From Montréal with Love

By | July 10, 2012

2012 is a big year for Montréal sports and the Saputo Family. Following a 20 year existence the family-owned football club “Impact de Montréal” finally entered Major League Soccer. It is a year of firsts for our club, for it saw our first game, first goal, first win, and first game in the redeveloped Stade Saputo. I have had the pleasure of being apart of many of these firsts, actually scoring the winning goal and my first professional goal in our first MLS win versus our rivals Toronto FC on April 7th, 2012.

Being in Montréal I have begun to realize that the city has a culture that is unlike any other in North America. This culture plays a hand in the soccer and politics of this great city. Any newcomer to a Impact game will immediately realize that our supporters group, “les Ultras” sing and chant in French. This is just an introduction to the unique culture of our club and this great city.

The best place to start for an understanding of Quebec politics is to go through Quebec’s long history. Since arriving in Montréal, I’ve been reading A People’s History of Quebec in order to better understand the history of the city where I now play.(The quotes and page references below are from this book). I’ve learned that the roots of the territory’s current political issues are grounded in an event that happened centuries ago. On July 24, 1534, Jacques Cartier and his men erected a large cross with the three fleurs-de-lis on the Gaspe Peninsula and declared the territory for the King of France. Jacques Cartier then moved further up the St. Lawrence river and settled on Montréal Island for the winter effectively founding the city. Today Jacques Cartier is honored with a plaza donning his name in the Old Port of Montreal, which is a large tourist destination. Additionally the fleurs-de-lis is enshrined on the flag of Quebec and on our Montréal Impact jerseys. It is a national symbol of Quebec and one that is meant to invoke “the francophone character of the province.” Upon reflection I must admit that the book I used was too narrow in its history of Montreal and the province of Quebec for it rarely touched on the aboriginal people of the territory. Hence it must be noted that these groups played a role in the making of this province and its history.

This strong French culture intensified as Montréal was settled by Paul de Chomedey de Maisonneuve in May 1642. Montreal soon became the main focus of France as it worked to colonize ‘New France.’ This decision laid the groundwork for a specific people with French culture in Quebec that was uniquely different from the rest of  British controled territory in what is present day Canada. It was during this time that settlers in the St. Lawrence Valley began to identify themselves as different than their French counterparts in France and rather as “Canadiens.” During the 1660’s the newly minted “Canadiens,” “preferred to be called ‘habitants’ instead of ‘paysans’ or peasants as they were in France.” (24) This term is still used today and identifies Montréal’s hockey team as the ‘Montréal Canadiens’ and their popular nickname being “Les Habitants.”

What unsettled “Les habitants” was their capitulation to the British during the “Seven Years War” or what as Canadiens refer to it the “War of Conquest.” The differences between the French Canadiens (what Quebecers began calling themselves as English speakers adopted ‘Canadians’) and British cultures are immense specifically being the language and religion: Protestants and Catholics. These issues were only worsened as the British rulers attempted to assimilate French Canadiens into British culture. In 1766, for instance, “the Attorney General of the Province, Francis Maseres, held that the only way to eliminate the growing conflict between the French and English speakers was to simply assimilate those who spoke French.” (72) This statement led to resentment from French speakers as they clung to their language and specifically their religion.

Today Montréal is officially a French speaking city, all of the traffic signs and government documents are in French, and I can add from personal experience my lack of French has left me in awkward positions more than once. I often  found it tough trying to figure out where I wanted to go (though my lack of a sense of direction may be the true cause of that.) Though many French Canadiens appreciate my poor attempts at “Bonjour, como ca va” it leaves me at a real disadvantage in truly understanding and assimilating into the culture. Learning the French language is an important way for me to endear myself to the fans, but I will be honest it is not an easy task.

