Blog

State of the Union

So, admittedly our local soccer scene has not gone exactly the way we wanted. KW United folded for the 2018 season, and signs do not indicate a Canadian Premier League team kicking off in KW in the inaugural 2019 season (although we remain convinced that it is not a question of if but when we will get ourselves a professional team). Despite all of this-or possibly because of it, Grand River Union is continuing to host events and look for ways to build community ties.

One of our proudest accomplishments was a recent collaboration with The Waterloo Public Interest Research Group to put on a tournament fundraiser for KW Syria United. KW Syria United is a men’s soccer team in the Grand River Soccer League (a fantastic name for a league I might add), made up of Syrian newcomers and refugees using soccer as “something familiar to cling to in a new environment that isn’t quite yet home.” The fundraiser raised money to pay the registration fees to help KW Syria FC continue to field a team. The fundraiser was hosted on March 4, 2018 and was a huge success, surpassing the fundraising goal of $3000.00.

On top of the KW Syria fundraiser, GRU has begun hosting regular footy tournaments (1-2 each month), which have become very popular with great turnouts (for more information about these you can follow us on Facebook or email adrian@grandriverunion.ca . We have also hosted regular viewing parties for Toronto FC, and had the pleasure of featuring Luis Kroeker in a Pub Talk; Luis coached his Kitchener Elite Academy girls team to nationals and had a lot of sage advice for people looking to get involved in the soccer community.

Grand River Union is bigger than any single team, so we are not discouraged that we don’t have a local club to follow this season. We have a lot of plans for the future! We are continuing to look into ways of formalizing our group with a constitution, so that we can continue to grow. We will be hosting regular viewing parties for the World Cup at our very own “Asherlok Biergarten”, with our own beer brewed by TWB! And don’t think that our Michigan road trip is canceled with the dissolution of KW United; reach out to us if you are interested in joining as we connect with our SG brothers in “The Boarding Crew” (supporting the Derby City Rovers), and “Northern Guard” (supporting Detroit City FC).

We are continuing to grow and look for new ways to connect with the community; make sure you follow us on Facebook to keep an eye on what’s happening. Also-get involved!

GRU’s Leadership Meeting Brought Excitement for the 2018 Season!

Grand River Union is getting ready for the 2018 season! While there will not be a KW United team to watch and cheer for this year (unfortunately!), that doesn’t mean we don’t have a lot of things planned! We had our first leadership meeting on January 31st, where we did some brainstorming about what the future will bring.

At our leadership meeting we spent some time to reflect back on KW United and the fun we’ve had supporting the team. Many of our members have been following the team IMG_20180131_211721_919.jpgsince it began in 2010, and will always think fondly of the good times and the many talented players that worked their way through the KW United system. We will certainly miss cheering for KW United FC this year; having a club to support in our region has been a great way to mobilize local soccer fans and bring us all together! Yet, Grand River Union is bigger than any one club, and we are excited about the many opportunities we have to continue to build community in the 2018 season!

Most of our meeting was spent discussion the future, and what we have planned! GRU is hoping to take steps toward creating a more formalized structure for the group; we want to be ready for the Canadian Premier League when it comes. There was even some discussion around forming a Supporter’s Trust to ensure some local ownership of our local team! One of the biggest lessons of the meeting was the amazing level of talent and experience that resides within our members; we will continue to look for ways to allow everyone the ability to contribute in their own way.

Presentations were made on a few of the big events coming up in February and March. potatoblitz.jpgGrand River Union will be hosting a Potato Blitz Toronto FC viewing party to fundraise for House of Friendship on February 20th at the Edelweiss Tavern, as well as a bus trip the following week for the second leg of the first round of CONCACAF. A number of GRU Footy tournaments are in the works, and we will be doing a Michigan trip again this year to spend time with the Boarding Crew; a fantastic Supporter’s Group that cheer for the USLDPDL club Derby City Rovers.

Perhaps our biggest event coming up is our KW Syria United Fundraiser on March 4th. syria.jpgGRU will be hosting a tournament at Cameron Heights Collegiate, staring at 4pm. We are encouraging people to support the event through our GoFundMe campaign, as well as come to the event to cheer for the players and show support for our local Syrian refugees. All money raised will go to supporting KW Syria United, which provides a place for Syrian youth to stay active and become more engaged in their community. This is an important part of our community, so please come to show your support!

Details about all of these events can be found on the events tab of our Facebook Page. Make sure to check in often, as new events are continually being added!

