Loud and proud

BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:17 AM ET

The Passion of sports fans usually is celebrated but occasionally it rears its head at inopportune moments.

Prior to the exhibition soccer match between Scotland's Glasgow Rangers and Croatia's Dinamo Zagreb at the Rogers Centre last night, the public-address announcer asked for a moment of silence to honour the victims of the terrorist attacks in London, England last week.

The problem was, the excited fans of the two clubs were too busy hollering and chanting to notice they had been asked to keep quiet.

A few minutes later, with the players from both clubs gathered at the centre of the field, the P.A. announcer tried again. Despite the presence of a smoking flare that had been tossed onto the pitch, the fans finally simmered down to a respectful level.

It was the only time there was anything close to silence as Zagreb defeated Rangers 1-0 before a feisty crowd of 18,159. The lone goal was scored by Zagreb's Teo Kardum in the 81st minute.

It was a "friendly" game that was not very friendly. In the second half there were six yellow cards handed out and two or three scuffles, despite absolutely nothing being on the line.

"With a team from Scotland, it's never a 'friendly' game," Zagreb manager Josip Kuze said with a smile.

Predictably, there were few neutral observers on hand in the stands and while Rangers supporters won the numbers battle, Zagreb fans won the noise battle.

GOOD ATMOSPHERE

"They generated a good atmosphere," Rangers manager Alex McLeish said. "It's too bad we couldn't get Rangers fans a result."

As often is the case with exhibition games, many of the star players did not dress. That must have been an irritation (although not a surprising one) to the hardcore fans in attendance, but they did their best to maintain a festive atmosphere.

An exhibition game last month between the national teams of Italy and Serbia and Montenegro attracted 22,138 to the Rogers Centre. That game received a lot of criticism because neither club played its stars, leaving fans to watch famous uniforms moving around the pitch.

Rangers flew home after the game last night. They had been in the Toronto area for a week and a half conducting their training camp in preparation for the beginning of the Scottish league season on July 31.

Rangers had to deal with some heavy heat and humidity throughout their visit to Canada and it was steamy at the Rogers Centre again last night. Since the grass fields are hard as rock anyway, you might think there wouldn't be much difference playing on the FieldTurf at the Rogers Centre.

"Well, it's not a pitch we would like to play on every week, put it that way," McLeish said.

Zagreb will be headed back overseas today.

One of Italy's legendary club teams, Juventus, announced on Monday it wants to play an exhibition game in Toronto on Aug. 3, with the Rogers Centre being the obvious venue.


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