How Toronto FC’s Die-Hard Fans Built Canada’s Most Passionate Sports Experience
— March 1st, 2019
Through the smoky red haze wafting through the lakeshore skies after each Toronto FC goal at their home of BMO Field, you can catch a glimpse of a uniquely rabid sports fan culture, and one that has since made a continent-wide impact in stadiums across Major League Soccer.
At every game, the stadium’s south end is packed tight with intricate flags, booming drums, and roaring fans that come together to let the team, the crowd, and even the stadium’s neighbours know that boundless energy, passion, and pride are essential elements of the TFC experience.
THE NORTHERN TOUCH, the fourth episode of TSN’s six-part ENGRAVED ON A NATION series airs Tuesday, March 12 at 7:30 p.m. ET. The documentary focuses in on the unique fan culture that drives Toronto FC, capturing the organic groundswell of support that has grown around the team, and chronicling these fan groups as they chant, march, and sing to support Toronto’s team.
@TSN PR discussed the documentary with Chris Fizik, president of Toronto FC’s largest supporter group, the Red Patch Boys, to gain insight into what it means to dedicate so much of your life to the team you love.
Q: What do you find most exciting about leading the Red Patch Boys?CF: Having the chance to play a strong, up-front role in promoting and helping facilitate the supporter spirit that our members exemplify. We believe in supporting the team in this way, and it's great to have a part in creating experiences that turn into shared memories that we will always remember.
Q: Toronto FC supporters have been credited with shaping a unique fan culture that has since permeated across all of MLS’s North American markets. How does it feel to have created a continent-wide movement?CF: Being a part of anything that people view as having an impact is pretty neat. Now, after 12 years, our approach and the environment we maintain has become the norm for match day.
And it's wonderful to see that supporter culture spreading across many of the MLS teams. It all started here, out of our love of the game, and Toronto's local melting-pot culture supporting the ‘world's game' in the only way they knew how.
Q: What is something you wish those outside the supporters circle knew about TFC’s fan culture?CF: How much work it is! The level of organization and commitment that it takes to be part of this culture, week-in and week-out, is way more than just hanging out with a bunch of friends at the pub or in the stands singing with beers. This is the next level of engaging with a team and a sport, and for many of us it's become a way of life.
Q: What are you hoping viewers can learn through watching THE NORTHERN TOUCH?CF: The passionate level of fan culture that exists behind both Toronto FC and the sport of soccer here in North America, as well as how organized we try to be, and that what we do is a positive thing that other fans may want to become more involved in!
Q: How do you think this documentary reflects Canada’s sports landscape?CF: It’s a reminder of the diversity of sports interests that we see both across Canada and in a city like Toronto. Beyond the “four major North American sports,” there are very passionate, active supporters of other sports that have whole communities formed around them. And you can see Canada in the diversity of our group as well. In our case, we exemplify a cross-section of society, and it’s a reminder that soccer is truly a global game.
Q: How did the supporters respond to having the ENGRAVED ON A NATION crew around?CF: [laughs] We’ve had some media attention in the past, at matches and with the team filming us during games, but this was quite different. The crew followed us at the pub before, in the stands, and even on away days! But it was a good working relationship. We did our thing, and they documented us. They were always friendly, and even helpful with various things on the road.
Q: What is next for the Red Patch Boys?
CF: Next up is the season! Another offseason has flown by once again (though this one felt longer than other recent ones, for better or worse), but Red Patch Boys continues on its mission to put our passion and purpose into supporting the team – wherever that may take us.
We've been through a lot of ups and downs with TFC, but we’ve always stuck to our goal of being squarely behind the team. There are many moments to relish every single week. We continue to work with TFC supporters everywhere to build and evolve our level of support and encourage people to get involved – for the team!
And for the fan culture elsewhere in MLS and across North America, you’ll continue to see the growth of fan bases that are active, loud, and engaged. We're really happy to see the kind of atmosphere that we're used to at home starting to develop all around the league. There longstanding bases of support for soccer in places like Europe and South America, but we’re creating our own traditions, our own unique history.
TSN’s ENGRAVED ON A NATION continues with THE NORTHERN TOUCH on Tuesday, Mar. 12 at 7:30 p.m. ET on TSN.