There was a time when the notion of hosting a soccer team of international stature in this city meant that the away team would really become the home team. I remember attending a game in the 90's at Varsity Stadium between Canada and Iran, where the pa system was in Farsi only, the music at half time was the Iranian hit parade (or maybe the expatriate Iranian hit parade) and the Canadian players were booed and heckled. Now don't get me wrong, the Iranian-Canadian community is a fine group of people and I enjoyed the day amongst them. But the day left you feeling that cheering for the team in Canadian red was both a minority interest and a lost cause.
A new era dawned tonight.
TFC was the home team and don't you dare think otherwise.
The crowd showed something special at BMO. It was a touch of passion and pride, of sophistication and sense of history and a wink of y'all come on back now.
The passion on display was the TFC support , constant and dominant. The chants were clear, the energy was high and the TFC Massive was energetic.
There was sophistication and awareness of the game's history in both the ovation for Eusebio at the pre-game ceremony and the ovation for Rui Costa when he was substituted late in the second half.
There was national pride as more and more Canadians took the field and held Benfica from the score sheet. Maybe the defensive effort was showing and the counter-attack chances small for TFC, but the tie was earned.
As for the wink, I don't want to put words in anyone's mouth here, it is just a feeling. But I think that many of the Benfica fans were taken in by TFC and the groundwork for their return to the stadium as TFC supporters was laid. The all for one strategy is paying off. Maybe a handful of people were thinking as they left " I am not coming back to this stadium until the return of Benfica or the Portugese national team comes to town". I think that most left thinking that it is easy, fun and exciting to support both an old country team and the local new kid in town.
Just a feeling, but team and fans did themselves proud tonight ....