French Canadiens have fought tooth and nail defending their unique culture and language in Montréal, which is distinct compared to the rest of Canada. The Act of Union officially made English the primary language of Quebec in the 1840s but Montréal and the rest of Quebec resisted and over time built up a harden and sometimes malicious defense. Following the Confederation of Canada in 1867 Montreal has worked to regain their sovereignty. They installed the Ministry of Culture during the Quiet Revolution, used physical force and intimidation at the hands of the FLQ (Front de Liberation du Quebec) before finally making French the official language in 1977. These efforts were followed by two unsuccessful attempts to affirm sovereignty referendums for Quebec. The latest one in 1995 lost by the slimmest of margins of 50.6% no to 49.4% yes. Residents of Montréal and the greater Quebec province take their allegiances and culture very seriously.

This immense passion for Quebec nationalism is also evident when fans support their favorite sports teams. The enthusiasm and love for the Montréal Canadiens is no joking matter in Montreal. The team’s performance directly affects the moods of thousands of Montréalers. Though fans of Impact de Montréal are a smaller group, they are equally ardent in their support of the club and the players. This type of passion is shown in times of glory and failure — let me tell you, our fans will let you know their feelings. That is fantastic, as it makes me yearn to please them and earn their admiration in return.

This post has been an introductory post to shed light on the back story of Montréal and its culture, a culture that is clearly apparent in its sports teams and their fans. It has been interesting for me to learn about the prominent names that helped shape this city’s rich history such as Rene Levesque, Papineau, Frontenac, Jean-Talon. Pierre Elliot Trudeau, Maisonneuve and Jacques Cartier. Their names now don many places in the city. If you want to learn more about Montreal’s history or are considering visiting the “Paris of North America” you can visit this website for additional historical knowledge or read “A People’s History of Quebec.” This post is the first in a series of articles I am going to be writing in the next few months that look at the politics and soccer in Montréal. If you have suggestions for article topics or comments on what I’ve written here I more than welcome them in the comments section or on twitter at @andrewwenger.

Category: Canada Major League Soccer Montreal Tags:

About Andrew Wenger

I was born and raised in Lititz, Pennsylvania where I began playing soccer at age 5. I continued my soccer and academic career at Duke University where I started every match in my 3 year career. I completed a history major and was awarded the Herman Trophy in 2012. Following my Junior year I was selected #1 in the MLS Superdraft by the Montreal Impact.

77 thoughts on “From Montréal with Love

  1. Daniel G.

    Bravo Andrew ! Good work and effort on Québec history. I’m proud of your passion.

    @John : Encore un anglophone qui ne comprend rien à la culture québécoise et qui adopte un ton injurieux pour camoufler son ignorance et exciter les vieilles haines linguistiques. Décevant.

  2. Dominic

    Intelligent and talented you are. I am a French Canadian from Quebec and I can tell you that unfortunately, lots of resident don’t know half of what you already know about our history. Learning our culture is a great demonstration of the respect you have for your fans.


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  4. Martin Bélec

    @ John, this is not the place to play politics an insult people. When you say that French people are more ignorant than English people really answers to who’s really ignorant, not the people but maybe you! My life experience has led me to believe that ignorance is well spread and knows no language, race or religious borders.

    Andrew, I truly want to congratulate you on a genuine attempt to reach out, to this city, and more broadly speaking to the Québécois people. Your curiosity and your will to learn more about the city and the French fact in this part of North America is a sure sign of respect and dignity and it will be returned to you with love and affection from all of the Montréal Impact fans.

    As you poor through history books and as you learn more about us, you will learn that as a people, sometimes we were great and some other times we were not so great, just like most other nations. I hope that what percolates in the end is an understanding of our struggles to maintain this French speaking community alive and to appreciate it’s vibrant culture in this Anglophone continent. We as a people want to exist and we want to promote our differences and we want to embrace other small nation’s differences.

    The world does not need 10 USA or France or China, the world needs hundreds of smaller nations. Small nations can bring allot to the table. New ideas, new solutions, new way of life, a small nation will probably lead the way in the upcoming necessary changes needed in the world and this might be us, why not, like René Levesque said “We are not small people, we are maybe something of a great people”

    Like Laurent said, to truly understand where we come from and to feel the cradle of the Quiet Revolution which began in the early sixties, you should watch the movie Maurice Richard, The Rocket:


  5. Martin

    2 words come to mind… WOW & Respect.

