Velvet Glove or Iron Fist ?
I really dont know where to start when talking about Saturday’s gameday experience. I purposely avoided the keyboard for a couple of days and save for a quick contribution to the U-Sector board only now have I bothered to read the articles or look at the photos from the game.
So lets start positively and talk about the game itself …. Seriously, is there a better all round player and grafter in MLS right now than Sebastian Giovinco? Tim Leiweke asked a fan “do you not like Seba?” (more of that later) and the answer from all of us, including the person he asked is of course a resounding ‘hell yes’. Whilst small in stature, the contribution the ‘Atomic Ant’ has put into his TFC appearances in only a few short weeks is nothing short of incredible. In my mind – and I have been going to TFC games since day one – he is the best player we have seen in a TFC shirt. period. and we have seen a lot (190 to be exact). You could (and perhaps should) argue the merits of DeRo in his prime or Guevara or perhaps the pedigree of players like Cesar, Frings, Koevermans, or even Defoe on the world stage but with Giovinco we have got a player like we have never had before. He is in his prime, he is pumped for every game, and he leaves it all on the pitch, and to me that is what made Saturday’s #BlackShirtsAtBMO action all the more important.
On a pristine pitch, the Italian maestro controlled this game from start to finish ably helped on this occasion by the team-mates surrounding him and scored an absolute peach in only 5 minutes. (see below)
What hope of seeing this silky skill for long if our surface is pounded into lumps by hulking great linebackers or offensive tackles … the whole idea itself is offensive to tackle! (and thats before you get into the arguments about the Argos themselves or what they may or may not have contributed to the city’s sporting infrastructure or facilities over the years). Look up google for “Wembley ruined by NFL” or research how many times it was relaid between 2007-2010 (I’ll save you the effort, it was 10 times), or look for comments about seeing gridiron lines on the pitch (frequent). If one of the premiere groundstaff crews on the planet cannot keep Wembley Stadium pristine for World Cup Qualifiers and the FA Cup Final then with all due respect to TFC, whose staff do keep BMO Field looking good most of the time, its not going to happen in Toronto.
So Mr Leiweke, yes, we do like Seba, in fact we love having him here, as well as other players of his calibre who may follow in the future, but much like certain players not wanting to grace the BMO Field turf when we had the plastic surface for fear of injury (waves at Mr Beckham and others), I dont think it is a leap to think top players will baulk at the idea of playing for TFC on something resembling a ploughed potato field whether its grass, hybrid or totally plastic.
I have read a lot of articles about TFC today and it is clear that some writers are either reticent to tell it like it is, or may be trying to stick to an agreed script, but for those who may have missed it I would urge you to read John Molinaro’s article on Sportsnet. He gets it. He understands. Perhaps because he is one of the few who has been around throughout this nine year odyssey. He also knows that despite the fan ‘protests’ we are powerless to stop the MLSE juggernaut doing whatever they want at BMO Field but as ‘customers’ we can make the choice to walk away or not be quite so engaged. Most of us are not yet ready to walk away, but the first 23 minutes was indeed testament to how things will be if and when fans do become disengaged or the likes of RPB, Inebriatti or U-Sector are pushed out, which seems to be the aim right now.
With the notion that we are not only fans but also customers it brings me to the final portion of this post and that is the fan experience that led to the article title. The velvet glove came in the form of free beer for a few folk in 112/113/114. Mr Leiweke appeared at the half and handed out a tray of it in each section. If it was meant as a peace offering then it didnt work as intended. There was ‘a frank exchange of views’ with at least one fan in the section, and the atmosphere deteriorated from there. Out of respect for those involved, or for those who may be innocently caught in the background of the pictures and find some arbitrary punishments meted out to them, I have removed any pictures of this ‘incident’ from our servers save for the one used here which just shows Mr Leiweke making his way into the stands. We also wont make any further comment other than to say you can see footage and pictures of it elsewhere if you look.
For my own part – halfway up the stands, my experience of the iron fist (or perhaps it was a case of left fist not knowing what right fist was doing) came again in the form of the camera policy. We have had 3 home games so far and for both of the MLS games I have been subject to search (that’s fine – i expect it and have my bag open and ready), delay, and on each occasion threatened with exclusion from the game due to taking a camera with me that I have had at numerous games over many seasons. I was (quietly) furious the first time this season as I had my wife and 21 month old son with me and when I asked for a supervisor the security guard allowed me entry. This time (gate 3) I did not need to ask for a supervisor, it was the supervisor on scene who was going to deny me entry after I assertively told the guy checking my bag that I would not be checking my camera in at guest services. I very politely informed her that I knew the camera policy, had gone as far as specifically querying it with Paul Beirne as it related to my specific camera setup when he was at TFC (I know he has gone but the printed policy has not changed), and I have also got a copy printed out and have it in my backpack. I even checked both the BMO Field and TFC websites as the policies used to differ on each site but both now have the simplified policy from the TFC website that basically states ‘personal use’ and no tripods, mono-pods or go-pros. As she had the list of prohibited articles with her but not the portion of the stadium rules relating to cameras I did offer her my copy to read (not to keep) but she declined and finally allowed me entry.
I really don’t want to have this argument going into each game. It sucks the enjoyment out of what should be a good day out before a ball is kicked. I am not a professional photographer, it is a hobby. I make no money from the photos on here, nor do I sell them. I do allow certain websites to use them (for free) in their articles and any pages on here that carry advertising (none right now) just offset my server and hosting costs which are actually more or less covered by another football site in another country! I counted that today’s gallery was number 162 … I am not sure how many more there will be if this continues as I can find many other things to do on a Saturday with my family that does not include travelling for 90 minutes each way to the stadium and back then being abused, manhandled and treated like vermin.
So yes Mr Leiweke, to go back to the question you asked that fan several times, we do like Seba, and if truth be told I also like the array of positive things you have done for TFC whether you buy me a beer or not, but lets not sugar coat it, the loss of BMO field as a soccer specific stadium is a bitter one to swallow and for many of us this is the real #BloodyBigDeal of your tenure at TFC!
Gallery from this game : HERE
Crucial Konopka saves
Seba interviewed after match
Michael Bradley after the game