The soccer-loving Southsiders are turning in their white and blue to dress in the national flag of the Reds.
The sometimes potty-mouthed, always standing-room-only showstoppers who entertain and enliven the 20,000-strong at Whitecaps games, the Southsiders for 10 days have been sharing their love of the beautiful game with the eight national teams competing for two tickets to the 2012 London Games at the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament at B.C. Place. Canada, naturally, gets most of that love.
The Reds, who must beat Mexico Friday to book their trip to the Summer Olympics, love them right back.
"They've been brilliant," said national team coach John Herdman. "They never stop, that's the exciting thing. I'm hoping they're all going to turn out in force.
In September Herdman said he aspired to raise the women's program to "capture the imagination of the home fans."
After taking the reins from Carolina Morace who tendered her resignation this summer following a disappointing winless World Cup, Herdman said, "We want a team [Canadian fans] can be proud of. We want a team [that] can entertain them as well as a team that's got that physical presence and spirit that people can really engage with."
The Southsiders could be a kindred spirit. Congregating in the southeast corner of B.C. Place Stadium, they bought a block of 110 tickets to claim their seats in section 251.
"We think it's very important to show our support," said the past president of the fan club, John Knox, during a pause in play Monday night as Canada led Costa Rica four goals to none.
No blind boosters, the Southsiders are loyal and their allegiance lets them demand accountability. ("We give a lot of support and stick to both sides," said Knox.)
Underperforming players get guff just as star performances are celebrated-loudly and creatively.
Herdman even has a favourite. "They make us laugh with some of their songs," said the coach. "We like the 'Dream of Kaylyn Kyle.'
Sung to the tune of The Beatles' "Yellow Submarine," the soccer song praises the blond Saskatoonian mid-fielder, specifically her versatility to play almost anywhere on the pitch.
"We all dream of a team of Kaylyn Kyles," go the lyrics, which were first derived for Whitecaps fan favourite David Morris. "No. 1 is Kaylyn Kyle. No. 2 is Kaylyn Kyle. No. 3 is Kaylyn Kyle."
A roster with Kyle at every position. "She likes that one," said Herdman, laughing.
The Southsiders practice equal opportunity ribbing and don't shy away from voicing-or rather, chanting like the rowdy chorus they are-dislike for the opposition. They've piled on the disdain for Surrey native and U.S. national team striker Sydney Leroux as a turncoat who developed and prospered in part because of the resources of the B.C. youth system but instead wears the colours of a competing nation.
By supporting Canadian soccer success, the Southsiders are doing much more than boozing and hollering at a live sports event. They're fostering hometown pride and homegrown talent.
"We need to keep the best players here," said Knox. "We believe in Canada 100 per cent and we don't know why somebody who has been born and raised in Canada wouldn't want to represent Canada. A Canadian player will want to play for their country if they know they have fan support behind them."
Knox noted the particular importance of supporting women's sport. "Young girls are watching," he said.
And one day they could be listening to their name immortalized in soccer song.
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