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TFC fans not hooligans, police say after road flare incident
April 24, 2009, 5:27 PM
Filed under: TFC Supporters, Toronto FC

Concerns over potential Toronto soccer hooliganism were downplayed by police today, after a second incident in less than a month.

Two teenagers were arrested for throwing lit road flares onto the field and into the stands during the closing minutes of a Toronto FC match last night, a few weeks after a Toronto fan was Tasered by police while celebrating after a game in Columbus.

“We want people to know that we are not going to tolerate this type of stuff, but this was the action of such a small minority,” said 14 Division Inspector Paul Vorvis. “It’s not a huge problem and we want to keep it that way.”

Police allege an 18- and 17-year-old attending a Major League Soccer game between Toronto FC and Chivas USA lit two road flares and threw them at the playing field, with about 10 minutes remaining in the match.

One flare reached the pitch, setting a section of BMO Field’s artificial turf on fire and causing an estimated $2,000 in damage. The second flare hit the lap of a woman sitting in the southeast section of the stadium, causing minor burns to her upper thigh, said Insp. Vorvis.

Allusions to hooliganism have plagued Toronto FC fans since the team’s inaugural season in 2007, when the team first started playing in front of notoriously rowdy sold-out crowds.

Comparisons to the hooligans historically found in European football increased at the end of March, when a Toronto fan was Tasered during a confrontation with police after a game in Columbus.

Jack DePoe, the president of the Red Patch Boys — one of the team’s several booster groups — dismisses the idea Toronto fans on whole could be considered to be hooligans, adding that members commit to follow a charter expressly prohibiting violent actions.

“When you are talking about a very small number of people who do these sorts of things, I don’t think it is fair to be painting Toronto FC supporters with the same brush,” he said. “There is a line, we will go right up to it, but we will not cross it.”

Mr. DePoe said the latest incident could raise more unfounded criticism, allowing that while supporters are notoriously uproarious, the majority stay within the bounds of appropriate behaviour.

Insp. Vorvis said officers initially had concerns about the potential for hooliganism at Toronto FC games, but booster groups have a “fairly good internal mechanism to try and weed out hooligans.”

“These guys aren’t actually members of any booster club. It was just a couple of guys, it was one-off, and I guess they just decided it was a fun thing to do.”

Andjelo Franjic, 18, and a 17-year-old who cannot be named, both from Stoney Creek, were each charged with possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose, assault with a weapon, assault causing bodily harm and mischief under $5,000.

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