FCE supporters group River Valley Vanguard keeping the faith alive during shutdown

River Valley Vanguard leader Adam Ziel knows what it’s like to go without football in early Spring.

“As an FC Edmonton fan, I’ve already lost football and got it back,” Ziel told from his home in Edmonton. “We already had that second chance.”

The Eddies, like all other CPL sides, have been sidelined since March due to COVID-19 concerns and protocols.

But FCE fans, including Ziel and other members of the River Valley Vanguard supporters group, have been better prepared for the current halt on proceedings than any other CPL fanbase – they are just two years removed from FC Edmonton’s “lost season” in 2018 when the club went on hiatus after joining the Canadian Premier League from the NASL.

“A failed league couldn’t kill FC Edmonton, so COVID-19 won’t either,” Ziel joked. “Lack of football, while it sucks, it’s something we’ve gone through before.

“We’ve become more resilient because of that.”

Like other supporter group heads, Ziel has focused on keeping fans engaged during this break from the action. Virtual pub nights have been prevalent in their community, as supporters have managed to get together on video chats that last as long as six hours. Fans of other CPL clubs have attended, and the trash-talking has followed.

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“Grab a six-pack, hop on the call and shoot the breeze… Salivating over the teams and the XIs we could field, that sort of thing,” Ziel offered.

“Football is such a community sport. Nowhere else can you get a brother and sisterhood than at a soccer game. It’s unique to this continent, not just our community.”

Eddies coach Jeff Paulus has also brought local supporters together with the “Coaches Boot Room,” a series of tactical and insider video sessions meant to educate FCE supporters about the game and his team.

For now, River Valley Vanguard is stuck in the planning stage. Along with organizing a trivia night around the club’s 10-year anniversary, the group is mapping out potential road trips for away dates in 2020.

No. 1 on their list? Atlético Ottawa.

“We have a very sizable contingent that wants to go to Ottawa, to get to TD Place,” admitted Ziel, mentioning FCE’s numerous matchups with the Ottawa Fury in the NASL and Canadian Championship over the years created somewhat of a rivalry.

“We have a history with them, but have never made the trip. If anything, the (CPL) has made us realize how important it is to travel this country.

“At least there are trips to plan for, games to plan for, rather than nothing at all.”

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It’s a fair point. Football has come and gone, building resilience among supporters in Alberta’s capital. For Ziel and the River Valley Vanguard, it’s about creating positive momentum in those empty spaces, just as they’ve done before.

“In 2018, the year with no football, we ended up building a better group and stronger ties because of it,” Ziel said.

“We have had this beautiful thing called a second chance. There are so few professional clubs and groups that have that.

“We’ve loved and lost, and we’ve gained.”