Sports in Quebec are controlled differently than elsewhere during the pandemic

Soccer is one sports where the province differs in its COVID-19 restrictions

With most of Quebec in the red zone, new regulations have been put in place by the Quebec government to curb the spread of COVID-19: restricting private gatherings, access to restaurants, recreational activities, organized sports, and much more.

With these restrictions put in place, the Montreal Impact soccer club had to cease all activities for 30 days starting Oct. 8, stating on their website that they will continue to monitor the situation and support the measures of protection given by the government.

Before these new rules came into play, the Impact was the first club in Major League Soccer (MLS) to have fans allowed inside their stadium ― the Saputo Stadium, which has a maximum capacity of 20,801 ― allowing 250 fans per game following the ease of Quebec public health restrictions in late August.

With COVID-19 cases increasing since the beginning of the fall, rising from roughly 150 new cases per day at the start of September to roughly 950 cases per day at the beginning of October, the Impact quickly followed health and safety guidelines, and shut down their facility for the 28-day semi-lockdown ordered by the Quebec government.

In contrast with Quebec, Germany has fewer restrictions for its first and second division soccer leagues ― the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2. With COVID-19 cases slowly increasing, Germany has had 15,580 new confirmed cases from Oct. 8 to 12.

The restrictions there have largely stayed the same since the beginning of the pandemic: entry restrictions for many countries, and if granted entry, self-isolation until a negative test is shown.

German government officials have allowed the Bundesliga to fill 20 per cent of their stadium capacity. Despite rising COVID-19 cases, the Borussia Dortmund stadium, the biggest stadium in Germany with a capacity of 81,365, allowed a sold-out crowd of 11,500 fans on Oct. 3.

The Bundesliga has posted on their website that the German Federal Ministry of Health has given them a basic structure to follow, stating that “the Ministry emphasized that systematic compliance with the highest standards of infection protection is a fundamental requirement for allowing live crowds for football matches again. Allowing fans back in should always depend on the regional trend of infections.”

Without revenue coming in, the Deutsche Fußball Liga (DFL) stated in mid-April that 13 out of 36 Bundesliga clubs were facing financial problems, with Borussia Dortmund alone losing an astounding $49 million.

In comparison to these numbers, the Bundesliga had an all-time high profitable gain from 28 of their 36 clubs last season, achieving $4.7 billion in revenue, 13 per cent of which came from ticket sales.

Financially, the MLS may be thinking correctly by letting a small percentage of their fans in their stadium, but with the current state of the pandemic, shutting down activities seems necessary.


Graphic by @ariannasivira


Soccer without fans is a different game

Without spectators, the home advantage loses most of its sense

COVID-19 brought all kinds of new protocols and season rearrangements to sports leagues and associations. One of the most drastic changes for those resuming their season amidst the pandemic might be the absence of fans in the stands.

Head coach of both Concordia Stingers soccer teams Greg Sutton said players always want to do well, and having fans to watch them play makes players push themselves harder.

“I think when you add family, friends, or even students in the stands, players want to impress [more],” Sutton said. “It’s only natural, as they simply want to do well in front of others. It makes a difference for sure. It’s also an extra motivation when times are a little bit more challenging.”

Sutton added that he thinks teams playing in front of their own fans have a better chance to win, and that’s something that will never change.

“Let’s think about an important game at the end of a season, in which you know you need the victory,” Sutton said. “You want that big intimidating crowd on your side, not against you. It can be difficult to play visiting stadiums with loud crowds. There’s no such thing as the home crowd advantage. Even if you’re playing in your own stadium, it’s much less of an advantage without fans.”

Concerning the experience of playing inside what we call the “bubble,” which asks team members to avoid contact with anyone outside their team, Sutton said the challenge of playing without fans is even greater for first-year players.

“It’s a lot about the young players, who haven’t really had that experience of playing in front of fans at that level,” Sutton said. “First-year players playing their first games with their team this year … are yet to experience a game with fans of that magnitude. It would be more challenging for them, but of course also for the senior players because it’s much more enjoyable to play in front of your fans.”

Sutton said that playing well in such circumstances also depends on your professional experience. He explained that players who have been on professional teams for long enough understand the level it takes to be successful on a regular basis, even if this time they’re not playing in regular conditions. For the head coach, it’s imperative to find that extra motivation when there’s no fans.


Graphic by Taylor Reddam


Fans need to learn to separate sports from real life

Soccer supporters are known for many things, but above all, being absolutely insane about their respective favourite clubs.

Since Sir Alex Ferguson left Manchester United at the end of the 2013 Premier League season, it hasn’t been easy being a fan. The club is throwing money at transfers that, for the most part, haven’t worked out. They have had four different managers and haven’t placed better than second (19 points behind Manchester City in 2018) in the Premier League since Ferguson’s retirement.

Manchester City has since won three league titles, Liverpool has won the UEFA Champions League and are currently on the verge of winning the Premier League for the first time in over 30 years in historically good fashion.

To put this in perspective for non-football sports fans, imagine two of your favourite team’s greatest rivals playing at the top of their league, year after year, while yours struggles to make any impact.

