Members of Grand River Union met at Ethel’s Lounge on May 28th to toast the 2017 season and prepare for supporting KW United in their quest for glory. We had a great turnout, with many new faces who are excited about supporting the local team while helping to push for our own local professional soccer team. Josh Brown from the Waterloo Region Record came to join us, spending time talking to different GRU members and finding out what we’re all about. Once we were all gathered we marched to the stadium, singing proudly and showing our colours!
As we marched into the stadium, we sang our new local anthem:
Grand River Jingleheimer Schmidt; this team is your team too!
Whenever we come out, the people always shout:
Grand River Jingleheimer Schmidt
LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA
We sang and cheered for most of the game, and were not disappointed in our team, who gave West Virginia Chaos a thorough drubbing, final score: 3-1. Many GRU members came with their own banners and flags, and our massive Grand River Union banner proudly spread across the front of the stadium railing. Reports hold the crowd to have been just shy of 1000, which is a fantastic turnout for a PDL team!
After the game, we presented Wesley Cain with our MVP paddle. He was a force to be reckoned with on the pitch, contributing defensively and offensively, not to mention receiving credit for assisting both of the second-half goals. Cain is a local boy; he was born in Guelph and spent his youth playing local soccer before leaving to Vancouver to further his dream of going pro. Keep an eye on him: he has the grit and passion to make it big-we may see him back suiting up for our professional squad when the Canadian Premier League features KW United ripping up the league!
After presenting Wesley Cain with his MVP paddle and talking to the various players and congratulating them on their victory, GRU headed to the last event of the day: our launch party! We were happy to welcome Jamie MacLeod, Voyageurs; Jeff Hughes, KW United Community Liaison; and Barry MacLean, KW United President and Owner. Adrian Martin acted as the MC for the event, doing a fantastic job making sure everything ran smoothly. Nathanael Martin opened up the event by talking about who Grand River Union is and what we want to accomplish. Nathan told the crowd that we do not only want to campaign for a local canPL team; we also want to support local soccer in every way we can and build community!
Jamie MacLeod came next, talking about the broad movement of soccer support across the country. He explained how “before the league was even announced, we had almost 12 or 14 different supporters’ groups stretching from Halifax all the way to Victoria”, which shows “a desire in this country for something that’s ours”. MacLeod let us know that we are not alone, there are people all across this country who want to see soccer flourish! He also proclaimed that one of the most exciting things about this coming league is that it is “ours, and we will control our own destiny”! He talked about how we can continue to contribute and make a difference in building our soccer community, including getting involved directly with a local Voyageurs. Jeff Hughes then talked about KW United specifically, and how the support for the team has grown over the years. Hughes started with the club simply as a supporter wanting to come out to local games; this grew into a love for the club and the volunteer position of Community Liaison. Everybody in GRU can tell you: Jeff has been hugely instrumental in pushing momentum, and he is a huge asset to us, always helping us to connect with the club! Jeff shared his heart for the team, believing that “it’s something to share and grow”, because of the community impact that the club can make. He explained how soccer is “more attainable and accessible for our kids to aspire to” when they have a local club they can look up to. “Many times”, Jeff told us; “I’ve had parents come up to me and say I’ve stayed in the sport another year because of the connection with this team”.
Last, but certainly not least: Barry MacLean talked about his passion for the club and made himself available for some Q&A. Before the Q&A, Barry explained how the club was meant to bring the community together right from the beginning; even “the way the logo was designed was to represent all four communities”. Barry explained how the name “United” came from the Cambridge youth club, and the crown on the logo “was to represent the royal city in Guelph”. Although the communities have not come together as much as could be hoped, Barry is optimistic that “the advent of a CPL franchise; that can be the catalyst to make that happen”.
Barry also talked about the success of the club. He told the crowd how there are “more than twenty players who have gone on to play professionally”, there are “two coaches; Chris Pozniak and Stuart Neely, that left the club to go on to professional opportunities”, and “we’ve had an executive who’s cut his teeth here, and is now general manager in Orlando in the MLS”. KW United has also won the PDL championship in the third year of operations; “that’s 80 teams across North America: not an easy task”.
One of the biggest questions that the crowd had was around stadium plans. Those present completely understood when Barry said the stadium is going to be “a key piece to whether this group manages a CPL franchise”. Yet Barry is optimistic, and is not insistent on any one direction for stadium possibilities. “Whatever makes sense for the entire region”, Barry explained; “we want to be connecting people, we don’t want to be dividing them. It doesn’t matter to me if we play in Waterloo, if we play in Kitchener, if we play in Cambridge, if we play in Guelph: we just want to play”! Barry was asked about the possibility of playing in Alumni stadium in Guelph; while he didn’t rule it out, he explained that “we want to get a stadium that actually looks like a soccer stadium. Ideally from my perspective we want a stadium that has no track, that the stands are close to the pitch so the fans can have a proper experience” (this caused a cheer to go up from the listeners).
The determination for the team to rise to the CPL was clear from all who spoke and attended the meeting. Barry encouraged us by saying “there isn’t anybody who is part of the CPL group that’s deciding on franchises that doesn’t recognize the power of KW right now. It is the dream city”. We couldn’t agree more Barry! We will keep pushing for a CPL team in our region; in the meantime, we will keep supporting local soccer in whatever way we can!
Sergio Camargo, Jay Chapman, and Oyvind Alseth came to the meeting from Toronto FC, and Liam Callahan represented the KW United players in their support of our CPL campaign; we all had some great opportunities to talk to the players and discover what they loved about the KW United club. It was a great day, and a great way to start the season!
Head over to our shop to purchase season tickets and scarves!
To read Josh Brown’s article on Grand River Union, follow this link.
To connect with the Voyageurs, follow this link.
To read a summary of the game, follow this link.