In today’s installment of our series on Vancouver Whitecaps supporter groups we are speaking with Mike Gromm of The Curva Collective. My season ticket is half way up section 204 in BC Place, and the Collective have been a big part of my fan experience each game. They sit down and to the left of me at pitch side. I hear their chants and join in on their songs. I’ve heard one of their sons lead the same song for the last four years and witnessed his voice change as he becomes a young man. I’ve held their tifo over my head and watched them take their shoes and shirts off once a game, it seems. My brother and I make fun of “Van Van Van, Couv Couv Couv, Ver Ver Ver” because it is so silly, but can’t resist singing it too. And, I’ve been touched as they sing out the name of a young Marco Carducci as he nervously prepares for his first start with the first team. It’s a privilege to sit nearby and share the games with them.
The Curva Collective was formed in the 2011/12 season, and is located in section 203/204. They are a small and committed group of 75 people who, according to their website, curvacollective.ca, are all there for the same reasons: to cheer and sing for their team before, during and after the games; to make themselves seen with flag waving and tifo; collaborating with other groups to create a presence for road games; and working collaboratively as a team. At the end of every win we can rely on them to corral one of the players for a rendition of The Humba. I love it when capo Zach Messenheimer has to talk the new players through it by whispering each phrase in the his ear. They dedicate themselves to support the first team, the WFC2 USL team, Residency/Youth teams, and at training sessions.
The Collective’s three slogans are:
Support is Always
We Are Who We Are
Giving Our All
Mike, thank you for speaking with us.
How long have you been a supporter?
Mike: Although I was on the periphery of Curva Collective in 2012, I first became an official partner starting with the 2013 season. This season marks my fifth as a partner.
What factors played a role in you joining the group you did, and what keeps you coming back?
Mike: My first year with a Whitecaps season ticket was in 2012 and that seat just happened to be about five rows up from Curva Collective. Over the course of that season I naturally gravitated down to stand with the group. Since then I have established many great friendships with other partners and more than anything it is the camaraderie, feeling of unity, and friendships that keep me coming back.
What do you find to be most rewarding about being a supporter?
Mike: I feel that being a supporter means being part of the game. While fans generally sit and passively experience the game, we actively participate in the game. I know there are times when we influence the game through the various ways we support. That is the most rewarding aspect for me - knowing we are part of each match we attend.
Are there any aspects of being a supporter that you find to be tedious?
Although I won’t go into any details, I would say that some of our dealings with the Front Office are frustrating. Additionally, educating casual fans about how we support can be tedious.
Do you join Caps on Tour? If so, where you been? And, would you go back and why?
Mike: Away travel can be a lot of fun. I’ve been fortunate to be able to join Caps on Tour in both middle and lower Cascadia multiple times each. Additionally, earlier this year I had the opportunity to join Caps on Tour in Houston. Each experience has been a lot of fun and I will certainly try to get to as many away matches as time and budget allows. I really enjoy being part of a group of people that make that extra effort to support the team.
Do you think smoke would enhance or detract from your experience as a supporter?
Mike: I’m not sure that we will ever be allowed to have smoke in BC Place. For me, although I am not opposed to it, there are many other things I would rather focus on to enhance our support and supporter culture in general.
What role do you think the league and front office of the club should play in dictating what is acceptable behaviour for supporters? And, how far outside the stadium gates do you think that extends?
Mike: Instead of dictating acceptable behaviour, I would really like to see a relationship between supporters and the league/front office based on respect and openness. For me one of the problems is the notion of ‘dictating’ - very rarely do people or groups of people buy into something when it has been dictated to them. A real constructive relationship can address issues while providing supporters the freedom to support how they see fit.
Is the leadership of our supporters group open to suggestions, even if it flies in the face of their current thought process?
Mike: I am by nature a contrarian; therefore, I am used to making suggestions that don’t necessarily correspond with any given direction. I’m lucky, perhaps because we are a collective, that these suggestions and opinions are always greeted with respect and can lead to healthy discussion. I’m not sure how other groups function, but in my experience, Curva Collective is certainly open to suggestions from partners.
Would you ever considering switching groups, why or why not?
Mike: I wouldn’t say that I would ever switch groups because I have developed strong friendships with many people in Curva Collective and our style of support matches my ideals. However, I am certainly open to the group growing and evolving and to enhancing supporter culture in Vancouver so I will always seek to do that with my Curva Collective family.
If you could improve your own supporters group, what would you do and how would you go about it?
Mike: There are many things that could improve our group, other supporters groups, and supporter culture in general in Vancouver, but the vast majority of those things are the responsibility of the Front Office and we lack the ability to unilaterally make those changes. Within Curva Collective I am happy with where we are now, but I would love to have a large, permanent, well-located tifo-creation space. This is a dream and we make do with what we have, but I think such a space would really help our visual displays of support.
Would you join forces with one or both of the other supporters groups to improve the atmosphere inside BC Place?
Mike: This is an important issue for the short and long-term success of supporters and supporter culture in Vancouver. With a proper general admission section, current support would improve and there would be a legacy left allowing supporter groups or subgroups to form and grow over time. The challenge is to ensure the quality and style of support meets all of our expectations. I hope this can happen, but it will be challenging to create due to the coordination and buy-in required by many different organizations.
Does it bother you if someone thinks that you’re a Southsider?
Mike: Although I have no animosity towards the Southsiders and appreciate a lot of what they bring to the stadium, I do make the effort to ensure people who know I’m a Whitecaps supporter know that I’m part of the Curva Collective, not the Southsiders. Generally, this is because I want to help people realize the Southsiders aren’t the only supporters group, but also because I’m proud of the style in which we support and want to highlight that.
Thank you Mike, I’ll be seeing you from above in my seat and singing along at the next game.