It’s not fun.

Manchester United supporters have stuck by the club through it all. However, the fans protest against the team’s owners, the Glazer family, at matches by wearing green and gold scarves.

The symbol of protest against the Glazers became the green and yellow scarf, the club’s colours when United were initially formed Newton Heath back in 1878.

They’ve called for the Glazer’s to sell the team and fire Ed Woodward, the chief executive overseeing the club’s operations, or in other words, the man responsible for the current state of the club.

On Jan. 28, some fans took things way too far. Some 20-odd fans attacked Woodward’s home with flares. Thankfully, neither Woodward nor any members of his family were home at the time.

As a fan, I too am incredibly frustrated with the club’s executives who have been borderline incompetent over the past seven seasons, but there needs to be a line. Fans of any team, under any circumstances, should not be tracking down a player, coach, executive and hell, even the waterboy’s house. In response to the attack, the club put out a statement condemning the attack.

“Manchester United Football Club have tonight been made aware of the incident outside the home of one of our employees. Anybody found guilty of a criminal offence, or found to be trespassing on this property, will be banned for life by the club and may face prosecution. Fans expressing opinion is one thing, criminal damage and intent to endanger life is another. There is simply no excuse for this.”

The last part is bang on.

“There is simply no excuse for this.”

If it hasn’t been made clear yet, I love sports to my core. They are a part of who I am, as is Manchester United.

When the news broke out about what had happened to the Woodward home, I was not only ashamed of being a United fan—but a sports fan as a whole. I thought to myself there’s no way Montreal Canadiens fans would do anything like this. Impossible.

Well, not so much. It hasn’t happened in recent years, mostly because they haven’t had much playoff success, but Canadiens fans aren’t exactly the most gracious of winners either. Who can forget the riots after their series wins against Washington and Pittsburgh in 2010? What about the riot downtown after beating the Bruins in the 2008 playoffs?

Fans who took part in either events mentioned would argue that they are just showing their passion. Well, passion is one thing, hooliganism is another.

Nobody wants to be associated with the latter—it is shameful behaviour that makes the club/team bad, and more importantly the individuals. It says a lot more about you, who was a part of the chaos, rather than “the team who made you do it.”

There are many ways to deal with frustration caused by clubs. Maybe time for a new hobby?


Graphic by @sundaeghost


Colour Commentary: Why do fans put so much stock into prospects?

If you’ve been reading my columns, I think I have made it pretty clear that I am a Montreal Canadiens fan. Like most fans, I love trade rumours – they create fun discussions and make imaginations run wild.

Amid the New Jersey Devils’ horrendous start to the NHL season, Taylor Hall’s name has started to surface in trade rumours. The 28-year-old winger will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year and will presumably not be resigning in New Jersey.

I think it is objectively fair to say the Canadiens have one of the top five best prospect pools in the NHL. Ryan Poehling, Nick Suzuki, Alexander Romanov; the list goes on and on.

Here’s where the two connect: the idea of Taylor Hall being traded to the Habs has caught fire in the Habs-Twitter world. Naturally, when the idea of Suzuki, a first round pick, and another player was thrown around as a hypothetical trade, fans were split in saying either yes or no to that idea.

I understand that Suzuki and the others are exciting prospects. In Suzuki’s case, he has the potential to be a top six centre in the NHL. The operative word in that sentence is potential. If he were to reach that ceiling, it would be amazing. On the other hand, he can very well fall flat and become a 40-point-player.

Hall doesn’t have the potential to be an elite scorer. The former Hart Trophy winner has already proven to be one while playing for two pitiful teams. He is an instant game-changer that is worth taking a one year gamble on.

The fact is, a marquee free agent has never signed with the Canadiens. There are too many factors working against the organization. They need to be creative in how they acquire elite talent.

Potential is nice. But it is just that: potential. Nothing more.

Some fans, and this is not exclusive to Canadiens fans, fall into a trap of overvaluing potential and would not give it up for a tangible asset.

You may have noticed that I excluded Cole Caufield from the list above. That’s where I draw the line. Caufield is considered by many analysts as a “can’t miss” prospect. Other than him, when it comes to acquiring elite talent, potential should not be the determining factor on a possible trade that pushes the needle of a team from being a bubble playoff team to an instant contender.


Rap fans: where’s your loyalty?

In 2015, a Spotify employee released statistics related to genre consumption and fan loyalty. Of the 1,300 genres that were analyzed, metal heads were found to be the most faithful to their genre.

Spotify’s measurement of loyalty was the number of streams divided by the number of listeners, and under this criteria, the streaming platform is telling us that metal fans mostly listen to metal music. While this comes as no surprise to me, I had a question of my own: which fanbase is most loyal to their favourite artists?

As an avid hip hop head and rock ‘n’ roll fanatic, I ask myself this question because I’ve seen both sides of the spectrum.

