A Stroll Down the W-League Memory Lane

December 14, 2014; By Mustefa

          
It’s often said that we don’t appreciate how much something means to us until we lose it. As a group, we, as BBSC, have experienced this at least once in our history, with the demise of Capital City FC (CCFC), the team which spawned the creation of our club. Fortunately, we were able to quickly fill the void of CCFC through the discovery of a team just as worthy of our support: John Pugh and the Ottawa Fury in the spring of 2012.
In the absence of our beloved CCFC, the Fury PDL side gave us new avenue to release our passion for local footy. As the initial year progressed, it became evident, to us as supporters, that this was a team full of quality and class. It was an absolute pleasure to continue supporting the boys in white, with the added excitement of NASL soccer on the horizon. As we continued to learn about the Fury and their respectable history in our city, many within our ranks quickly discovered the existence of another top-level side: the W-League team. With this, an unexpected journey, supporting a side with a unique culture, began.

It all started in the fall of 2012, with members of the W-League side noticing our presence at the men’s PDL games. As it happened, Ottawa was hosting their league championships that season. In an early symbol of appreciation towards supporters, we were invited to bring the noise for the playoff games. While we were excited at the prospect of doing so, it was unfortunate that everyone within our small numbers as a supporters group was unavailable that weekend. In a turn of events which a few of us regret to this day, we were unable to support them as they did themselves proud, winning the W-League championship on home soil.
Throughout the 2012 season, it was often suggested that we begin supporting the W-League side. Unfortunately, due to a combination of both a short season and inadequate scheduling which plagued the club for much of our time supporting them, we never witnessed the team in our inaugural year with the Ottawa Fury. In terms of scheduling, many within our group were curious with respect to a particular aspect, which saw the men’s and women’s sides play home games hours apart, on the same match days. Such a feature made it difficult to support both sides, meaning a tough decision was left at our table: which side do we show up for?

 As we were preparing for a second season with the Ottawa Fury, we were intrigued by continued invites to support the women’s side. A majority of these calls were from the organization itself, with one of the loudest voices being that of coach Dom Oliveri. It only feels natural that Dom was one of the first voices calling for our support, as he was classy towards supporters for every minute we were with the team. As our support continued into the inaugural NASL year, he never missed a chance to express appreciation in interactions with us. Oliveri is not only filled with class, but is an extremely accomplished coach, as he was the brains behind a formidable Fury program for years.

As spring turned to summer in 2013, it was only too simple a decision for us, as supporters, to bring our atmosphere to the W-League matches. Realizing a need for a more fan-friendly schedule, the Fury organization made a leap of ensuring the PDL and W-League sides play home games on separate dates. While this, unfortunately, did not spell the end of scheduling worries with the women’s side, it was a massive gesture from the club to our supporters group.

Early on in our first W-League season, our appearance did not come without controversy. It was evident, from the beginning, that there were several culture clashes between our supporter atmosphere and that which many other fans of the women’s team bring. Intriguingly, much of the backlash came from opposition teams who, it seems, could not handle or understand pokes at their clubs. In particular, managers of both the Toronto Lady Lynx and London Gryphons were affected by our turnout. At one point, a member of London’s coaching staff wasn’t impressed with our choice of historical songs (“London Gryphons falling down … My dear Fury” “Its London bridges, check your history!”), prompting advice from this individual to “sing positively”. At another, a member of Toronto’s coaching staff was less than impressed with the heat we exerted on his side, in memorable fashion.

We quickly found that our boisterous presence was also in need of containment with select fellow fans. In events which lead to practices such as calling opposing goal-keepers ‘cupcakes’, we slowly learned to fit in the unique culture of supporting a W-League side. With time, as both we and our fellow spectators learned to coexist, supporting the women’s side became more about our local club.

From the very first minute, it was evident to our group that we were witnessing a top-class, talented, team which was hugely underrated in the city. While piling impressive results on the pitch, the club continually ensured they never missed a chance to express appreciation to the support they invited. In ultimate classy gestures, the squad continually made sure to walk to the supporters post-match, and offer ‘thanks for the support’ clapping and celebration. From a supporter’s perspective, moments like this instill pride and respect in teams which we show passion for.

At the core of our W-League sides was the quality of its players, both on and off the pitch. In our early months supporting the team, one such player was Jasmine Phillips, a goal-keeper backstopping the formidable Fury force. While posting several impressive performances, she was routinely classy to the city and its supporters. Another such player was Lisa-Marie Woods, who played a leadership role with the team. After solid performances on the pitch, she would often lead the squad in showing appreciation to supporters post-match. Both slowly ingrained their parts in our BBSC memories through acting with dignity and respect, traits which applied to the W-League program as a whole.

Of course, the team was filled with a myriad of talent from its first season through to their final whistle. In our time supporting the club, we were privileged to witness international quality players who joined the squad after hearing of its history and respect. Each and every individual who graced our W-League team added to its rich culture. In the disbanding of this club, a quiet, fairly short-lived and underrated era of Ottawa sports has passed. It should not go without mention that our men’s PDL club, which, in turn, expanded into the NASL side, likely would not have begun operations without John Pugh and the W-League team. So, as our division two boys continue to represent us at TD Place, it’s worth bearing in mind that they are carrying on a legacy which, beginning in 2003, largely spurned their creation and firmly placed soccer on Ottawa’s sports landscape.