“You can’t beat us…we don’t exist. You can’t beat us…we don’t exist.”
This chant, sung by FC Edmonton’s supporters groups during Sunday’s exhibition match against Calgary Foothills FC at Clarke Stadium, was a wry reference to FC Edmonton’s present status. The club doesn’t currently have a professional squad – Sunday’s game featured players from FC Edmonton’s academy, as well as a few returning alumni.
FC Edmonton ceased operations in the North American Soccer League late last year. But there’s a growing desire among the club and its fans to move forward and join the soon-to-launch Canadian Premier League.
And while FC Edmonton general manager Jay Ball admits to enjoying the tongue-in-cheek chant, he’s hoping, along with many Edmonton soccer fans, that it will soon be antiquated. And he sees an Alberta rivalry as key to those aspirations.
“Regional rivalries are critical to the success of professional sports teams,” says Ball. “It’s the connection the fans make and the emotion they draw out of those rivalries that create the excitement of these games that draw more fans out.
- Over 3,000 spectators watch first edition of ‘Al Classico’ between Calgary Foothills FC and FC Edmonton squad
“It is absolutely critical, as the Canadian Premier League goes forward, that they continue to have and develop regional rivals right across the country.”
And Ball believes the existing rivalry between Calgary and Edmonton can be exploited by the two growing soccer communities and will benefit the game in the province, even beyond the province’s two largest cities.
“As far as Alberta right now goes, that rivalry is now in place. You saw it clearly (Sunday). Now it’s just a matter of the two clubs continuing down this path of bringing the world’s game into the two cities at the high level that it is.
“I think the Calgary and Edmonton rivalry will benefit soccer in both cities by adding to the Alberta narrative. I don’t think it’s limited to just these two cities. I think it will actually help grow the game throughout the entire province. I think it’s going to speak to the growth of grassroots game and onwards.”
FC Edmonton in the Canadian Premier League
There’s a large appetite for FC Edmonton joining the CPL when it launches in 2019, or soon after, and Ball is confident it can happen.
“Fans obviously want to see a high level of soccer played in this city,” he says. “They want to see FC Edmonton back on the pitch. And I think people want to see FC Edmonton in the Canadian Premier League.
“I think the ownership group have some decisions to make at this point. But the reality is, 3,000 fans came out to watch an academy friendly. That’s a really big deal.”
The second leg of the recently termed ‘Al Classico’ between FC Edmonton and Calgary Foothills FC takes place Saturday, May 5 at the Calgary Soccer Centre. Admission is free and tickets are not required for admission.