You can follow us on Twitter and Instagram, as well as subscribe to our email list to stay updated on all things Grand River Union!

A Voyageurs Bus Trip – Canada vs. Jamaica

When word first broke that Canada would be coming back to BMO, the response was immediate; Grand River Union would be there! We knew we need a bus for this one. With the CNE and so much else going on, it seemed the perfect match.

We worked with the The Voyageurs – Grand River group to see how many could go and gathered a couple of different options. In the end, on September 2nd, we had about thirty of us meet at Fairview Park Mall to take the bus down. We picked up 6 more at the Guelph stop and everything was running smoothly until we hit typical TO traffic.

We still arrived around 3PM with the end of the Canadian Exhibition Airshow flying overhead. It was a family friendly crew as many kids had come along to take in the festivities. Seeing the Snowbirds swoop above Lake Ontario was a great way to start the day off!

After that, our band of soccer supporters separated to take in different events and activities going on in the city. Some went and hit up the midway, others jetted down to catch the Voyageurs at Shoeless Joes.

At 6:30 we all piled into our section. Our numbers had increased, as those GRU members who couldn’t take the bus were able to join us for the game. There were over 54 of us squeezing our way to our seats. We handed out 75 GRU Voyageurs shirts, spreading the excitement that we all feel for the CPL and the Canadian National Team.  At halftime, we had a good group of locals who came down from other sections to say hi. Seeing our region represented in two solid rows of support was fantastic! We ended up in section 114 and although there was a large crowd in front of us that mostly stayed seated, our area kept on our feet joining any chants from Eli Zeldin and his crew that we could.

The whole thing felt like a family gathering, with supporters from all across the country mingling and joining in the fun. GRU was the largest canPL SG present, but there were representatives from Hamilton, Halifax, Mississauga, and even Saskatchewan! Many of us are drawn into the soccer culture because of the sense of togetherness, and this was felt strongly as our Canadian men put their best out on the pitch. Of course, watching Canada come away with the solid 2-0 win was another huge plus for all in attendance!

Sadly, the ride home turned out to be extremely difficult! Lakeshore was packed with vehicles and lots of sections were blocked off. We ended up not getting on the bus until close to 10:30; after a hardy CANADA chant, most of us slumped into our seats to fall asleep on the ride home. Yet, despite the late night, it had been a fantastic day for everyone involved! The day was beautiful and it was great to see Canada in Toronto again. It was great to be with the The Voyageurs – Grand River and hopefully we can have many more bus trips in the future.

A note on KW United from Jeff Hughes

Editors note:
This letter is from the venerable Jeff Hughes. We had heard he gave a great speech to some coaches at Kitchener Soccer Club and we had asked him to write it up for us. Jeff’s support of KW United goes back to the first meeting of supporters when many of us chose the name “Forsyth’s Machine”. He was influential then in helping to build community support. So much so that United ended up appointing him Community Liaison for the team. This is a voluntary position that Jeff occupies and really is just a title for much of the work he was already doing and continues to do to build a soccer culture in this community.

The Premier Development League was created to help expand the game into more urban areas of USA and Canada, and to provide a league for NCAA and CIS players to play in their summer breaks without losing their college eligibility. For 2017 there are 75 teams in 10 divisions.

By supporting KW United, you are not just supporting one team, you are helping to grow the soccer culture in our region. We have opportunities for youth to be involved on games days as ball kids and player escorts, and we take bookings to bring a player or two out to one of your practice sessions to help out or just demonstrate and participate.

Every player (and coach, and parent) that we have had the pleasure of being involved with enjoyed the experience. I am sure we have helped inspire players to continue in the game and move to the next level and challenge themselves in their own development. For every fan of the sport that has been concerned about what we have – or do not have in our national programmes, we need to understand that the basic youth game and overall soccer culture is what needs to be developed and expanded to drive change upward. KW United has been helping this grow when they brought this team here. This is a high level of play that is tangible and realistic for our youth. There have been players from various countries playing here, and each year there are more local players involved. This is great to see. This is real.

In four seasons, KW United has seen over 20 of its players move on to professional contracts in MLS, NASL, USL and leagues overseas. KW did not create these players in the short PDL seasons, but this is sure a testament to the quality and level of player and league in our own back yard.

