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!

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!