Print Edition: July 18, 2012
So for many of you, summer is probably relatively uneventful in the sports world. You pore over NHL.com watching for new trades and signings, but other than that, you just count down the days until the puck drops again. However, for the rest of us, we are enjoying a summer packed full of the world’s most popular sport. Soccer fans can immerse themselves in the loud and proud world of professional soccer right here in Vancouver, and for a fraction of the cost of a Canucks ticket – prices go as low as $20, and that’s for a legitimately purchased tickets. The Vancouver Whitecaps Football Club (FC) are well into their second season as members of Major League Soccer, competing against top performing teams in the western conference including Real Salt Lake, Seattle Sounders and L.A. Galaxy (home to British football celebrity, David Beckham). The ‘Caps inaugural season in the top tier of North American soccer left them at the bottom of their conference, but in 2012, with half their season left, they are within reach of the number one spot.
Vancouver’s presence on the professional stage dates back to the 1970s. They began as the Vancouver Whitecaps, then reformed as the 86ers in 1986 until 2001, and finally brought back the original moniker that is slowly making its presence known on Sportsnet. Throughout the growth of the club, a loyal fan base has established itself in the city. One such group, the Vancouver Southsiders, was founded in 1999 and represents the “culture” of southwest pacific football. If you are lucky enough to have snatched up one of the frequent Groupons to a match, you probably noticed the group of committed fans behind the Western goalposts. Possibly, you even wondered what exactly they were singing? This support group has a plethora of Whitecaps and Vancouver related chants and songs, which they sing throughout the match – some at perfectly timed moments, others just to be loud.
When goalkeeper Joe Cannon winds up for a kick, a hiss falls over the stadium reminiscent of a burning wick, then as he explodes the ball down the pitch, the stadium erupts in a thunderous BOOM—a firing cannon. In The Simpsons episode “Homer the Great” Homer becomes a member of the Stonecuters, a secret society, and they engage in a raucous anthem. This tune, with lyrics relevant to the football fans and the city they reside in, can be heard drifting through the stands. The support doesn’t stop at BC place (or prior to that, Empire Stadium and Swangard Stadium); the Southsiders assemble for away games all over the country, most recently making the trek to Chicago on July 14.
To be a Southsider, you pay a modest membership fee of $30. This gets you plenty of benefits – aside from a scarf, priority tickets at away games, and other team-related benefits, membership means a discount at Doolin’s Irish Pub, Roxy Burger, Soccer Xpress, and many more places. You simply need to commit to supporting the Whitecaps and heckling the opposition. Contrary to stereotypes this does not involve beating up opposing supporters in the parking lot – the Southsiders website offers a city guide and assistance to those fans just as committed to their own teams as the Southsiders are to the ‘Caps.
Not ready for that level of commitment? There is still plenty of football culture to experience as one of the “regular people” in the stadium. Arrive at BC place early enough to mingle about outside and collect swag from the Bell Mobility tent, observe the Southsiders as they march and chant their way to their seats, or to simply take in the beautiful Vancouver view. Once inside the newly reconstructed BC place stadium (I don’t know about you, but I was happy to see the big white balloon deflate), you are hit with a wall of legacy in fandom. Almost everyone is sporting some sort of ‘Caps gear—from the iconic scarves to one of their three jerseys in current rotation, from the kids kicking around mini soccer balls to the lifers in their 1975 original shirts. Whitecaps FC is a unique sporting experience. For tickets as cheap as $20, you can immerse yourself in a club that is embedded into the fabric of Vancouver sport culture. Grab some nachos, find your seats, make friends with your neighbours and watch the boys warm up on the pitch. See you in the stands.