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!

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.

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!