    Being a proud native from Quebec, I have worked and lived in many countries around the world and you are one of few professional I have ever read who demonstrates his willingness to integrate himself in a new culture that represents the majority of the fans of the team he plays for! Like you, I have always tried my best to integrate myself and add my own contribution.

    I can tell you that you have won a Huge fan base from now on and will always have support.

    One last thing you have not mentioned, but probably have noticed is that , in Montreal, the second thing we respect the most is effort given on the ice…I mean field 🙂 I wish you all the best and look forward to your continued expression.

    P.S. Involvement in the community is also greatly appreciated. Hint, hint…

  6. Eric

    weird, everytime I see u play I think to myself, “he looks more like a professor than a soccer player.”. 🙂 🙂 but you’re a real good player.

    Great article. You should have a fan translate them for u as well.

  7. John

    Nice job… But some french people in here make me laugh.
    They are so ignorant, way more then English people here in Montreal. Fact is, Montreal is the 4th biggest English speaking city in Canada… I say this, learn both languages before you bash someone for speaking English… It’s part of our history.
    When I or any tourist doesn’t get the service they deserve in metros, stores… Then I say, learn to speak English and French, cuz you work in service… Yet I see them bash people and tourist like they are stupid.
    Peace, and good article.

  8. Paul

    Hello Andrew,
    I pretty much agree with your post. You will, unfortunately, soon discover the other side of the medal. It is not always easy to live in Montreal when you do not fully speak french. People look at you as if your an alien. The anglophones and other cultural communities are often the scapegoats of the separatist political leaders. We love our province just like we love our country and therefore we’re often ‘ostracized’ by the mainstream of the population. Nonetheless, even if 1 out 2 quebeckers disagree on which way the future of this province should go, I believe that my home is Quebec, a french-canadian touch of our huge continent. No hard feelings with my fellow Impact fan.

  9. Vincent

    Very nice paper Mr.Wenger ! Best of luck in your soccer career and academic projects !

  10. Normand Roussil

    Welcome to Quebec and welcome to Montreal.

    You have a lot of knowledges about our history and our fights to preverve our french heritage.

    Our home is your new home !

    Normand Roussil

  11. Marc-Andre L.

    Thank you, Andrew, for your interest in understanding us as a people, our city, and our history. Sincerely. It means a lot. If this makes it onto local news, I think you will soon find out how much it is appreciated.

  12. Laurent

    To Andrew…respectfully !!!

    Like many of the previous comments, I’m stunned with the initiative you took. The fact that your teacher (…I guessed since the french origins name) is a french canadian, probably help you take that path. Still. I’m amazed by your paper, I would say that most of “montrealers” knows as much…….unfortunatly I can’t.

    From one baseball player many years ago who didn’t come playing with the Expos because his wife was not sure she could easily find “Doritos” in the city, and a HUGE number of Habs (read “Canadiens”) players who never put “A” french word in a sentence, except “Merci”….or “Merci beaucoup” after 5 years. There is too many examples, but because we looooooove our Habs they got all the latitude they want.

    From Mr.Saputo showing the way, to Mr.Marsch who evidently wants to make a huge effort to learn a language that is not easy at all to get. I’m happy to see that our young players (you, Zarek, Jeb, etc…) seems to be an open minded group of intelligent young men.

    At last…finally….for one of your next paper, I suggest to you to watch the movie “Maurice Richard – The Rocket” the Habs n°9 legend….

