There’s a new game in town. Once you’re settled in that fresh apartment or residence building, it might be hard to miss the sea of blue shirts, coloured smoke and bagpipes marching over to the Wanderers Grounds, wedged between the Citadel and Public Gardens. What’s the commotion? Pro soccer.
While students have been on summer break, the Halifax Wanderers Football Club kicked off it s first season in the newly formed Canadian Premier League (CPL) which includes seven teams from across Canada.
If you’ve been away from Halifax for the summer and missed out on the Wanderers, have no fear. There are still games to catch, flags to wave, and chants to learn in the fall — the season keeps going until October. Here are some hot tips for catching Wanderers games and getting the full experience.
What’s the deal with the CPL?
The Canadian Premier League is brand new — it’s still in its first year of play with all seven teams formed from the ground up with new players and coaches. It’s the top league in the Canadian soccer system and not to be confused with Major League Soccer, which includes three Canadian teams who play against professional teams in the United States.
There are two seasons: a spring season and fall season with two separate winners. The winning team of each season play each other in the CPL championship. Whoever wins that match has a chance to play against the top teams in North and Central America, as well as the Caribbean.
Join the march
Across the globe, marching to the soccer stadium from nearby pubs or city squares is a mainstay for fans of each team. Halifax is no different. The Privateers 1882, Halifax Wanderers’ unofficial supporters’ group, marches from pub to pub in downtown Halifax before making their way to the pitch before each home game. Bagpipes, face paint and blue attire are the norm, but feel free to tag along even if you can’t make the game!
Pick your seat
The Halifax Wanderers FC play in the Wanderers Grounds, an open-air stadium of over 5,000 seats nestled right near the downtown. It’s about a twenty-minute walk from Dalhousie University’s student union building, and a quick bus ride down Spring Garden Road.
At the stadium, tickets range from $18 in “The Kitchen,” the rowdy supporters’ section, to around $46 in the pitch-side sections. You can buy tickets online on the Wanderers website or check out the Privateers Facebook page for people selling tickets they don’t need.
Each area of the grounds has a different feel to it. While the Kitchen’s chants, flags and cheering make the stadium’s atmosphere unmissable, there are quieter sections too if crowds aren’t your thing. And full disclosure: seats in the Kitchen are rarely used — almost everyone stands the entire match.
Know the team
Like the rest of Canadian Premier League teams, half of the Wanderers’ players must be Canadian. In the mix are a few hometown heroes like Christian Oxner and Scott Firth, both of whom grew up in the HRM.
The team’s top goal scorer is Akeem Garcia, who’s netted four goals in the fall season. He’s a fast, dynamic forward who’s extremely fun to watch.
Team captain Jan-Michael Williams is an experienced goalkeeper who’s kept the team steady throughout both seasons. Rivalries between teams create a feisty atmosphere where strong leaders must keep their teams cool.
So far, Halifax has been a mid-table team, sitting in fourth position in the spring season and in fifth in the fall season (as of Aug. 20).