Away From The Numbers


Vancouver Whitecaps FCSwangard Stadium, BurnabySwangard Stadium, BurnabySwangard Stadium, BurnabyVancouver Whitecaps Mascot Vancouver Whitecaps FC

(*** This article first appeared on AFTN in 2004 ***)

Football in Canada. It's not the same. It's not East Fife.

But it's still exciting and since the Vancouver Whitecaps are going to be my local team in a few years' time, that's good to know!

An pipe dream as it probably is, if I can establish any kind of official or unofficial link between East Fife and Vancouver, then I'll at least be a little bit happier when I move over! Our successful AFTN Whitecaps Prediction League was a start, so who knows what will follow.

Football in Canada has a passionate following. With the amount of ex-pats, latinos and other immigrants from football loving countries, it couldn't not have.

Having the Whitecaps as AFTN's Canadian team just continues the Caps' Scottish legacy. The team's first manager, in the 70's, was Scottish and the team play in blue and white, in acknowledgement of their Scottish heritage.

So how does a typical Vancouver matchday compare to Methil? AFTN went along to see.

We'd been along before, in October 2001, but that was a special game - the A League Championship decider first leg against Rochester. The East Fife jinx came to the fore, with the Whitecaps previously undefeated home record going out the window in a 4-1 loss.

This time though (May 2004), it was a proper League game and, worryingly on AFTN's part, the Whitecaps were again unbeaten, this time for the whole season to date.

Playing out of the picturesque Swangard Stadium in the Burnaby area of the city, the surroundings are so different for starters.

Where we have one stand, no terracing, a hideous view of a derelict powerstation and a capacity of 1,992, the Whitecaps have one stand, terracing, covered marquees for hospitality, a view of forests with age old trees peppering the skyline and snow covered mountains. They also have a capacity of just under 6,000 (5,722 if you want to be exact). Nice!

The stadium is set in the middle of a park and the build up to matchdays is all beer, barbeques and, a lot of the time, sun. Well at least we can relate to one third of that!

The game we took in was the Whitecaps' only "double header" of the season.

The Whitecaps pride themselves on being a family and community Club. They have women's and youth teams playing under the Whitecaps name and have a big community presence. The double header aspect coming from a Whitecaps Ladies game being played directly prior to the mens' match.

Compare that to East Fife, who try to give the impression of being a family club, whilst alienating fans by handing out flyers warning us not to swear and to behave ourselves and making us look like a laughing stock (especially when one of the said flyers went on sale on e-bay!). More importantly though, add to that high child prices, the lack of a parent and child turnstile, the lack of a parent and child season ticket and the lack of an unemployed gate and you're not exactly reaching out to the community and ushering them to the fold with open arms.

Our women's team is tucked away and most people won't know we have one and our scouting system has been heavily criticised and local boys' clubs critical of approaches made by the board to go under the East Fife banner.

To back their Youth programme the club offer regular clinics and summer camps, as well as developing a training academy at Simon Fraser University to develop football at grass roots level. Something which is vital not only for the Whitecaps but also for developing Canada as a major player on the international football stage in future years. Something that surely the bigwigs at the SFA should be looking to do with burgeoning Scottish talent.

Their community involvement though is perhaps the most impressive. Each year, Whitecaps players, coaches and staff appear at hundreds of community based events. Their mandate is to support groups whose focus is children's health and welfare, education and soccer development in the community. They offer special club nights, whereby local football and youth clubs can gain admission to games at reduced rates and operate fundraising and donation programmes to boost the coffers.

All things that East Fife should be trying to do, but are sadly not. Perhaps with the East Fife Supporters' Trust now on the scene this will change rapidly. The Supporters' Trust is one of the best things to happen to East Fife Football Club and with the ethos of getting the Club known and about in the community, this can only auger well for the future of the Club and the attraction of supporters. The Trust are already looking at sponsoring parent and child gates at games and if they can get some involvement with youth clubs like the Whitecaps have, then the future support will indeed be rosy.

East Fife of course also have the amazing success story that is the Young Fifers. Another fabulous community and youth programme and once again, one initiated by the fans and not the club.

Who knows, both team's youth programmes could arrange exchange visits. Great publicity, great for the kids.

So the Canadian community way of football clubs has certainly impressed the hell out of me, but what about the actual match action itself??!

We took in the Whitecaps entertaining the Portland Timbers on a lovely Sunday 23rd May.

The women's team had just beaten the Edmonton Aviators 2-0, after outshooting them 21 to 2 in a very one side game. Could the men match the women's efforts? Sadly not today, as they failed to chop the Timbers down, losing 3-1 in an entertaining match in front of 4,954 fans.

Their first loss of the season, but it was their second game in two days. Not something you'd even dream of asking some of the prima donnas over here to even contemplate!

The quality of the football is certainly on a par with the Scottish lower leagues. East Fife would certainly give the Whitecaps a run for their money, but there were certainly a lot of quality players on display.

At a maximum of $22 for the best ticket (the equivalent of 10), it's on a par admission wise with our level of football, but that's for the best seats - the gold tickets. You can also get silver at $18 (just over 8) and bronze for $12 (about 5.50) and for seniors it's only $8 (3.70). Good pricing leads to good crowds - please realise this Derrick.

Half time of the game allowed us to hand out some AFTN flyers, which I don't think has brought anyone to the site, more just bemused faces! And of course the chance to have a proper, freshly barbequed burger - delicious and a far site better than a greasy Cliftonhill pie!

So apart from the result, a fun football day out. Could I adapt to this as my home team? Sure. They'll never be East Fife, but they're going to be what I've got and I've already got my strip, hat and affinity in my heart for the Whitecaps cause.

Vancouver Whitecaps Mascot
My only criticisms of the whole Whitecaps experience is the slight lack of atmosphere. They try. They play music (gridiron style) and have an ace mascot who gets the fans fired up and shoots prizes to them from a gun (think Homer and the death of Maude Flanders!), but there's no madcap songs, no real hurls of abuse or what we get every East Fife away game! To be fair, there is a hardcore group behind one of the goals that try the basic football chants and were nice and abusive! Maybe they save their best stuff for away from home too. If not (which is unlikely seeing as how far they have to travel for these games!), I'm sure I can introduce some of the Bayview songsheet to Vancouver and make a few adaptions!

As the 2004 season progressed, the Whitecaps men's team made the playoffs, but lost their Western Division Final (A League semi final) 2-1 on aggregate to their cross border rivals the Seattle Sounders.

Vancouver Whitecaps Mascot
The Whitecap's women, however, went on to become W league Champions, beating the New Jersey Wildcats 4-2 on penalties after the 90 minutes and sudden death overtime finished at 0-0. A good end of season for the franchise and so close to being a double celebration.

Who knows what the 2005 season will hold in store for the Whitecaps - hopefully better fortunes than East Fife's. Whatever it is, AFTN will be there again with another Prediction League and more news from BC.

And don't forget you can keep up to date with all things Whitecaps at their official website

Go Whitecaps Go!

For Part One of our article, featuring the history of the Vancouver Whitecaps, click HERE!