The adventure began on May 19, 2008.
An Italian friend (and commited fan of Juventus before he even came into the world) made me a proposal: “We will have a nice little football stadium soon. You must absolutely see that!”
Football? The madness that causes people to desert several cities around the world every 4 years? Raised in a culture of hockey, baseball and American football, I was light years away from this type of football. An adopted Montrealer, I did not even know there was such a team in this city! And so soccer, I looked rather distractedly at one or two games on TV without it ever really interesting me.
But out of curiosity, I yielded to the pleas of my friend and promises of an unforgettable experience. Incredulously, I accompanied him, without great motivation, and just to make him happy.
May 19, 2008 ... I entered Saputo Stadium.... and I never left! Or almost!
The weather was rainy, the freshly completed stadium packed. The excitement of the people was palpable: fans were there for the first time, proudly wearing the jersey or scarf of the Impact. All these elements would contribute to the moments of happiness that, without knowing it, I was going to live that day.
Then came this handful of players of variable size, athletes protected from equipment so light that I already anticipated the carnage. The whistle sounded and from the first seconds I was fascinated by the round-trip sprints and the dance steps performed with the ball. The endurance and skill of these players, their ways to defeat the opponent, the deviations of the head, and whatever else .... and I was surprised to see they never left the field.
I wasn’t aware that a team could make only three changes throughout the game. And when play stopped, the clock kept going. I thought there was a problem, that it was broken or something, before learning that this dynamic game would stop only after 90 minutes. WoW!
There were no moments of grace that day, nor goals, but what I felt on the spot had nothing to do with my poor television experience. I immediately understood that I would repeat the experience: football had hit me full force!
Obviously, during the first games, I ran into my ignorance of the rules; the misunderstanding of the offside rule (how often did I shame my entire section while I was encouraging a breakaway, leading to a goal that obviously wouldn’t stand!). But I was lucky to have this friend who was happy to answer my questions, to explain the vocabulary, the tactics and the rules of the beautiful game.
I learned much from him, but later through newspapers, sports analysts, podcasts and Twitter-related links, they all fuelled my curiosity. Despite the subtleties that still escape me sometimes, I’m now much more equipped, obviously, thanks to all this information.
I am now among those who refuse to put their face outside on a bright day when there is a major game or tournament on TV, regardless of the league. I am also one of those who does not take a winter break, checking all the rumours and news about the club, the transfer window, pre-season, etc.
And I go back to the stadium year after year. I embark with pleasure in this roller coaster led by our beloved team, ensuring strong emotions (the famous goal of Cameron Porter or that of Patrice Bernier against Toronto), but also great disappointments (their inability to reach the playoffs). But I fell in love with this team, in its successes as in its defeats. So much so, that during my travels, I must not miss any Impact matches. No matter the way ... even if it means watching on, in desperation, through FaceTime!
I did not believe in love at first sight, especially not for the “ballon rond” and yet .... since the famous May 19, 2008, the adventure has never stopped.