The day Ottawa soccer fans have been waiting for has come, as Atlético Ottawa was officially announced as the Canadian Premier League’s eighth team on Tuesday at an unveiling event at TD Place. The club will take part in the 2020 season, beginning in April.
To some, the CPL may have felt incomplete with only seven teams. However, Ottawa fans are hoping to be the missing puzzle piece in the ever-clearing picture of Canada’s professional soccer landscape.
“From the very beginning, our owners, our clubs and the league office has always said that we wouldn’t be a truly Canadian league, for Canadians and by Canadians, unless we had a team here in Ottawa,” said league commissioner David Clanachan. “So this, for me, is a momentous day. One that I’ll never forget.”
Colours and crest inspired by Altético Madrid
The colours and crest were met with jubilant applause and approval by the enthusiastic fans in attendance Tuesday. The new Ottawa club has borrowed its design from its parent club, Atlético Madrid. The blue, red and white crest is topped with a silhouette of the Parliament building’s Peace Tower.
Atlético Madrid CEO Miguel Ángel Gil Marín had a simple message for fans. “Atlético came to Ottawa to stay.”
Ottawa residents, will you attend Atlético Ottawa matches during the 2020 CPL season?
- Yes, I'm going to try to make it out to 1-4 matches in the first season. (37%, 69 Votes)
- Yes, definitely. I'm planning on purchasing season tickets. (31%, 57 Votes)
- Yes, I'm planning on attending 5+ matches in the first season. (18%, 33 Votes)
- Nope, I'm not interested and won't be attending any matches. (14%, 26 Votes)
Total Voters: 185
As Canada’s capital city, Ottawa is an important and elegant metropolis. The announcement was treated as such, as evidenced by the attendance of the Mayor of Ottawa Jim Watson and the Spanish Ambassador to Canada. There was a buzz in the air that was tangible to all in attendance.
“Ottawa, as we all know is a great sports community with so many passionate fans and I think the addition of the CPL is going to be great for our city,” said mayor Watson at the event.
Strategic partner Jeff Hunt believes Atlético Ottawa has an opportunity to succeed where others have previously failed.
“We are building off the legacy of the Fury, but we are starting something very new,” said Hunt Tuesday. “I hope we’ll see an Atlético experience with an Ottawa flavour.”
Atlético Madrid has the money, experience and expertise to give this new Ottawa venture the best chance of success but there are few days ahead to put management in place and sign and prepare a roster for the upcoming season. However, it seems this is a challenge that ownership is aware of.
“The structure of the competition, I think, will allow us to compete,” said Atlético Madrid CEO Miguel Ángel Gil Marín. “But, for sure, the first season will be tough for us.”
When asked why invest in Canada, he got right to the point.
“Because your country is amazing,” replied Gil Marin.
Supporters groups ready to support Atlético
The enthusiasm, both at the event and online, including the magnitude of the new ownership seems quite promising, which should see this new professional Ottawa team continue to draw good crowds and not see any initial dip in attendance.
The Bytown Boys and the Stony Monday riot were in attendance and I even saw a few Capital City FC scarves.
“We just want a team,” said Bytown Boys member Mark Cayer. “And when the Fury decided to pull the plug it was hard on a lot of people because we have a lot of friendships that we’ve made in the supporters groups. People you don’t see anywhere else, unless you go to a football game.”
Also announced was the new head coach, Miguel Angel Ferrer (or Mista), a former player who played with clubs like Valencia, Atlético Madrid and Toronto FC to name a few.
Atlético Ottawa feels different than other attempts at pro soccer
To the non-soccer, sports fans in Capital city this might seem like Ottawa’s on-again, off-again, doomed romance with professional baseball. Every few years Ottawa has a new baseball team only to see them fold a few years later, and the experience constantly repeats, never to gain any traction. Baseball is not growing, and soccer is the world’s game, Ottawa (and North America for that matter) could only hold out for so long. The capital’s baseball teams also did not cater to having local talent and establishing a path for local kids to dream big. Take a closer look at the differences between the two sports in Ottawa and you will see that professional soccer is establishing its home in the nation’s capital.
With this new Canadian league promoting Canadian players, young kids have a real chance to become hometown heroes and dreams now have a local place to cultivate and become a reality.
How is this different from the previous Ottawa Fury?
I can’t help but think the real game-changer in this equation is the ownership. Had the new owners of this endeavour been made up of only local business people, there would be much more skepticism surrounding the announcement of a new Ottawa soccer team.
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However, with Atlético Madrid calling the shots, this completely changes, not only the Ottawa perspective, but the entire Canadian landscape of professional soccer. Atlético Madrid brings massive expertise in terms of structure and scouting. They have also done this before with Atlético San Luis in Mexico, where they purchased 50 per cent of the club and rebranded it. Soon after, the club gained promotion to Liga MX, Mexico’s top flight. Conversely, they had also purchased a team in the Indian Super League, Atlético de Kolkata, but this relationship was terminated in 2017.
Ottawa will potentially have access to obtaining talented Atlético Madrid academy players who could join Ottawa on loan and should have a much easier time attracting top talent who would only be too happy to join the Atlético family, and maybe even have hopes of joining the big club.
These are not just owners of other sports teams interested in this strange thing called soccer. These are seasoned soccer owners from a massive European club making a big investment. This is different.
With all the excitement in Ottawa these days, it’s easy to get caught up in the enthusiasm. However, much work remains to be done. Management, coaches and players will have to be signed as soon as possible and in quick succession. Much news should be flowing from Ottawa in the coming weeks leading up to the start of the season.
But today is not a day for worry and doubt. It’s a well deserved celebration for Ottawa. A celebration of new hope and possibilities. A celebration in knowing that Ottawa may have lost a team and gained a new one, but the game has never left.
Jeff Hunt may have said it best at Tuesday’s event.
“This is the start of something special.”