On Toronto FC, Long Waits, and Chucking Seat Cushions

Soccer Features
On Toronto FC, Long Waits, and Chucking Seat Cushions

As the club approaches its tenth year, I humbly propose a Latin motto for Toronto Football Club: patientia.

Though the obvious translation is ‘patience,’ the term in Latin includes some decidedly darker meanings: ‘suffering, endurance, submission.’ This isn’t the ‘wait your turn for a cookie’ kind of patience, but the ‘maybe there will be light at the end of the tunnel one day’ patience.

That’s the Toronto FC I’ve known on and off for the last nine years. That’s the patience that defined the club as early as its inaugural season in 2007, when the team played its first four matches without scoring a single goal.

I was a half-season ticket holder back then, which aptly describes my decade-long relationship to the team—only ever halfway in. The package included the first two home matches. TFC’s first ever home game was played under a grey April sky, and though the world marvelled at the noise of the south standers, it was a dud.

Toronto barely pressed the Kansas City Wizards’ goal, and Eddie Johnson’s 81st minute goal invited a tossed beer from the stands. I soon got used to the sounds of the conceded goal at BMO Field—a few ‘come ons’ piercing the shocked silence, followed by a few half-hearted boos. The last thing I remember from the game was the crowd singing, “All We Are Saying is Give Us a Goal” as fair-weather fans slowly streamed out.

Far less familiar were the events of May 12 2007, Toronto’s fifth game of the season, and one fans would remember for years.

For one, it was sunny, warm but not hot, without what would later become a plague of midges visiting from Lake Ontario. In other words, not typical Toronto FC game day weather. I took a friend of mine over on a whim, and along with 20,000 other fans dutifully picked up our complimentary Bank of Montreal seat cushions being handed out at the gate.

It was immediately clear from kick off that this game would be different. Toronto looked like a different team, with Marvell Wynne and Edson Buddle moving well on the flanks, and Danny Dichio finding good space up front. The mood in the building became frenzied; it was going to happen today. After 360 minutes, Toronto FC was going to score.

I don’t remember the build up, but you can see it in the video above, you can hear the frothing in the crowd, the tension from the long wait. As soon as Edson Buddle picked up the loose ball in the 18 yard box, we knew it was going to happen.

I don’t know who threw the first seat cushion onto the plastic pitch after Dichio scored what would become an iconic goal and the basis of the 23rd minute chant sung for years afterward. But I and my friend had no hesitation, chucking our seat covers in delirium, and laughing as the game paused for stewards to come and sweep them all away. Toronto would beat the Chicago Fire 3-1, their first ever win.

Nine years later, my 5 year old son and I sat not far from where I saw Toronto FC score its first ever goal and watched as Nick Hagglund’s header put Toronto FC back in the conference final tie against the Montreal Impact. Though it was a different feeling altogether, the sense of release was palpable. Though unforgivable, it was hard to deny that the long wait made it all the more sweet.

Finally.

Patientia.

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