Away support is one of a supporter’s most proud moments. Entering the stadium of a rival to challenge both the home team and their fans is full of unknowns. It often mean giving more than you would at home: to be louder and withstand anything that may come from being away. The long journey, the sleep deprivation, the local support. An away supporter is rewarded by the camaraderie of their fellow travelling supporters.
North American away-supporter culture suffers because of the great distances that are required to follow your team. It means a greater commitment of time and money from any away supporter. Ottawa Fury’s closest rivals are the New York Cosmos, at least nine hours in the car. In contrast, the Premier League’s greatest distance is between Southampton and Newcastle; a total of five hours.
This past Saturday, six valiant supporters and members of SMR gathered early in the morning to make the trip to MCU Park in Brooklyn to see the Fury face the Cosmos.
Crossing the border into the US, the border guard asked us, “where are you going and what are you doing?”
We responded to a soccer game. “You are playing a game?”
“No, we are going to watch our Ottawa Fury against the New York Cosmos.” The border guard smiled. Obviously, few people have ever said this to a border guard. We are hoping it becomes a regular event and each time with more people.
We pressed on. Few people will understand why we would travel to New York City just to see a soccer game. We never desired our trip to be about the destination, we would go to see the Fury in any city and it would be the same for us. New York City may be a world destination, worth a trip to experience its boroughs, food and cultures, but we went to support the Fury.
With our SMR banner draped over the wall by the corner flag, we took over seats that belonged to someone else to be beside the field. Wind lashed off the water and over Coney island, making MCU Park a refrigerator. The Cosmos ‘warmed up’ on the artificial turf of a baseball diamond. Obviously some in the crowd were starstruck by the presence of former Spanish international and one of football’s most prolific strikers, Raúl. After all how often can you be a few metres away from a player many consider to be a legend?
We didn’t care about his history, we were pre-occupied by his future 90-minutes. Taking pictures of Raúl is one thing, engaging in some banter is a bit more fun. As he stretched with his team, “Hey Raúl, you are really good at Yoga! Maybe you can teach your team” we yelled. “Blow us a kiss!” He looked up and gave us a sustained stare. It was almost as fun as watching Falvey slide through the box to cleanly strip him of the ball.
The teams cleared off into their dressing rooms for the final talk before kick-off. Before the anthems, Ottawa manager Marc Dos Santos came over to shake our hands. “Thanks for coming. It means a lot to the team,” he simply stated. As the sun began to set the temperature really started to drop. Any hopes of an early spring warm front disappeared. We geared up.
New York Cosmos’ supporters section, The Five Points, is heavily influenced by South American supporter culture. The three or four factions that make up the Five Points marched into the stadium together under the rhythms of the bombo and platillo, some carrying umbrellas to hide from the non-existent rain. A few more other props contributed to the atmosphere. Unfortunately they could not figure out their own team’s colour. Seems like white and green are synonymous colours to New Yorkers?
Six against over a hundred and no instruments. We didn’t stand a chance to dominate the sonic space of the stadium. That is something that needs to change for future away matches. Nevertheless whenever we got a chance we took up to singing and chanting. A few of us lost their voices in the process.
Unfortunately the Fury conceded a first-half goal while under-assault by a wind-backed Cosmos. An early challenge high up the field by Alves let New York in on a one-on-one against Peiser. The ball was neatly put past Peiser. The frustration between the keeper and defender was immediately visible after the goal and during the rest of the half. Earlier a misplaced cross by Nicki Paterson nearly caught the goalkeeper off his line, optimistic and with poor eyesight we started to celebrate what almost was a goal. It was Ottawa’s only serious chance in the first half. At our end, however, with some luck and determined defending the score line was held to 1-0.
Following the half-time break, a very serious Dos Santos arrived early to the bench, leaving the players to sort themselves out. Starting the second half with what was almost an extra player, the Ottawa Fury began to get chances. The introduction of Ubiparipovic brought the spark that started pushing the Cosmos defenders all the way back into their box. Several chances, including a one-on-one for Tommy Heinemann buoyed our spirits. Every corner we won was met with a sustained O-F F-C! Finishing really kept the Fury off the scoreboard and an unclear decision at the other end kept the result at 1-nil. The back line, despite the pressure of a talented New York, held it together but the quick exit of Alves and Peiser suggests the team needs more from its forwards to relieve the situation at the back.
At the end of the match a large number of the players came over to us to thank each of us. Richter’s family, probably some of the most travelled Fury supporters were also in attendance. The symbolic gesture was great for us, as we faced a tough loss and a long drive back to Ottawa. We know these players want to win, they want to be scoring, and they want to do Ottawa proud. There is very little pretension on their part. Four difficult matches in two weeks has brought the team’s morale down but to press New York back into a corner in the second half shows the character of these guys, they deserve more points and they deserve more support.
MDS promised “to turn it around.” The time in the spring season is running out but with three home matches in May, stability might give the Fury a chance to claw back a few points. As we drove to the Canadian border we talked mostly about what we can do to make the Ottawa Fury better. As supporters there is no question about our loyalties, Fury we are always with you! Like the Fury, however, we can do more and we need to weave supporter culture into the fabric of Ottawa to make sure that Section W is always bursting and overflowing.
We are proud though. This weekend we made a little bit of history and broke the ice. Next time we make the trip to New York, we can promise we will be more.