Halifax Wanderers savour winning franchise's first game in front of appreciative crowd
It was quite a weekend for the region's only pro soccer team.
The Halifax Wanderers won their first home game in front of a large and enthusiastic crowd.
Forward Akeem Garcia scored the first goal of the match, the first in Wanderers history, and he says the atmosphere in the stadium spurred him along.
“The fans were great,” Garcia said. “Even when we came to warm up, the fans were cheering us on. They helped us a lot in that game. The fans are great here in Halifax, I love the fans here.”
The game-winning goal scored by Luis Alberto Perea gave the Wanderers a 2-1 win over the Hamilton Forge.
Head coach Stephen Hart says part of the learning curve for his team is the enthusiastic fans.
“You must learn to overcome the nerves of playing,” Hart said. “Yes you will be a little bit excited, and a little bit anxious, but you have to learn to overcome that and control that and it's part of the learning curve.”
For many fans, the celebration started long before the Saturday afternoon game.
Many poured into restaurants and pubs downtown before starting their traditional march to the match and a sea of navy and aqua filed up the streets.
“Knowing we're going to have a big crowd every game guarantees us that we'll have that atmosphere,” said team founder Derek Martin.
He says other teams, like the anticipated CFL team, will have to do their own research to find their niche, but he thinks the Wanderers reception is encouraging.
“I do believe in the idea that all of the sports can support one another, and we certainly are happy to see those other sports survive and do well and thrive,” Martin said. “But it's going to be up to each and every one of then I think to figure out what works for their market.”
Even with the win on Saturday, the team isn't resting.
“Defensively, in the midfield in particular, we could be a lot better, a little sharper,” Hart said. “And then offensively we are still a little bit disconnected at times, and our distances are not right.”
They'll keep working before their next game in Winnipeg on May 11.
The Wanderers win this weekend is also encouraging for other emerging sports franchises in Halifax.
Anthony Leblanc is a founding partner of the Atlantic Schooners, the possible CFL team.
He said Monday that he was happy to see the success of the Wanderers first home game.
Leblanc says that “Halifax is a great sports city, and the perfect place for the CFL to put down roots.”
He added that the excitement of the Wanderers fans proves that “professional sports can thrive in this region.”
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Emily Baron Cadloff.