Although I love rock ‘n’ roll, I’m a man who tends to revisit the classics instead of trying to dig through the crowd of ‘meh’ artists that we label as rock stars these days, to find something worth listening to. That being said, there’s no shortage of classics, as the golden age of rock that was the 60s and 70s have left us with an infinite amount of lifelong jams. The best part of it all is that these rock stars remain legends to this day, despite the material they may have released in their later years, which gained no significant traction in the music industry.

Paul McCartney. The Rolling Stones. Bob Dylan. John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival. Elton John. KISS. Ozzy Osbourne. The list goes on and on.

While some of these artists have released newer material in the past decade, the large majority continue to tour and sell out stadiums while playing through the same recycled songs that they wrote decades ago; some as far back as half a century. These men are legends and can do no wrong. Even if any were to hypothetically release an album in 2020 that completely flopped, their legacy would not be tarnished. They’d continue to sell out arenas fast, and would be absolved of all their sins, courtesy of their loyal fan base.

I don’t think the same can be said about the rap industry…

As an avid hip hop head, I’ve seen how quickly the tides can change and bring a hero to zero in mere months. Chance the Rapper’s most recent album, The Big Day, may be one of the best examples of a praised artist who developed a cult following after a string of successful albums, only to make one mistake and be persecuted in the hip hop community. Chance’s decision to dedicate an entire album to his newlywed didn’t sit well with most fans and he went on to say that he believed they wanted him to kill himself for releasing it.

While this is the most recent example that comes to mind, this lack of loyalty that comes along with the unwillingness to let rappers experiment in their works is not new. Kid Cudi, the “lonely stoner” who opened up doors for hip hop artists to address the struggles of mental health, and who connected with millions of youth on a personal level, gradually faded from the spotlight with the release of his experimental works Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven and Satellite Flight: The Journey to Mother Moon. T-Pain, the pioneer of autotune, announced last week that he would be cancelling his upcoming tour due to low ticket sales. Last year, Nicki Minaj cancelled her joint tour with Future for similar reasons despite reigning as the queen of hip hop for quite some time.

Rock stars seem to be free to experiment with their works and make below-par projects once they have reached legendary status – no one seems to mind. The same cannot be said for rappers. Unfortunately, it seems like they’re only ever as good as their last release and there is little room for mistakes. Tough crowd, to say the least.

While rock fans treat their favourite artists as best friends in good times and in bad, hip hop heads seem to treat them as mere acquaintances no matter how close they once were.

Is it possible that this change in loyalty is due to the accessibility of music in the streaming era where artists are easily disposable and replaced by one of their peers? Does this accessibility create a generational gap that takes away from the attachment older generations once had with artists after waiting for their vinyl, physically going to the store to purchase it, and finally spending hours in awe as the record was spinning? Both are possible.

There seems to be only one definite solution to maintaining a lifelong legend status in the rap world. Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur remain the game’s most respected rappers of all time, but both of their legacies were cut short by their untimely deaths. Biggie only ever released two albums, while Tupac had time to drop five. Their careers were not long, but maybe that was for the best. Who knows the hit their legacy could have taken had they released a less than spectacular album.

Maybe the only solution to guaranteeing eternal legend status in the rap game is to die on top.


GIF by @sundaeghost


Stingers fans get their ‘Fax straight

After a grueling 16 hours on the road (only two of which were spent sleeping), and an intense storm that rocked the bus and delayed our arrival, we finally made it.

We arrived in Halifax with a renewed sense of excitement. There were so many fans from other schools staying in the same hotel that from the moment we saw their school colours, we felt the need to defend our maroon and gold. With loud chants, and the help of a couple drums, we made sure that our presence was known to every single person within the vicinity: Concordia had arrived!

The game started at 8:15 p.m., but our cheer squad was already gearing up hours before that. With face and body paint covering us — and some parts of the hotel — we were the embodiment of what it meant to be a Stinger (antennae included). We had been given T-shirts, scarves and Bam Bams and instructed to make as much noise as we could. We were the smallest group but by far the loudest. The final score was 98-82 for StFX, but nothing could dampen our spirits and knock our support for our beloved basketball team.

Our next commitment to the team would only be the next day for the game against Ryerson at 2:15 p.m. We may have lost that game as well, but as Philippe Walkden from the men’s rugby team said, “If fandom was a varsity sport, the members of the fan bus would be the CIS champs.”

This trip showed our spirit, faith and undying support for our own school and varsity teams. By the next day, we all managed to roll out of bed, after a night of a lot of team bonding, rallied and did it all over again.

We lost our last game on Saturday by four points against the Ryerson Rams. We knew our team could have taken it to the end, but they had some bad luck and some bad calls.

We didn’t go in with the goal to crush the other teams, but to elevate ours. Win or lose, we were there until the end. I have never been more proud of our display of school pride.

Our last night in Halifax wasn’t just spent celebrating our team, but also celebrating with them. “The Stingers’ atmosphere was awesome,” said Daysuella Gilroy Briand, a fan on the bus. “Even when we were down in the game, our fans made sure to be the loudest in Halifax. I definitely want to be a part of that experience next year when the Stingers make it to nationals again.”

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