Where was the unveiling event held within Ottawa? How many people would you guess were there, and what was the atmosphere like?
The launch event happened at TD Place, where the team will play and also where the Ottawa Fury used to play until the end of last season. Atlético and the CPL invited fans to attend the event so there were a lot of people in the building. I’d like to say that there were a couple hundred people there, mostly kids from local soccer clubs.
As for the atmosphere, it was electric. It was a joyous moment to see a city, our country’s capital, get professional men’s soccer back.
How was the event structured, and what were some of the highlights?
The event was primarily an unveiling of the Atlético Ottawa branding and logo. The league made a conscious effort to make the announcement in both English and French. The Ottawa/Gatineau region is one of the biggest bilingual regions outside of Quebec and it was a good opportunity for the league to show that off.
What was the day’s biggest surprise?
I’d say Mista being announced as the team’s first head coach, the surprising factor probably being that he doesn’t have a good enough grasp of English or French to really communicate with the fans. Do I think that it’ll impair his coaching? No. I think for a new team that for now still doesn’t have a player yet, your coach is the one that people will look to.
Unfortunately, this person will not be able to communicate with the fans in either of their languages. It’s definitely not a first though. Tata Martino didn’t speak English in Atlanta and he still won the MLS Cup.
How vibrant is the soccer culture within Canada’s capital? Is it more prominent or less prominent than other markets in the country?
The Fury had developed a fanbase over its time in both the NASL and the USL. The team once reached the NASL final and fans made the trip down to New York City to see their team play the Cosmos.
I was talking with a fan before the launch and he told me he could barely believe how fast the turnaround took from having the Fury leave to Atlético opening shop. However, TD Place is a big stadium. A pretty one, but big. The Fury couldn’t fill the stadium over the years. Atlético Ottawa will be playing in the same stadium, let’s see if they can be able to rile up more people than the old club.
With whom do you expect Atlético Madrid’s Ottawa branch to develop a rivalry (or rivalries)?
The Fury once played FC Edmonton back in the NASL. Eddies head coach Jeff Paulus is already on the record saying that there will be a rivalry between both clubs. I can also see rivalries between Ontario clubs Forge FC in Hamilton and York 9 FC in Toronto’s York region forming. However, I’d rather wait and see rivalries forming organically.
Finally, is there anything you can say about this experience on a personal level? Or as it pertains to the league’s standing as a whole?
I’m not a fan so I can’t say that it meant something to me personally on that level. I can say, however, that ut was a truly great moment for both the city of Ottawa and the CPL. For the CPL, the league finally has a club in its capital. I think it’s crucial for any soccer league worldwide to at least have a team in the nation’s capital. It would be even better if the team could be a contender every single year, we’ll see about that one.
For Ottawa, it’s historical because this may be the fastest sporting turnaround in Canadian history. I personally have never seen a city lose a club and get one back this quickly. I was expecting a long and painful breakup with soccer for Ottawa and here they are only three months later with a brand new team. I think every Canadian soccer fan needs to feel good for Ottawa for that reason.