    Thank you Mr.Wenger, I liked you… I’m pretty sure I love you (kind of….manly) lol


  13. Stéphane

    Merci Andrew, for explaining to the rest of the world the french culture here in Québec. It’s not easy, i must fight for my right to speak french at work every day. But i’ve never had any problem with a american tourists but with english speaking born montrealers and imigrants it’s another story. Tip if you want to come visit us, learn some basic french, to help you out for directions, ordering in restaurants etc. We greatly appreciate efforts made by visiting people. Come and feel the french difference, the cuisine from around the world, the festivals, the nightlife…Bienvenue au Québec !! 🙂

  14. Rémi Beaulieu

    Being a french canadian, let me say your article was a very nice to read

    Im pleased to know that you enjoy the place 🙂

  15. Vincent Bilodeau

    Félicitations pour votre bel artice!

    Congrats for your article! Very nice to see your interest in our different culture!

  16. IMFC #1 Fan

    Great article and great initiative to have such an interest to our city and history!

    I would also like to thank all readers and respondents to being civilized and keeping it real and not taking it to another (negative) level (political mandate).

    After all, football (soccer) brings people from different cultures, nationalities and different political beliefs TOGETHER.

    Love football

  17. PL Pilon

    Andrew, you put the “professional” back into professional athlete.

    I sincerely hope you bosses, Joey and Nick, will do all they can to keep you with in Montréal for as many years as possible.


  18. Sean Doye

    Hi Andrew,

    As someone reading this from PA Dutch Country, this is fascinating read! Glad to see you are doing well and I wish you continued success in your new home! And tell Zarek to pass the Oreos!

  19. Marc

    After reading your article, I have no doubt of which number I’m going to wear on the back of my Impact jersey.

    Thank you Mr. Wenger for making us proud on and off the field.

  20. Félix Pinel

    Merci M.Wenger,

    Voilà un bel exemple de ce que la combinaison sport/éducation peut engendrer: l’intelligence, la curiosité, l’ouverture, la communication, etc.

    Merci de votre intérêt à connaître notre histoire et à comprendre notre culture.

    En espérant que vous demeurerez avec l’Impact de nombreuses années!!

    Thank you for that great article!

    My blog is La Politique est un sport extrême (Politics is an X-Game)


  21. Eric Campeau

    I’m flaberggasted and impressed, M. Wenger! All those mercenary athletes who don’t give a damn about the community where they play should follow your example.
    A big, warm and heartfelt welcome in Montreal!

  22. Steeve Beaupré

    When you were drafted, as an Impact supporter, I was happy. After reading this, as a Montrealer, I am proud. Keep it up, Mr. Wenger! You are endearing yourself to us by your respect for our culture and your curiosity towards it, not to mention your play on the pitch! First draft pick? Nope. First Class pick is more like it. Allez, Impact, allez!

  23. Guillaume

    One word: Respect !!

    this young man is very respectful of our culture, our city.

    Andrew Wenger deserve a lot of respect from us

  24. Marie-Eve

    Dear Andrew,

    Let me say, like everyone, that it is a pleasure to see your interest for the culture you now live in. We are always deeply touched by people who try to learn more about Quebec and its particularities. I find it even more refreshing to see a professional sport player being able to articulate thoughts and share new knowledge in a clear and pleasant way. Being in grad scool now, I can’t help but to associate part of this curiosity and ease at communication with the fact you had the chance to develop your soccer skills in an academic environment (not to say, of course, that someone who didn’t go to College will automatically lack of these qualities). It makes me think the development of hockey players in the Province should maybe follow more that scheme. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think it is sometimes hard with the actual system for good hockey players to study at the university level.

    In my opinion, the qualities you show here help to bring more people like me to feel even more concerned and interested by professional sport so they are major assets to your team. I sincerely congratulate you for this blog entry, wish you good luck with French learning (believe me, a little knowledge will already make a huge difference for your integration and for the love of your francophone Fans!) and look forward to read more of your thoughts and learning in future posts.

  25. Jeff

    Wow impressionnant comme travail de recherche! Merci de vouloir comprendre , de nous comprendre…

  26. Roland

    This post should be mandatory reading for Miguel Montano.

