In this series, passionate soccer supporters tell their story of falling in love with the beautiful game, and how they’re helping lead the charge in their communities to support new clubs in the Canadian Premier League.
Calgary native Sean Clarke describes himself as a “disgruntled” hockey fan looking for a “fun, real experience,” and found it, in spades, through soccer. Now, the 35-year-old hopes to inspire, lead and grow that same love of the sport in his hometown.
Clarke is a member and one of the founders of Foot Soldiers Supporters Group, one of Calgary’s newest and most fervent groups, which initially came together in 2014 to support Calgary Foothills FC. After the team was announced, Clarke and his fellow fans filled the Voyageurs forums with chatter about soccer in Calgary, but it took a spur of the moment decision by Clarke to really get the group organized.
“I thought I’d set up a Twitter account,” Clarke recounted to The CPL, about the formation of Foot Soldiers SG. “I went for dinner with my wife and came back and it already had over a hundred followers and quite a bit of activity for just being a few hours old, so I took it and ran with it.”
Soon, Clarke and other fervent supporters in Calgary bandied together, meeting at “The Ship and Anchor” on Friday nights or Sunday mornings before heading over to the stands to support the Foothills in the PDL with impromptu chanting and “reactive” songs. Soon, talk of a CPL team in Calgary began making its rounds, too.
“As the CPL chatter kind of rose through the offseason, we talked about it and asked how we were going to move forward with this. Do we want to support Cavalry FC, or will a new group step in? We all decided we’re all-in on Cavalry.”
He also remembers exactly where he was when those rumours turned into reality.
“(Foothills Technical Director) Tommy (Wheeldon Jr.) called me in January when I was at work and he said ‘what did you want for Christmas?’ I had a feeling when he called me that it was to tell me something like this. He said ‘CPL is coming to Calgary.’
“As a group, we were all very excited,” he continued. “As far as celebrations, we kept it muted until the official celebration, but then on the May long weekend, we all went to the Ship and Anchor patio and had a few celebratory drinks.”
Clarke credits Wheeldon Jr. for his role in bringing soccer to his community, describing him as the group’s “biggest backer” and the “biggest weapon in our arsenal right now.” With Wheeldon Jr. involved with Cavalry FC, and under the lights of a new stadium, Clarke says he is excited for the next level of soccer in Calgary – and he’s noticed others are, too.
“As Cavalry FC has been announced and gets into the media, there’s more buzz and more inquiries about what we’re about,” Clarke said. “If I’m wearing my merchandise around town, I’ll notice people come up to me and be like ‘oh you’re repping the gear, that’s great!’ The interest is definitely growing.”
For Clarke and the Foot Soldiers SG, the work put in today is done with the intent of providing future generations with a finished product, something to enjoy. Clarke hopes their support – and Cavalry FC’s success – transcends sport and becomes part of the city’s culture.
“I want soccer to become the destination for people who want to have a good time at a game, as compared to other sports in the city where it’s a status thing. People at our stadium truly care about it … hopefully it’ll grow year over year and with time, word of mouth gets out that this is the place to be.”
You can check out Foot Soldiers SG on Twitter (@FootSoldiersSG) for more information about the group, as well as cavalryfc.canpl.ca to secure your membership with a deposit ahead of the CPL’s inaugural 2019 season.