time supporters" who fill out the rest of the stadium. It seems that MLSE and TFC believe that the good times would always role at BMO as long as they could keep the ticket prices reasonable and the Carsburg flowing. However this part-time supporter is smarter than that, pints are fun but winning along with those pints make the experience worth coming back for.

So what now...what will make BMO continue to rock like it has these past 5 year come 2012? Winning for one will help but the question is how and will the club take the steps to do that? It seems that Director of Player Development Paul Mariner along with Winter and the rest of the player staff are up for the task. But TFC supporters have heard all this before. All the promises, all the changes all the fancy ads and new kits. However there is only one thing that will matter, the signing of quality players who want to be here and the successful implementation of Aron Winter's vision on the pitch.

This is the plight of the TFC supporter, this is when you find out who'll stand up and who'll fade away.

Cheers,
Mike

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