  27. Marc-André

    Wow, this was an amazing and very pleasant thing to read 🙂 I’m very happy you were drafted in Montreal! I hope that people will buy tickets, because you guys deserve a full stadium that’s for sure! ALLEZ L’IMPACT

  28. Jonathan

    No other athletes have ever taken the time to do this. I have never seen a professional athlete doing this and being so proud of wearing the jersey. Montreal is an awesome city, and you have made thousand of fans happy. You will quickly become a very popular player in Montreal! I hope this blog will be read by thousands of fans!

    Thank you for doing this and I wish you a very successful career and as much championships as possible, of course with the Impact because, this is who you belong to 🙂

  29. Gerard

    You are the FC Barcelona of North America! Allez Impact de Montreal!

  30. Francis Ghanimé

    To Wenger with love:

    I finally have the time to comment on this impressive blog entry. Let me tell you one thing Andrew, the key to Montrealers/Quebecers heart is to fill the soul and uniqueness of the place. And if you do, then youre already one of us really.

    I’ll just quickly add that youve skipped/missed the whole constitutional topic. Its not a big deal, and probably not important to your blog. But as a history major, I imagine you might be interested to know where the chasm between francophones and anglophones comes from. And although there were some grievances in the past towards the attempted assimilation of our nation and the general bias against french canadians by the ruling british, the rapatriation of the Canadian constitution is one of the main reasons why Quebecers dont normally vote for federalist parties in Canadian elections (exception being the last election where we voted for the left wing federalist party), or feel part of Canada most of the time.

    Anyways, looking forward to reading more of your entries. You and Valentin look like top blokes, and wish you two a long career with the Impact.

    Much love,

  31. Louis-Philippe Boulais

    Wow juste wow … Bravo Andrew, I new and we all saw that you were a good player but being that involve in the heart of the Province of Québec and the City of Montréal show the kind of man you are inside…intelligent and mature for your age. keep on the good work ! Aller l’Impact !!!

  32. Sylvain Dicaire

    Thanks for taking time to learn about our (now yours as well) city and sharing your thoughts about it so eloquently. Can’t wait to see you play again and read more from you in the future. Get well soon. We need you!

  33. Eric

    You already know more about our history than roughly 95% of the french, english and ethnic population of our country. Congratulations, your interest for the details of our culture demonstrates that you are a real citizen of the world, an open-minded human-being. Too bad that the mercenaries recruited by the Montreal Canadiens (hockey) every year do not share your level of culture. Bravo, tu es un vrai canadien, québécois, etc…

  34. Nicolas Francoeur

    It was a pleasure to read your article. Being a huge Quebec history fan myself, it always interesting to see other people learning about our past.
    Rarely do I feel professional players truly understand their city’s history : you are one of the few !
    While reading your article, I felt a real respect from you about our nation. Thank you for that, this is greatly appreciated !

    @Degane : well the Impact twisted the real history a little bit. There is only 2 real original settlers : Natives and French. English, Scots and Irish came a long time after. They were of course important for the city, but not directly related to the foundation of Montréal. Still I do understand your message about being more inclusive.

  35. Benoît Labonté

    Very good primer on Montréal and Québec. I noticed you put an accent to Montréalers. You must absolutely visit Québec City and Old Québec. The fortified city, La Citadelle, Chateau Frontenac and Place Royale are amazing. Actually my ancestor fought under Frontenac who defeated the English in La Bataille de Québec in 1690. Frontenac was famous for saying “”I have no reply to make to your general other than from the mouths of my cannons and muskets” Je répondrai par la bouche de mes canons. The French later lost to the English in 1760. Here’s a couple subject you could explore:
    -Rebellion of 1837
    -Revolution Tranquille
    -Canadien-Nordiques Rivalry
    -Other famous #33 of Montréal…

    See you at the game!

  36. Rick bergmann

    Wow! Simply impressed ! Hope you play for the Impact may years.