KW United FC is heading into their 5th season in our region, and now, more than ever, needs your help. KW United has been in talks with the ownership group for the coming Canadian premier league and has some large investors keeping an eye on the 2017 season. Fan, community, and corporate support will be key in helping KW United FC move to the next level. The CanPL would not only take us from high level amateur sport to a pro league, it will allow for a longer season for us to enjoy. Soccer is the most played sport in our region based on youth registrants, but unfortunately seems to be the least supported. Let’s get together to help change this.

Thank you,

Jeff Hughes
Community Liaison
www.KWUnitedFC.com
2015 USL PDL Champions

Four in a row

Despite the constant threat of rain all week, it turned out to be a beautiful day down on Seagram Drive with the sun shining brightly on the stands and the United players showing even brighter lights on the field. The scoreline flattered Dayton, who could barely cross the half way line without being intercepted, tackled, and generally haggled off the ball. It lead to our Hamilton supporting visitor, James Hutton, to remark that the whole thing looked like a training match.

This game marked the return of Mathieu Laurent, and showcased the incredible depth that United has this year in the back line. Justin Springer has been arguably one our best defenders all season, but he was dropped for the returning Laurent. Mathieu didn’t put a foot wrong for most of the match. He was equally matched by the impeccable Tomlinson, Miller and Callahan (who recorded another assist).

Dayton stuck 5 players on the backline and they often lined up right on the edge of the 18, looking like an impenetrable wall. But that was broken by the acrobatic Wesley Cain. Liam Callahan and Sameer Fathazada hooked up on the left hand side, with Liam delivering a fantastic ball that was just asking to be knocked in, two United players were waiting but it was Cain who lept highest to open the scoring. Dayton was shocked and 14 minutes later, Wes would repeat the trick. peeling off the back of his defender just as Sameer Fathazada, again looking extremely tidy on the ball, delivered a fantastic cross to the back post. More back flips ensued.

The rest of the game was about damage control for Dayton and seeing if Wes could get this hat trick. Both Callahan and Sameer continued to deliver teasing balls to Cain with a couple of shots flashed just wide and Dayton starting to ensure they had two people covering at all times. The game didn’t, thankfully, dissolve into the sort of battle that transpired against West Virginia.

Cain picked up yet another well deserved Man of the Match award. He is tied for third in the league for assists while now adding in two league goals. Although a quieter game than against Virginia, Kitchener’s Saleh was again a destroyer in midfield, breaking up attacks and covering expertly. Jiro Barriga, a native of Japan whose father is from Colombia, also slotted in and showed some incredible feet throughout the game and looks like a solid addition to the midfield.

All in all, it was hard to see how the Bucks lost to Dayton. In K-W’s only loss, the Bucks looked like the clear champions, yet somehow they lost to this same Dayton side that United, quite frankly, handled expertly. There is still the nagging issue, despite all of the goals, of needing a truly great striker but with depth in midfield and their shutdown defense United should go far. That loss to the Bucks on opening day may prove crucial but coming out of this week with two more wins will set United up nicely for their home game against Michigan on July 2nd.

We Marched, We Sang, We Celebrated: GRU’s CPL Campaign has Officially Begun!

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.

Roadtrip to Michigan!

It was a weekend to remember for the seven KW United fans that went down to Michigan to cheer on our beloved boys in blue! Leaving on Friday morning, the small band of supporters made their way down across the border, through Detroit, and on to the Addison Oaks campground. Scrambling to set up the tents and campsite, the intrepid band of fans quickly jumped back into

their trusty van to make their way to the first big event of the weekend; joining the Northern Guard SG in watching Detroit City FC play against one of their biter rivals, the Milwaukee Torrent. The Northern Guard has become famous for their raucous and wild support of their local fourth division team; the same division (although a different league) that KW United currently plays in. GRU was hoping to learn some tricks of the trade from an SG that has achieved great success in creating a fantastic atmosphere for their local community of soccer fans. They were not disappointed in the experience; there is nothing quite like joining in with the Northern Guard in their singing and smoke!

After the game, GRU was able to spend some time talking to Drew Gentry while helping to clean up the stadium. Drew adamantly believes that we can will something to happen if we push hard enough; he encouraged us to keep pushing on in building something great in KW. Feeling inspired, GRU visited the local pub The Painted Lady to toast to the future of soccer in Canada!

On Saturday, the crew was able to relax and spend time at the campground talking about soccer and bonding over a shared appreciation for breakfast beer and bacon. At around 2pm, the fans headed over to Red Oaks Golf Course to play some foot golf before heading to the “Ultimate Soccer Arena” where KW United was preparing to face off against the Michigan Bucks.

