I wasn’t in Montreal in 2008 when the 5,000 Honduran fans descended on Saputo Stadium for what has become known as the biggest debacle in recent Canadian memory.
I’ m glad I wasn’t. Supporters who attended tell the story of how a home game for Canada was transformed from a winnable World Cup qualifier, into a hostile away environment for the Canucks — with Canadian supporters being pelted with everything from bottles to bags of piss.
After the loss, frustration turned to anger for fans. Why had the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) allowed so many tickets to be sold to the Honduran support?
Had the cash-strapped CSA lost the plot? Had the cash-strapped CSA ever even known the plot?
This weekend, when Canada takes on Peru in an international friendly, a banner emblazoned with supporter signatures will hang in the south end of BMO Field as a reminder to the CSA, the players and corporate Canada – there is one priority for Canadian soccer over the next four years: Mission 2014.
Jamie MacLeod, a member of the Voyageurs supporters group and someone who was largely responsible for ensuring tickets got into the hands of Canadian fans for this weekend’s game, said the message is clear.
“The goal is to say, to the players on the field and to the CSA, that everything we do from here on in is about qualifying for Brazil.
This is our mission. This is why we’re here to support you. We want to make Brazil,” MacLeod said.
And guys like MacLeod and the Voyageurs are determined to never let a situation like Montreal happen again on home soil.
“They were throwing bottles, rocks. There were people coming into our sections and starting fights. You’re in Canada, and it’s very difficult for people like security to say ‘You can’t go into this section because of who you are,' but the CSA listened in the aftermath, saw what selling tickets to away support can do and they have learned from those mistakes,” MacLeod said.
After Toronto, the banner will travel across Canada, collecting signatures along the way.
It heads to Montreal for the Sept. 7th game against Honduras. Then out to Vancouver and on to Edmonton.
After that, it will be wherever there are national team games in Canada, MacLeod said.
“Canada deserves to have home games at home. When our players are forced to play away games in their own country, how can you expect them to qualify?”
That mission to qualify has begun.