Monday, August 29, 2011

Brantford Galaxy SC – Toronto Croatia (31-07-2011)

To my big surprise, I did the 100 km (ca. 60 miles) within an hour and arrived at Lions Park, home ground of the Brantford Galaxy SC, several minutes before kick-off. This time, the game was actually mentioned on the sign. Was this going to be more professional?

While Lions Park is a sports park in a nice green site close to the river, it is for all purposes an amateur setting. Hence, my slight frustration that I had to pay again CAN$15 (ca. $15) to gain entrance to the ground. Brantford Galaxy are the reigning Canadian Soccer League (CSL) champions, which might explain the relatively large crowd (for CSL games) on this nice summer evening: roughly 150 people, including at least 50 (former) Yugoslavs, of whom many (confusingly) supported the home team.

As I walk in, I pass an impressive food tent, which serves ribs and all kind of other food plates; not surprisingly, some 20 (male) fans never leave the seating area next to the tent. I sit down on the small bleachers, which are quite nicely filled. Next to me are two guys who speak a former Yugoslav language, but surprisingly support the home team. This despite the fact that virtually all Toronto Croatia players speak (roughly) the same language; with the exception of the three black players of the team.

The first fifteen minutes are poor; the first good attack of Croatia is in the 14th minute and is volleyed over the goal. The pitch is made of real grass and is in good shape. I am surprised by how white both the audience and the players are; a stark contrast to the multi-racial games in (Greater) Toronto. I guess I notice these things, and have time to reflect on them, because the game is extremely poor. There are also a large number of young girls in soccer outfits; players of the youth academy.

Both teams create a few chances, often the consequence of huge blunders by defenders, but most end in poor final passes or wild shots over or wide. Everything is made even worse by the ‘comical duo’ Johnny and Giovanni (see below), who are constantly abusing the announcer position and public microphone to annoy the audience with extremely lame jokes and prizes. In fact, when Giovanni tries to give away a free t-shirt during half time, even the little kids don’t want it.

Just like Giovanni’s ‘jokes’, the game itself gets even worse in the second half. I am only able to endure it because of the very pleasant summer evening. There are some sporadic moments of football by both teams, but the finish always leaves much to desire. And then, unexpected by all, a surprise attack by Croatia and, even more amazing, a good finish by the only white non-Croatian: 0-1. Complete shock by the home crowd, delight by the few away fans.

As Johnny and Giovanni try to get rid of the last prizes, in between annoying us with more lame jokes and half-baked calls for support, the Galaxy struggles to get back into the game. But despite more ball possession, most half-decent chances are for the visitors.

In the 82nd minute I hear the first spontaneous chants from the home crowd: “Let’s Go Galaxy, Let’s Go.” It doesn’t seem to inspire the home team, who still keep at least five men behind the ball. The final result of 0-1 is therefore not even undeserved.

The Brantford Galaxy has the most numerous support of the CSL teams I saw this weekend, but they also have the most quiet fans, and the loudest and lamest announcers. Maybe I will return one day, but only on the condition that neither Johnny nor Giovanni gets access to a microphone.

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