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Montréal’s New Football Festival

Words & Photos
Jason Gisoo Kim

Brutalist architecture, the buzz of halogen lights and the smell of chlorine dominate the halls of Complexe Sportif Claude-Robillard. As I find my way to the stadium, I hear the click-clacking of cleats on tiles and realize I am headed the right way. As I find my path to the pitch, I can hear the loudspeakers echoing through the venue and two seven-a-side footy matches coinciding. Food, music, games, YouTubers and football all in the former home of the Montréal Impact. This was InterSky 2023.

InterSky is a new football festival in Montréal at Stade Claude Robillard. On October 8, local footy club Inter Montréal organized the event with French YouTuber Vinsky. Have you heard of Spencer FC and his team, Hashtag United? Vinsky is the French “equivalent” and has done videos with CR7, Marcelo, Sergio Ramos and Mbappe. In other words, if you’re not tuned into the francophone world, Vinsky is one of the biggest footy YouTubers that your ignorance has denied you from enjoying.

Inter Montréal is a local club that plays in various leagues and at different levels. The football club was founded in 2020 by three passionate footy fans: François, Raphaël and Benoît, with Clément joining them later on. It contributes to the game's growth in the city and creates a sense of community for those playing for Inter Montréal. That same philosophy is transferred into the festival.

Upon entering the nostalgic venue of Complexe Sportif Claude Robillard, I am brought back to the 80s and 90s: concrete, large spaces with long hallways. As I approached the field, the latest French hip-hop and afrobeat music cut through the nostalgia. I can smell the paella being fired up, players chilling in the stands, a food truck selling coffee, a booth selling Inter Montréal merch and the familiar sound of refs blowing whistles and players protesting the calls. Despite the early fall temperatures, everyone was motivated to play.

The field was divided into two seven-a-side pitches. In between the fields was a media tent that live-streamed the games on field one onto the Vinsky YouTube channel. Upon my arrival, Vinsky faced Inter Montréal on the live stream. Good football was played. But also, a red card was given out, not for violent conduct but for dissent.

I spoke to Benoît when I arrived, and he emphasized the key elements of the festival aimed to capture the essence of football culture in one day: from fashion, music, lifestyle, video games and the sport itself. Events such as InterSky serve as an introduction to those unfamiliar with football culture. The swagger, rhythm and lingo of the culture. Those are aspects sometimes too difficult to translate into words or photographs, but as one Montréal native would express: “Football is a feeling.” InterSky aims to provide that.

That is what I saw and felt—an encapsulation of football in one day. Moreover, to have the festival in the former USL stadium of the Montréal Impact was a return to the essential core of the city's football culture. What’s a religion without its temple? Even if the ancient site has lost its favour over the latest megachurches, relics hold significance which taps into a time and place that forever lives in the spirit in the form of nostalgia and former days of glory. For any Montréaler, a footy event at Claude Robillard is pure poetry—shoutout to Raphaël for locking down the venue.

When I spoke to Vinsky, he shared his thoughts on the festival and the city’s football scene. He remarked that the festival was an opportunity to demonstrate footy culture. He expressed that the InterSky festival encapsulates football culture, noting that rap and trap music was played during the event. He further elaborates on these elements.

“It’s good to see it represented here. football is, of course, a sport, but there is the style, fashion and music. All these things create the culture. Football in Europe is developed, and it is being developed in North America. This is what [European football culture] we want to represent here at InterSky.”

On the topic of culture, I asked Vinsky about his impression of football culture in Montréal, and he replied enthusiastically, “I came to this city five times. I have a lot of francophone social media subscribers here [in Montréal]. I get the sense that there is a love, that people really love soccer here. I find it very impressive, and I didn’t expect that.” Vinsky further notices the differences in pick-up footy culture between Montréal and Paris. He enjoyed the democratic style of pick-up soccer in the city, in which he could go to a public park without making reservations, and the games were organized matches with the format of two goals within 10 minutes. He also loved the “melting pot” of cultures he encountered during his pick-up sessions. Players from all over the world can be found playing, and that resonated with him. These aspects of Montréal’s soccer culture were also found at InterSky.

The festival aimed to represent football culture, mainly how it is expressed in countries such as France. However, the people who came to the event reflected the football culture within Montréal. The people participating in the tournament are the type of guys you would find at those pick-up spots. It is a multicultural affair with differing styles, philosophies, and many languages, with French being the common tongue. This event truly encapsulates football culture as it intersects in Montréal.

I asked Vinsky how he envisions InterSky would look five years from now. The obvious answer is bigger. He noted that for the first year of the event, he was impressed by the organization, the music and the overall vibe. Crossbar challenges, a FIFA tournament, and live performances make InterSky stand out. The only way is up, “It would be good to continue to find new ideas, but so far, it’s already good work.” As the festival grows and gains notoriety, InterSky already presents serious potential. “I hope to have another field in a bigger stadium in the coming years. This is the evolution; it is humble beginnings, but I am more than happy for what it is.”

Reflecting on my time at the event, I realized starting a story is complicated, and starting a festival is even harder. Raphaël, Benoît, François and Clément have put time, passion and energy into this event. For an inaugural event, the operations ran smoothly—a rare occurrence for new festivals. Starting a garden is hard work; maintaining it is discipline, and the best part is to see it flourish. They broke ground, fertilized the soil, and now they aim to become a part of the city’s fabric as an annual fixture. It is no secret that the festival leans towards a francophone market. However, the football festival of InterSky has the potential to mend the French and English worlds. They aim to become the premier soccer festival in the city. They want the rest of Canada to know what is happening in Montréal.

By collaborating with Vinsky, they act as a gateway for Europeans into the Canadian soccer world. Montréal, as it always has been, becomes the meeting place of nations. In the future, InterSky has the potential to be a unifier between the Anglophone and Francophone footy cultures. It is an all-encompassing celebration of this game that we love at a poetic level.

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