Atletico Ottawa Home Opener: First ever CPL matchday experience
Updated: Oct 5, 2021
The idea of Canada having it's own domestic soccer/football league would've been thought as an impossible feat due to Canada not being a traditional footballing nation. With the recent announcement in the last few years in regards to Canada being co-hosts of the 2026 FIFA Men's World Cup alongside Mexico and The United States Of America it was looking ever so likely that a domestic men's league would arise in the leading years prior to the tournament starting. Unlike Mexico and America, Canada was the only nation of the three without it's own top flight league despite having professional clubs with the most notable ones being in America's top tier which is the MLS (Major League Soccer) and with the rule that FIFA has in place with host nations of the worlds biggest spectacle that is that any host nations must have it's own top flight league. With some surprise it was later announced the inception of the Canadian Premier League (A league in which this blog has covered extensively). To my surprise but understandably the league didn't have a club in the nations capital, most likely due to the reason that at the time of the leagues establishment the only pro team in the capital was Ottawa Fury a team that was playing in the U.S. based footballing pyramid, first in the N.A.SL. then later the U.S.L Championship which is considered the second tier of America's footballing pyramid. Without promotion or relegation this team was stuck in that league, to further give context on the complications for the Ottawa side they were the only Canadian team in that league, which it later proved far to difficult for the Canadian side to overcome and operate. When Concacaf came into the picture to govern the situation it demonstrated ever more so likely that Ottawa would potentially be left without a team. With all sorts of confusion it ultimately did leave Ottawa without a team for a short period of time. Like with most things time heals and it did for this situation. Eventually European giants of Spain & LaLiga Atletico Madrid made the similar investment that they have in other regions across the globe. Prior to the leagues second season it was announced with great pleasure that the new club would be named Atletico Ottawa in relation to their parent club in Madrid to begin play in 2020. Unfortunately, with the unwelcomed novelty COVID-19 which delayed the start of the season and which led to the CPL Island Games (which I wrote about, and you can find in the blog section of the website). Those games were held in Charlottetown, PEI furthering the idea of seeing an Atletico Ottawa home game in the city in the near future.
After months of waiting and waiting the date was announced with a Pay-What-You-Want for the ticket situation. Meaning exactly what it meant pay what you want to attend. So personally paying for one of the tickets for myself and taking two extras for free to bring some friends who aren't as passionate about the sport and team to introduce them to the experience. Prior to arriving I knew what the experience would somewhat be like but still left with questioning what exactly the details of the experience would be. The questioning mainly came from the league being one I followed extensively but still almost two seasons into it's existence I still hadn't been to a game.
Upon arriving to TD Place Stadium the overall atmosphere surrounding the ground was fairly electric and that's for all over the Landsdowne park. With the pedestrian traffic headed to the game, the regular street traffic and other people going to the parks that are on location and/or restaurants & bars with groups and individuals grabbing an afternoon drink or meal. I always have known that any opening soccer game in the city attracts loads of attention and this did no different with a large turnout for the opening home game in the clubs history. Both stands were full from top to bottom, maybe not sold out but enough that finding a good set of seats was difficult enough with the addition of people not necessarily sitting in their exact assigned seats and that matter not being exactly monitored or enforced strictly made the feeling even more of one that it was a full house. The game began well for Halifax as the Wanderers were able to control most of the possession in the early stages of the fixture which ultimately led to Halifax receiving a penalty in the first twelve minutes of the game which they converted to give them a 1-nil lead in the first half. Most would say that this is a terrible way to begin your life in your home but in reality it gave the home side a new sense of urgency rather than the lethargic start they had. Instantly after Garcia's penalty Ottawa were beginning to show signs of proper play and by the 30th minute they were able to create real chances with strong team play. Eventually in the 38th minute they were able to level the game from a corner with a stunning header from Malcolm Shaw. Despite not entirely taking in every moment of the first half due to absorbing the overall crowd atmosphere and chatting to other supporters alike it was still a brilliant half of soccer to witness. By the second half both teams continued to feel the game out but nothing extraordinary was happening as the level of intensity dropped from the first half. Despite that me and my friends were really enjoying the game and the overall aura of the stadium, seeing the game with a packed stadium was a nice touch for the city with the ongoing pandemic it was good to see fans back viewing live sports to any degree. Also seeing the support for the sport in the nations capital was also another huge triumph of the day, leaving me with the thought can this become a more constant affair in terms with this level of interest with fans showing up to this standard for football. Despite those ongoing thoughts that were persistent throughout the afternoon, it eventually without notice began seeing Ottawa really try to push for the three points in the later stages of match especially within the final ten minutes. Ultimately it did lead to three points for the Bytown club as Ottawa secured three points as Wright was able to tuck the ball in the back of the net with a somewhat strange goal but nonetheless Atletico Ottawa were able to take the lead in the 86th minute which sealed off the victory for them and any doubts of late minute collapse by the home team. Fans were left satisfied with the performance and the festivities of the day, even my friend purchased a jersey and other merch with the feeling of the need to support the team and local identity of the club and city, others had the same idea as the cue was largest I've ever seen for club soccer in the city (and I have been going to Fury games since their times playing at Algonquin College's pitch). Genuinely speaking seeing the investment from both the owners and the fans really left me with hope for the game in not only the city and Canada with constant growth in the right direction. With Ottawa notoriously being known as a city that has struggled to maintain sports clubs and franchises it seemed as if that notion is a thing of the past with the on-going addition of strong sports teams in various sports with strong sense of identity and connecting with the city, the whole question that lies is this just something of a new trend that it's a new team and people just want to be out for summer afternoon or is this genuine interest that can be built upon, and in my opinion it's the latter it really seems we're entering a new stage not only for soccer/football but just simply sports in Ottawa.
pictures either taken by me or from Atletico Ottawa's official instagram account