Over the weekend, one of Atlético Ottawa’s official supporters’ groups, Bytown Boys Supporters Club, celebrated its twelfth year of providing boisterous and passionate support of soccer in the nation’s capital.
Bytown Boys Supporters Club (BBSC) has been an ever-present part of the soccer landscape in Ottawa for over a decade and as Atlético Ottawa took on Forge FC this weekend, the boisterous supporters group held some special pre-match celebrations as they turned yet another year old.
The group was founded in 2011 by a couple of soccer fanatics when Capital City F.C. joined the Canadian Soccer League. Stephane Brisson-Merrick, President and founding member of BBSC, has been following the sport since he was young – following in his father’s footsteps as a passionate Aston Villa fan. Like many fans in Canada, Stephane’s love for his European-based team is unwavering but supporting local soccer is more than just a passion project.
“I want Canada to always be fighting for a World Cup spot, for Canada to have great players but you have to start somewhere,” Stephane explained. “People want it to be better, but the youngest club in the English Premier League was founded in 1919 [Leeds United before their relegation], so you have to start somewhere and supporting local grassroots soccer is the place to begin planting those seeds. The high-level calibre people love in Europe will come, but it takes time and it starts here.”
Stephane connected with local soccer enthusiasts Matt Haddad and Aaron Hooper online before they started to meet up regularly to support their hometown team, “waving flags made of pillowcases and broken broomsticks”, but for the current BBSC president, it was so much more than just championing a game he loved.
“Before I got involved with supporters culture I wouldn’t go anywhere, I wouldn’t do anything, I would just stay at home,” he explained. “For me, it’s become about the friends I’ve made, the ones who met in these sections are now married! It’s helped me develop my social life and my social skills. It’s much more than just soccer, coming out to games is like a big family reunion every couple of weeks. An amazing by-product and definitely what has made me stick with it for all these years.”
Like many supporters in Canada, Stephane has followed the sport across the country and revels in the experiences he’s had and the people he has met: “I turned up to a Canada game and someone in the seat next to me just started up a conversation. We quickly became friends over a drink and a mutual love for the sport. It didn’t matter what we did outside of the stadium (I would later find out he was a lawyer), we were friends at the footy.”
These stories of human connection are crucial when it comes to understanding love and passion for sport and in particular the beautiful game. You can be in an officially recognized supporters group, or you come to games with friends, or even the connections you create with those sitting in the seats around you at the game – strangers to friends to community in the space of 90 minutes.
BBSC has a strong ethos of giving back to its community through charitable work and the group has now been cheering loud and raising money for over a decade and through three iterations of professional soccer in the nation’s capital. Although Stephane, who can be found at the front of the ‘Dub’ on most match days, remains quietly reserved about his hopes and aspirations for the club, he admits being happy with how the landscape looks since Atlético de Madrid moved into town.
“The club has worked really hard to find a balance being growing the game throughout the community, whilst staying true to the core elements of supporters’ culture,” explained Stephane. “They have introduced in-stadium signs explaining what the section is all about, they moved us back to section W. We [BBSC] have been through it all after 12 years and although our ship make not always look pretty we can handle the storms, and I’m excited to see the game continue to develop across the country.”
Bytown Boys Supporters Club are one of two official supporters groups (alongside Capital City Supporters Group) affiliated with Atlético Ottawa, and their members can often be found around the front of ‘the Dub’ (section W) contributing towards the infamous and electric atmosphere that has become renowned throughout the Canadian Premier League. Click here to find out more about BBSC and CCSG.