Grand River Union, although a small tribe, was by far the loudest bunch in the place; their voices echoing throughout the indoor stadium and encouraging KW United to achieve more. This game was not an easy one, and very few expected a positive result from the young players given the odds stacked against them: not all KW’s players have arrived yet; not all papers are completed which meant a limited amount of subs; almost no training time compared to Michigan’s; and an away game. Yet despite the negative result, everyone in attendance was happy with what happened, including Grand River Union. The players fought hard, and did not give up victory easily. GRU was able to play some mind games with the opposing players, including contributing to a penalty kick that flew high after GRU belted out the famous soccer chorus: “when the ball hits your head, and you’re up in row zed: that’s the Bucks”! The first “goal” was cleared by Justin Springer, who played fantastically and was GRU’s second choice for Man of the Match. Unfortunately, despite the linesman pointing for a corner; the ref was swayed by the Bucks’ premature celebration and counted the missed Bucks opportunity as a goal. This took a lot out of our courageous blues, making it hard for them to return to the fight. A second goal was not too far behind, placing the nails in the coffin for this particular game. But-the play was solid, and optimism for the season was high at the end of the game!

GRU picked Sameer Fathazada as their Man of the Match-presenting him with the very first Grand River Union MotM paddle, created by our own David Scaplin. Fathazada played quick and fast, demonstrating a strength on the ball and the ability to make quick decisions and some excellent passes. While he was unable to create any scoring opportunities that ended up in the net, he gave it his best shot!

After the game, GRU spent some time kicking the ball around in the stadium before heading back to the campsite to relax around the campfire and dive deep into an alcohol-inspired discussion on the many possibilities for soccer in KW and Canada as a whole. All in all, it was a fantastic weekend, and the drive back to Canada the next day was done by exhausted but happy fans. Everyone involved looks forward to the next road trip, hoping that we will soon have a reason for some Canadian road trips against other teams in the Canadian Premier League!

GRU Planning Meeting-April 6th

FInal Logo.pngGrand River Union Supporters met at Ethel’s Lounge on April 6th to discuss where the SG is headed, what events we want to host, and logos/branding. We are excited about the enthusiasm that everyone demonstrated, and the eagerness to really get the ball rolling. We have a great core of people who are willing to really make things happen; all that takes to start a movement!

One of the main items that we discussed was the GRU/KW United launch party. We are hoping to host a party to commemorate KW United’s 2017 season either May 7th or May 28th. Gill has told us that she will do her best to make sure that some KW United players attend our party, and we are hoping to have Gill and Barry from KW United both attend the event. We will also reach out to Paul Beirne, who has been fantastic in his support of the fledgling SGs throughout the country.

 

Our launch party will hopefully give us the opportunity to spread the word about who we are and what we intend to do. We also want to build the season ticket holder base, so that the soccer community continues to grow in KW. We have been offered some fantastic supporters’ rates from KW United for season ticket prices as well as a special promotion for the home opener. If you are interested in accessing those rates, and/or are interested in purchasing a scarf (see below!), follow this link.

We also discussed some exciting progress for a new logo and scarf design. Drew Gentry from the Northern Guard in Detroit has been working diligently on creating some clever ideas for our logo. We discussed a number of options, and came up with what we really liked about some of the options provided. After consulting with Drew after the meeting, GRU has officially settled on a logo and a scarf design which will be ordered soon so that we will have them in time for our Detroit trip.

scarf

GRU & KW Company Roadtrip!

bus.jpgGrand River Union Supporters partnered with KW Company for a bus trip to the Toronto
FC home opener and had a whole lot of fun doing it! We had a full bus of soccer fans heading into Toronto; after picking up a small Guelph contingent, the bus drove to Shoeless Joes where we were able to join in the revelry of the large amount of Toronto FC fans that gather there before a match each week.

Although the rain drove some people off-GRU and KW Company were not put off and joined in the march to the stadium. KW Company sported a fantastic sign, and GRU came prepared with a large banner that two of our members diligently prepared. We were able to unfurl the banner right in front of a TV camera, and were also able to drape it near the south end.

banner.jpgThe banner and our KW United scarves gave many of us the opportunity to strike up some great conversations about canPL and the future of Canadian soccer. We hope that the momentum will continue to build! Make sure you check us out on Facebook and follow us on Twitter to hear about future events.