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!

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 Meets with Gill Heidary and Jeff Hughes from KW United!

Levi, Adrian, and Nathan were excited to sit down on March 9th with Gill Heidary-Director of Club Operations and Co-Owner of KW United, as well as Jeff Hughes-Community Liaison, to discuss ways which Grand River Union and KW United can work together to make a professional soccer team in Kitchener-Waterloo a reality. Gill and Jeff were both open to GRU’s suggestions, and want to continue to develop a close relationship between the club and the supporters.
One of the biggest talking points was how we in Grand River Union can help to ensure that KW United is able to gain entrance to the new Canadian soccer league that will be starting in 2018 or 2019. Gill explained that KW United is looking for another investor to give the team the boost it needs. This season will be vital for that goal; “the primary focus for Barry and I this year is getting people there. We need to prove we can make the leap”.th
Barry MacLean, President of the club-is confident that the league will start strong and will have staying power. Gill explained that all of the CFL teams involved have “agreed, the people on board are willing to lose money” for the beginning stages of the league until enough traction is gained and market share acquired. All we need to do is get there!
In the meantime, KW United staff is hard at work trying to make the best soccer culture possible. They are hosting a joint “picnic in the park” event with Grand River Soccer Club on June 4th, and are hoping to work with us on getting some of their players to join us in some of our events. Gill quickly agreed to our request to rope off the top of the stadium during game-days to create a more intimate feel for fans and bring us all together-and also to providing a spot for us on the new KW United website and to working on some joint advertising campaigns.
We all agreed that one of the defining characteristics of KW United culture was the welcoming atmosphere. This is something that both the team and we the supporters are seeking to create. Gill told us that “because we take the time to care about [the players] as a person, they really stay connected”. She went on to explain that KW United tries to maintain a positive attitude wherever the players go. “Our boys sweep and clean the change rooms before they leave”, the staff views the club “as a dignified club”.
It is this sense of togetherness that the club has been fostering through their overtures to other local sports teams. Gill was in “meetings with the Titans, the Rangers, the Velocity” to develop a KW entertainment package that can help the different teams build each-other up. Supporters of any and all of these teams can expect some exciting joint campaigns in the future. Another exciting partnership is the link between KW United and Toronto FC. Gill confirmed to us that such a partnership was in the works; Toronto FC has now officially released this news. KW United will have the benefit of receiving some of the branding and marketing power of the big club, as well as access to some of their top University prospects. Of course, KW United management will continue to have the final say over the roster-but a little bit of help can never do any harm!
If you are interested in getting involved and/or following the KW United season, send us an email, tweet, or Facebook message. Individual game tickets are $10, season tickets are $40-or, if you want to join GRU’s mission to spread soccer culture throughout the region, we can get you season tickets for just $25.  We firmly believe that more is better, we want to fill up that stadium: remember, this is our team!

For season or single match tickets and scarf purchase inquiries, you can follow this link.

Our First Meeting Was Fantastic!

Despite some technical difficulties and a nasty bout of Canadian winter-the Grand River Union Supporters had a great first meeting! People started arriving at 7pm and began to enjoy the delicious beer brewed and served at TWB Cooperative Brewing. At 7:30pm we started our presentation in thegetting-ready back, which gave the group a lot to think about.

Levi kicked things off with a great run-down of the history of soccer in the region. We learned that KW has the 10th largest population in Canada, and is set to continue to grow at a rapid pace, with a vibrant youth culture! Many new industries and technological start-ups are continuing to fuel the growth of the region, creating a larger demand for a team that can represent our growing slice of Canada.

We also learned that KW has a long-standing history of soccer played in the region. The Ontario Association Football League, which evolved into the CSA-was founded in Berlin, Ontario. For those of you who don’t know-Kitchener was known as Berlin prior to WWI when it was renamed for political reasons. Unfortunately, WWI came with many changes to the region-including the labeling of soccer as a “German” pastime, resulting in a temporary rejection of the sport. Prior to that rejection, Galt FC had represented the region and the nation, winning the Gold Metal in the 1904 Olympics (yes, you read that right!)-and hosting “The Championship of the World” game, when they played an all-star English team right on the bank of the Grand River, tying 3-3 in front of 3,500 fans.

Next up, Adrian walked us through who we want to reach and represent with a CPL team in the region. We learned how there is a common history and culture that runs through the entire Waterloo Region, and that it is the Grand River that unites us all! Too often, the cities are pitteGrandRiver.pngd against each other, fighting for resources and attention. But we are putting out the call to unite the cities under the common banner of a love of the beautiful game!

Nathan talked to us about what the Canadian Premier League is, why we need it, and how the Grand River Union fits into it. We learned about the momentum that the league has, and got excited about having our own Canadian league that would give our players a chance to play at the highest level of soccer. If you haven’t read it, jump over to the article at NorthernStartingXI for a fantastic rundown of the league. Almost Ready to Start.jpg

Filip completed the Grand River presentation by talking about who we are and what we want to be as a supporter’s group. We want to prove to the city, to investors, and to the league that KW is ready for a professional soccer team. To do that, we need to create excitement about soccer and develop a soccer culture that will electrify the region to get behind a team.

After the Grand River presentation ended, we took some time to grab another pint and talk about soccer in the region. Many interesting conversations, ideas, and information was passed around-it’s always great when soccer fans meet!sharingapint.jpg

Next up: James came from the Hamilton Barton St. Battalion to give us some tips on effective ways to get a supporter’s group rolling. He talked to us about how to make connections, building momentum, and fundraising. A big thank-you to James for making the trip through the nasty weather to give us a hand!JamesPresenting.jpg

Jeff finished the night off by talking about the enthusiasm KW United has for the league. He also talked to us about what we need to do to really help the team achieve its goal of becoming professional: build enthusiasm!

It was a fantastic night, full of great conversation and beer! In the future, we are hoping to really get the ball rolling (pun intended) by hosting viewing parties, pub nights, and-when soccer season returns to us: some epic displays of support at local soccer games! Stay tuned for more updates by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, and/or signing up for our Email list. GroupShot.jpg