This coming Saturday Vancouver Whitecaps FC will be celebrating Fan Appreciation night at BC Place, as they take on Colorado Rapids in their season finale . In honour of the outstanding support that the club has received throughout their inaugural MLS season, whitecapsfc.com profiles some of the fans who've packed the stadium week in and week out.
Bob Lenarduzzi isn’t the only person who has been with the Whitecaps since the beginning. Tom van As, an 83-year-old former dentist, has been a Whitecaps season ticket holder since the inception of the club in 1974, and he remains a season ticket holder to this very day.
Soccer has always been a passion for Tom. He played as a youngster in Holland and joined world-renowned club Ajax in Amsterdam when he was 11. He played two years at Ajax before moving to Arnhem to play for Vitesse – the same club where former Whitecaps player Frans Thijssen would later play and coach. He played for the Vitesse first team for two years before seeing his playing career end due to two bad knees, but he never lost his passion for the game.
“Naturally, I always still was a supporter,” he explains. “When I moved to Canada in 1952, soccer was still with me. I still follow the two teams in Holland and when the Whitecaps started, I naturally was very very interested and got season tickets right from day one.”
And today, his interest in the Whitecaps remains as strong as ever.
“We have six tickets. One for myself, one for my wife, one for my oldest son and his son in North Van, and one for my youngest son in Maple Ridge and his youngest son.”
He names Camilo as his current favourite Whitecaps FC player to watch, since like himself, Camilo plays forward and scores his fair share of goals. His all-time favourite ‘Caps players are Kevin Hector and Dutchman Ruud Krol. He says of Krol, “my gosh could he distribute that ball, that was something tremendous.”
As a long-time supporter, he’s witnessed a number of big moments for the team, but two especially stand out.
“The first one was in 1979 when the Whitecaps played in the Soccer Bowl in New York and I was there with my oldest son.
“The other one I would say would be the opening of the new BC Place. That was one of my highlights; I think it was terrific to see the game in that stadium. It’s a great place and I hope we’re going to have an awful lot of big games there in the next few years.”
And Tom will certainly be there for each and every one.