A Tale of Two Supporter GroupsWhile in Switzerland, columnist Sonja Missio cheats on Toronto FC with another club
by Sonja Missio | Monday, October 29, 2012
I have a confession: I needed a break from Toronto FC.
Not so much from the team itself, but from the drama surrounding it. In other words, I was so exhausted by the protests, paper bags and petulance that I decided, for my own sanity, that TFC and I should go on a break. Maybe – just for a little bit! – we should see other people.
Consequently, I made a date with FC Zürich.
Now, don’t panic. I have not given up TFC for FCZ; I just needed to feel what it was like to be surrounded by people who love soccer again. However, after attending the FC Zürich, FC Basel game, my thoughts on Toronto have changed. Surprisingly, for the better.
But, before we get to that, let me set the scene for you: It had been snowing unexpectedly and heavily in Switzerland the whole weekend, and I arrived at Letzigrund (FC Zürich’s stadium) in the only jacket I brought – a Toronto FC raincoat. I was barely through the turnstile when someone shouted at me, “Eric Hassli!”
Even here, in a stadium in Switzerland, I couldn’t escape my Toronto FC past.
Once inside the stadium – which by this point, resembled more of a giant snow globe than a soccer stadium – I immediately felt like a fraud and, even worse: a tourist. With groups of Swiss laughing and joking around me, I felt entirely out of place, so I did what anyone in my position would do: I went to the nearest stand and bought a scarf.
Which would have been fine, had I not already supported a Swiss league team.
You see, I am a BSC Young Boys fan, as my grandfather used to play for them. In fact, the whole reason why I’m currently in Europe is to watch Young Boys play Udinese in a Europa League match. FC Zürich was just a one night stand to help heal my heart from Toronto FC. So, putting on the FCZ Ultras scarf was no easy feat.
And, of course, I tied it around my neck wrong. I couldn’t even fake being an imposter correctly.
It soon became apparent that this was not the rebound that I had hoped for; every bit of enthusiasm I put into being a just-for-the-day FCZ supporter was in vain.
As I stood in their proper standing room section – no bucket seats indenting the front of my shins! – I realized that after Grasshopper Club Zurich, Basel is FCZ’s biggest rival. And I just couldn’t get excited. As I stood under, and held up, the impressive tifo display before kickoff, I still couldn’t get excited – though, I was glad it blocked a bit of snow. And as the game carried on, and the home stands grew louder, I remained unable to get excited.
The truth was: FCZ and I just weren’t clicking.
The game itself, which ended 2-1 for Basel, was decent enough. The second Basel goal was scored by Alexander Frei – retired captain of the Swiss National Team – and I found myself cheering (silently, in my head) for my ex-national captain’s goal. Don’t get me wrong, when FCZ scored their goal on a penalty, I clapped too, but it was polite and modest.
As you can probably guess, despite the ultras scarf around my neck, I really wasn’t on any side.
Oh sure, the singing, the flares and the shots from flare guns – one nearly hitting a Basel player – were exciting, but I just wasn’t feeling it. And even worse, when it came to the collective gasps, boos, “hopp’s!” and “scheiße’s!” with the home team, I was faking it -- the entire time.
Then it hit me: I didn’t care about FCZ. I mean, I knew about that going into the game, but I realized no amount of faking, no matter how convincing it sounded, would make me an FCZ supporter.
Just like no amount of faking would make me less than a TFC supporter.
That’s right. It took a bad date with another team to teach me what I knew all along: No matter how bad the bad times are, I really do belong with TFC. As a very wise man once told me, and rightly so: Toronto FC is my boyfriend.
So, my dear TFC, I am sorry we fought and I am sorry I ever thought I could do without you. Because even when things are tough between us, I know you are exactly where I want to be. And even though you played your last game of the season on Sunday afternoon (a 2-1 loss in Columbus), I will be counting down the days until I am with you again.
Through all of your highs and lows, I want you to know, I love you, TFC.
Also, I didn’t see my Hassli Heckler again, but little did he know, I was actually wearing a Toronto FC Hassli jersey under my coat. What can I say – old habits die hard.