Will CPL season be played in P.E.I.? Atlético Ottawa introduces home jersey

Ben Fist shows off then new Atlético Ottawa jersey. Submitted photo / Canadian Premier Leauge

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With a path to playing soccer games that could lead to Prince Edward Island this summer, Atlético Ottawa will look good when it’s finally able to get on the field.

Atlético Ottawa officially introduced its home “kit” virtually, on Facebook, early Thursday night. The kit, which looks sharp and crisp, has a heavy emphasis on red and white vertical striping, an Ottawa crest, a blue collar and blue lettering on the front. The red jersey back includes a large maple leaf. Every jersey features the Canadian Premier League’s mission “For Canadians, By Canadians” on the inside neck. The jersey is inserted with unique details and a graphic symbol that is representative of Atletico’s identity that brings 100-plus years of know-how to the domestic soccer landscape, while paying homage to the Ottawa-Gatineau region.

Predictably, it looks quite similar to what’s what by the parent club, Atlético Madrid.

“It looks incredible,” said Atlético player Ben Fisk. “The first time I saw it, I fell completely in love with it. As a Canadian who’s been lucky enough to play in Spain and lucky enough to see a few Atlético Madrid games in person, I know what these iconic colours represent on the pitch.”
“We are an Atlético team — that association is part of our identity,” said Jeff Hunt, a strategic partner and president of Atlético Ottawa. “I’ve used the example that if the Montreal Canadiens put a team in Spain — a bad example maybe because of the name — but people would want to see that red, blue and white that they associate with the iconic brand. Fans are expecting us to resemble the mother club, with our own unique Ottawa element.

“A big part of our strategy is we’re leveraging one of the top soccer brands in the world so that brand has to be represented in our kit and be immediately recognizable — that’s an Atlético team. When you first look at it, you’re going to think, ‘Well, that’s Atlético Madrid’s jersey.’ That’s the idea, that’s what we are — we’re Atlético Ottawa. But it’s different enough that when you look closer, you would say, ‘That’s not an Atlético Madrid jersey, it’s Atlético Ottawa.’ “

“Our inaugural kits demonstrate the club’s on-field identity that is all about courage, never giving up and playing fiercely committed football for one-another while off-the-field hard work, humility and family focus are core values,” said CEO Fernando Lopez.

The COVID-19 pandemic has, of course, put a halt to sports leagues around the world. Atlético Ottawa, an expansion club in the CPL, has already missed six regular-season games with several more postponements to come. Ottawa would have played its first game April 18, following that up with three more road games, then a home opener May 16 vs. HFX Wanderers FC. Atlético was then supposed to host Pacific FC May 22 and York9 FC Saturday.

Canadian Press reported Thursday that the P.E.I government has been asked to host the CPL season, perhaps through July and August.

“The CPL is currently searching for a safe location to play its entire 2020 season and the Halifax Wanderers thought our Island would be a good fit,” the province’s Department of Economic Growth, Tourism and Culture told Canadian Press in a statement. “We are working through the stages of figuring out the details of how we could host the CPL on our Island.

“We would love to host the 2020 season, as it would be a huge impact for our Island’s economy. However, the health and safety of Islanders always comes first. There are many health guidelines and restrictions that need to be reviewed and approved by our chief medical health office. Once these are approved, we will put together a package to bid as a host for the CPL.”

P.E.I. has reported 27 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with no deaths as of Thursday.

A decision is expected within the next couple of weeks.

“We’re looking at many possibilities,” said Hunt. “I’m optimistic we will have some form of competition in 2020. We’re looking at lot of options that you see other professional sports pursuing. Will it be a regular season that we’re used to? Maybe not, most likely not. But is there still an opportunity to crown a champion and have an exciting competition? I’m very much hoping so.”

Having a home jersey launch building momentum in what would have been the home opener would have been the preferred option. But Thursday’s presentation provided some momentum and a diversion from the havoc the pandemic is causing in our lives.

“It’s nice to have something to show and talk about,” Hunt said. “We don’t have certainty as to what our season will look like this year — that’s something we’re hard at work trying to resolve. But this gives fans something to get excited about. That’s the role of sports — fans want hope of a season or some type of competition this year. Even though COVID has a cloud over almost anything we do now, for a moment in time we’re not talking about that — we’re talking about soccer.”

It’s not long ago that the plug was pulled on Ottawa Fury FC, which first played in the North American Soccer League, then the USL Championship. Out of the ashes of that came Atlético Ottawa, which agreed to join the Canadian Premier League. Building off the strong soccer community in Ottawa and trying to use the strong Atlético name to generate more buzz is the goal moving forward.

“I remember when we got Redblacks merchandise, in 2013, you’d see it around town,” Hunt said. “It was part of the process — people see it around town and wonder, ‘What’s that?’ I hope eventually this brand will be ingrained in Ottawa’s fabric as the Redblacks, Senators and 67’s. This is how it starts.”

The authentic home jersey is available for purchase online ($119.99 men’s) and $79.99 (youth). Fans will be able to customize each jersey with names and numbers for an additional $34.99.