I have been to lacrosse, football and hockey games where I heard the fans chant “ref you suck” and/or “bullsh*t”. The athletes who play in these games have all heard the boos rain down on them as they left their respective playing surface. When a former player comes back to town wearing the opposing team’s jersey they tend to hear those boos to varying levels. Heck, not even Wayne Gretzky was exempt from hearing those boo-birds. You know what I have not heard? People saying they would refuse to go to another lacrosse, football or hockey game because of these actions.
Enter the double standard when it comes to Supporters Groups in soccer where it has been said that people will not attend or have stopped attending games because of these fans.
It is befuddling how it seems a “bullsh*t” chant in a sporting venue outside of Clarke Stadium, home of FC Edmonton, is considered passionate fans voicing their opinions but inside Clarke Stadium it’s a bunch of loud mouth hooligans. When the walls of Rogers Place or Commonwealth Stadium shake with tens of thousands of people booing in unison or chanting “ref you suck”, we once again hear about how passionate Edmonton fans are. When 100 members of the FC Edmonton Supporters Group, the River Valley Vanguard (RVV), chant “ref you suck” the narrative becomes, “well this is no environment to bring my kids to watch a game”.
My wife’s soccer fandom is casual at best. I met her through my time working for the Edmonton (now Saskatchewan) Rush Lacrosse Club. We talked many times about how lacrosse made the sport of hockey seem boring and now I was worried “how the heck am I getting through a soccer match?” Full credit goes to the River Valley Vanguard for creating an environment that helped turn me into a soccer fan.
The environment of Rogers Place is one where you are expected to quietly watch the game until you are prompted to make noise. The environment at Commonwealth Stadium often feels like you are constantly being asked to make noise. The RVV always make the game feel lively. If a dame or fella wants to make noise, it does not feel discouraged or forced.
If one was to give the RVV a movie rating, the suggestion would be PG-13. “Avengers: Endgame”, “Jumanji: The Next Level”, “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” are all PG-13 rated movies that many a parent has brought their young children to. With catchy chants and a drum beat most the of the game, when your young one’s attention starts to drift away from the game they will have a distraction. This is an environment where kids (and adults alike) are encouraged to make noise, to cheer and even dance in their seats if they want. Very few other sports offer you this luxury as freely as in soccer, especially during live game play.
The RVV rarely uses coarse language. The most common chants are done to the tune of “You Are My Sunshine” and “Mrs Robinson”. Oh golly gee wilikers that sounds menacing! Unless you are playing for the other team, menacing is the last thing the group wants to be. That is why they are called a “Supporters Group”.
The above comments taken from a post on the RVV’s Facebook Group are made by former FC Edmonton player Bruno Zebie. Bruno has taken his talents to the rival Calvary FC (Calgary) and issued a challenge to the RVV to give him a hostile return to Clarke Stadium. Before starting a rant about how “WWE” that sounds please allow me to remind you of the absolute heyday the media and fans alike had when the Oilers Zack Kassian and Flames Matthew Tkachuk brought back the meaning of rivalry to the “Battle of Alberta”. Allow me to remind you the happy hysteria that followed the goalie fight between Oilers Mike Smith and Flames Cam Talbot. How is all that acceptable but when the RVV hurls a few pointed chants toward a returning player, it’s a “WWE style” mindset and inappropriate?
One can only presume the fans checking out a FC Edmonton game who feel the RVV and their constant “vocal stylings” are akin to the vuvuzela’s that haunted the 2010 World Cup are as unfamiliar with the game of soccer as I was when I first attended. It is understandable that on your first time venturing into Clarke Stadium this may be overwhelming, but please remember that this is commonplace in the sport of soccer all over the world.
The only difference between short-lived chants at hockey games and forced noises at football games is that the RVV are “constantly” adding to the noise level. It is in the culture of the game of soccer to “constantly” be cheering on your team and your city while making the opponents team feel unwelcome. If you cannot “constantly” handle the stimulation, ask to move to the other end of the stadium because as dynamic as the RVV can be, they are only powered by their voices.
Until we can all cheer together again, cheers.