Montreal’s fanbase to drive team’s future

An article was recently posted on The Football Ramble regarding the Montreal Impact’s upcoming inaugural campaign in Major League Soccer, this March. Due to some oversights (or complete nitpicking from PTB) there are some issues with the article, titled “Apathy the Montreal Impact’s biggest adversary,” that should get pushed out into the open.

Before we get into the article, here is some background on the article. It was written by Eric Beard, the founder of A Football Report. Keep in mind that this is a soccer blog that I frequent and have a great respect for.

The article’s main point is that Montreal, being the new kids on the block, will likely be a success. However, the team has some significant stumbling blocks that could hinder its continued growth.

The death of the Expos and the Habs effect

Pedro Martinez was just one example of a great player who the Expos couldn't keep.

Beard brings the failure of the Expos front and center. The Major League Baseball team was eventually moved to Washington D.C. to become the Washington Nationals after the 2004 season. This was due to many reasons, not the least of which he mentioned:

“First of all, the team could not compete financially with organisations such as the Yankees and the Red Sox, and the result was that the Expos only made the playoffs once (1981) in their 35 years of existence,” he wrote.

This is spot on. The close proximity of the two largest franchises in the league made for a difficult situation when it came to succeeding, as the Expos were consistently losing talent to big teams. Even in the National League, the teams was not able to hold onto anyone.

However, Beard then goes on to explain that the presence of the elephant in the room – the Montreal Canadiens – contributed to their downfall. There is no doubt that hockey is the religion in La Belle Province. But, to say that they contributed to the exit of the Expos is inaccurate. No team in any other sport in Montreal (or all of Quebec) is trying to replace the Habs. In fact, the main failings of the Expos was due to the 1994 MLB Lockout and subsequent fire sale when the team was the best in baseball. It showed many of the fans that the management didn’t care about them. This would be the death sentence for the team which was executed 10 years later.

And another point regarding the Habs needs to be made. While right now, many Montrealers are fans of the hockey team, it is important to note that not everyone lives and dies with the Canadiens. There was a team two hours north – named Les Nordiques – who are rumored to be reborn as soon as Summer 2012. This will give the hockey landscape more competition, but it shouldn’t affect the Impact much, if at all.

The Impact have a rich history that is nothing new to its current fans

Due to Montreal’s place as a major world city, it doesn’t seem likely that the Impact would be hindered by the failings of the Expos. The bigger competition may be the Alouettes, as their season runs nearly identical to the Impact’s. However, Beard was right to note the prosperity the Impact have witnessed since their inception in the early 90s. A total of 12,000 fans a game isn’t half bad. With the expansion to Stade Saputo, it will get better.

Politics and the Quebecois are not “French”

My biggest issue is something that Beard touched upon, but definitely left it open for interpretation. He was right to say that the rivalry against Toronto is politically and culturally charged. It would be a flat-out lie to say otherwise. In order to understand the rivalry, you need to understand the dichotomy of Canada, as it is an extremely complex nation which has struggled since independence to deal with its life as (at least) two cultures under one flag. He also took into account the countless immigrant groups who make the city an even more diverse one, which is important to note. These groups help spearhead the soccer culture in the city.

Where Beard strays in his article is here:

“The Impact could potentially push the league into a new frontier, in terms of marketing and viewership. But before anyone starts dreaming big, the club needs support. France cannot keep the Impact afloat, nor can the league. This answer to the club’s search for sustainability lies within Montreal’s city limits, and nowhere else.”

The Impact have a large fanbase and will support the club whether they are immediately competitive, or not.

France has less to do with Montreal, Quebec or the Quebecois than England has to do with the United States. For those unfamiliar, here is a brief history lesson: Quebec’s license plates say “Je me souviens.” This means “I remember.” Popular thought is the motto of the province originated from the disgust the Quebecois had after the French abandoned them. The French dialect of Quebec has less in common with “traditional” Parisian than American English has with any variation of British English. This causes issues, especially due to piss-taking and other comments from MLS fans that goes beyond banter. French players as DPs are helpful due to them knowing the language (as well as name recognition), but they are not thought of as “one of us” by the Quebecois.

Let’s be clear. Established Montreal Impact fans don’t need to read Beard’s article to get a sense of what is going on. It wasn’t written for them. They live it already, and are well aware of the situation. However, there is (for myriad reasons) a lack of knowledge of the team, the city and the province in the United States. This could sound like a backward Quebec tourism pitch, but the place is very different from what many perceive it to be. It has produced a significant amount of misinformation, or even ignorance, about the Quebec people and their situations.

In addition, Politics and soccer don’t belong together, but sometimes they sit in the same room. This is one of those situations, for better or for worse.

Montreal will take the pitch in Vancouver on March 10. The Impact will be representing not only the Francophones and the cultural Quebec people, but all people in the province – whether they speak English, or any other language – from Montreal, Quebec, Trois Rivieres, Gatineau, Matane and any other inhabited point within the province. While inherently Quebecois, it will wave the Fleurdelisé, while still representing those other, equally important fans.


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Stacy on 04/17/2013 at 13:47

    Montreal is a place where they love baseball.


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