For the first time since 1992, Winnipeg has a professional soccer team - and if May 4th’s inaugural home game was any indication, Manitobans are all in.
With 9,966 fans flooding in to Investors Group Field for Valour FC’s first home game as part of the Canadian Premier League, it was clear from the start that Manitoba is filled with both established soccer fans, and folks all-the-way ready to become fans to support their new team.
If you’re the former, Valour FC and the culture of a soccer game might already be on your radar. But for those of you who are new to soccer and may be looking for a new way to show your Manitoba pride, here are seven things you can expect at your first Valour FC game.
You’ll learn some new tunes
Warm up those vocal cords on your way to the stadium, because there’s a soundtrack to these soccer games - and the fans are the ones carrying the tune. Watching soccer is much more than just woos and boos, as coordinated chants and songs help cheer on the home team and contribute to an atmosphere that rarely has a quiet moment regardless of what’s going on on the field.
But what if this is your first soccer game and you don’t know any of the lyrics? Never fear, the Red River Rising supporters group is here to guide fans along the way. Packed in to section 144 (with an awesome homemade sign labelling it as "The Trench"), the Red River Rising are our official hardcore Valour FC fans who bring the noise and the passion, but also lead the stadium in the songs and chants you hear throughout the game. If you’re really a keener, here’s a great Twitter thread from CBC Manitoba with videos of the supporters walking you through some of the songs you’ll hear at Investors Group Field.
You’ll find something for everyone
Whether you’re a seasoned soccer aficionado, casual fan, soccer rookie, or you just like to get out of the house, there’s a little something for everyone at a Valour FC game. For hardcore fans, it’s easy: there’s pro soccer in Winnipeg! The Kings Head Supporter Section anchored by the Red River Rising is packed with soccer lovers who want to be loud and proud. But even where I was sitting in the centre of the stadium I was blown away by the knowledge and passion I overhead and saw in the stands. In our very first home game it felt like there had been a team here for years.
For casual fans, you’re going to fall in love with a truly different sport atmosphere than what you're used to in the city. From the chants and the songs, to the flow of the game, to the brass band playing as you enter Investors Group Field, Valour FC games offer a diverse, globally-influenced game day experience you probably haven’t experienced before.
And these games are awesome for families. There’s a dedicated family section (115), mascots and activities all over the concourse, and a 90-minute game time which can get you in and out in just over two hours.
You’ll have a chance to get some great gear…and a scarf!
Here’s my bold prediction of the day: Valour FC gear is going to be the new hotness this summer (that’s a Men in Black 2 reference for those of you keeping track). The logo, the colour scheme, the name, it all looks fantastic, and the club has already produced some of the best local gear I’ve seen in a long time. Hats, shirts, full kits - Investors Group Field was filled with either people wearing their new gear, or standing in line to get their new gear. But the best part has got to be the scarves. There’s a long history of scarves in soccer, most (all) of which I don’t really understand, but my understanding is that a prerequisite to having a pro soccer team is making and selling cool scarves for fans to wear and wave at the games. Valour’s scarves are COOL, they're a great piece of introductory gear to buy at your first game, and they were everywhere.
You’ll get a great seat
Investors Group Field is quite the spectacular venue, and at a Valour FC game, you’re guaranteed to have a good seat. Tickets to Valour games are limited to the lower bowl only, and are primarily sold on just one side of the stadium. Whether you’re at centre field, at either end of the pitch, or somewhere in between, every section I ventured into had great sight-lines, and quite often you could even hear the players communicate on the field.
You’ll meet Vic the lion
Mick E. Moose, Buzz and Boomer, Goldie and Goldette - Manitoba has some great mascots, and now they can add Vic the Lion to the mix! According to his bio, Vic was born on Valour Road, and has been waiting for the day to finally cheer on professional soccer in Manitoba.
Mascots are key to a strong game day experience, and after just one game it was clear that Vic was up to the challenge as he put in his 10,000 steps meeting, greeting, and taking pictures with fans at every corner. Kids love mascots (adults do too…but try to play it cool), and they're going to love Vic!
You’ll get a great bang for your buck
If the first game was any indication, checking out a Valour FC game is one of the best deals in entertainment. Tickets start at $16, and cap out at $53 if you’re looking to get as close as you can to the action. But like I said, there really isn’t a bad seat in the house. If you’re wanting to grab food, the menu at the stadium has great food for a very reasonable price. My recommendations: The turkey wings ($6), and in the “something I never though I wanted or needed but now that I’ve tried it I want one immediately please and thank you” category: the onion ring poutine ($10).
You’ll get to see some great soccer
And above all else, these boys can play. Touting a roster with players from Croatia to Belgium to England to Uruguay, along with a whole lot of Canadians (including five from Manitoba), Valour FC looks to be very competitive in the Canadian Premiere League this season. After winning their first road game, and controlling much of the play in their inaugural home matchup, expectations are high for the local club, while my personal expectations for the level of play were certainly exceeded after seeing both teams compete on Saturday.
These players are real pros, which is huge for the soccer community in Manitoba. For fans, they get to see expert-level soccer, and for kids they get a brand new batch of heroes to watch up close and personal. Professional soccer is back in Manitoba, and with it, our strong soccer community steps into the spotlight once again. Let’s go Valour!