  37. Karl Boutin

    Félicitations pour le beau travail et aussi sur le terrain,
    Bonne saison et longue carrière a toi avec l’IMPACT DE MONTREAL

  38. Gilles Bouthillette

    Bravo If only a few percentage of English speaking residents of Montreeal tried to understand as you do, 90% of our language problems woud have been resolved without any law to be adopted to protect French.
    Tous pour gagner. I’m proud to be an Impact fan

  39. Thomas Champagne

    Wow. Super-good text Andrew. It’s nice to see that you’re enjoying this beautiful city and the characteristics of it. 🙂


  40. André Boisvert

    Merci monsieur Wenger.
    allez l’Impact allez 😉

  41. Pat

    @degane: regarding the four stars, I’ve read that somewhere about the foundation of Montreal but always tought that it was for the four championships won by the team in its history…

  42. Pierre Mailhot

    Mr. Wenger, as a native montrealer it was a pleasure reading your blog post. I cannot remember any other athlete coming to Montréal and getting so involved in learning the story of the city and the province. At least not publicly. The Impact definitely made the right choice at the draft. It was already a pleasure watching you play, it is now a pleasure reading you.

    You should have the blog post translated in French so that some of your french-speaking fans can appreciate the love and passion you have for our history. Well done sir! Thank you.

  43. Martin Loiselle

    Wow, Andrew, really impressive !

    People like you will help this sport take its place in Montréal.
    Remind me of Gary Carter with the Expos…

  44. Louis-Pascal Cyr

    Wow! I totally agree with Mr. Provencher. Speaking of Montreal Canadiens (the hockey team), I don’t think I ever saw one of their players display half the interest in Québec history Andrew shows here. Whatever happens in your professional career Andrew, you’ll always be a Montrealer to me. Now, time for our beloved Ultras to write a french song to your glory!

  45. Degane

    Hi Andrew,
    Thanks for writing about football and Montreal, it’s great that you’re taking this initiative. I have things I wanted to point to. First, I really think you should mention the history of Indigenous people in Quebec when you mention the history of French culture and British rule. Quebec is composed of over 11 different Indigenous groups, you check quick map here: (although this is what the territories look like now according to Canadian federal law).

    Second, as a huge football fan and new Impact fan, I am disappointed that the club decided to put four stars on the shield that signify the ”Four original settlers of Montreal as illustrated on the flag of the city: the French,the English, the Irish and the Scots”. (from Montreal Impact website). I am disappointed because the club chose a colonial narrative in their ad campaign to illustrate how the team will conquer new horizons in the MLS. I understand the need for football teams to create narratives, history and tradition, especially in North America (Canada and USA) that have struggled to create large audiences and allegiances to teams; but I really wished the team image was built in a way that is more critical of colonialism in Quebec and strives to include the large and diverse migrant population of the province. For example, during Impact games, people bring Chilean flags, Trinidad and Tobago flags, Mexican flags, Italian, Spanish, Nigerian, you name it! Why can’t the Impact be more like Brazilian club Internacional? In terms of imaging and narrative. Internacional was named to be the team for all, (like Inter Milan yes.) I know it’s not perfect, but it’s a start. The club is open to foreign players and should also try to reflect the history and diversity in the stands. Instead of mimicking the Montreal city flag (with the four stars), Montreal could have a team that reflects more accurately the diversity of football fans today.
    Lastly, as a football fan, I believe stars (on/or near a crest) should only represent trophies won;) not settlers.

    I hope you keep writing and I look forward to reading your future posts.

    1. Andrew Wenger Post author

      Thank you for this information. I did add it into the post though briefly. You are write it needed to be mentioned.

  46. Nick

    With RVP leaving Arsenal next year, perhaps your namesake will bring you to London!

  47. Mathieu Provencher

    Mr. Wenger, if there was any doubt you were the right first choice, they are now vanished. Let me tell you that if you do keep up with your articles, my Impact jersey will proudly wear your number. I think you are a model other players should look up to. I can’t tell you how impressed I am right now…

  48. Steve Beauregard

    Awesome post Andrew! Look forward to reading more and seeing you play for years with the Impact jersey on your back!


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