Saskatchewan Roughriders fans are gearing up to cheer on the green and white during Sunday’s CFL West Division final — whether at the game or thousands of kilometres away.
The game in Winnipeg will decide which team will travel to Hamilton for the 108th Grey Cup on Dec. 12.
Hundreds — if not thousands — of fans in green and white will be making the pilgrimage to Winnipeg.
Annamaria Pedulla is one of them.
“The Riders have to win because I have to redeem myself around all these Bombers fans,” she said.
Pedulla, who is from Thunder Bay, Ont., and now lives in Regina, also attended the Banjo Bowl this season, which the Riders lost.
The green and white also lost the Labour Day Classic against Winnipeg in front of a sold-out crowd in Regina.
But that’s not going to deter Pedulla from going to Sunday’s win-or-go-home game.
“I’m excited. I’m really hoping that Saskatchewan redeems themselves after the Banjo Bowl and the Labour Day classic,” she said.
“I just want to see Winnipeg lose.”
There can be some bad blood between the Riders and Bombers — both on the field and in the stands — but that’s not the case for Pedulla, despite her desire to see the Bombers fall.
“I’m friends with Bombers fans, unfortunately, so they were pretty good about making sure I didn’t get into too much trouble,” she said with a laugh, referring to her trip to the Banjo Bowl.
Pedulla acknowledged that Bombers fans are “pretty loud, especially when they’re beating us. They like to turn around and make sure that [we] know they are beating Saskatchewan.”
But she says Riders fans are more passionate.
“They love their team,” she said.
“They support their team year round, at any event, and the team’s always giving back, from what I’ve noticed — they’re really good about being part of the community.”
Pedulla is fairly new to the green and white family. She moved to Regina four years ago and has since adopted the Riders as her CFL team.
“I never watched the CFL before, so it’s crazy to see this Canadian support for a Canadian team that I didn’t see in Ontario as much,” she said.
Her favourite part of cheering for the Riders is the unity among fans, she said.
“It’s just amazing that it’s bringing people together rather than tearing them apart.”
Rider Nation in Mexico
Unity among Rider fans reaches far beyond Saskatchewan — or even Canada.
Greg Bennett owns Shooters Bar and Grill in San José del Cabo, Mexico — a hub for CFL football, among other sports.
Bennett, who is from Regina, said Roughriders fans are the most prominent CFL fans in San José del Cabo.
He said there are many expats and snowbirds from around Canada in San José del Cabo, but the “Riders still seem to be the one team that there’s more excitement around.”
“You see more Rider jerseys and hats and stuff on football day than you would see with any other CFL team, so it’s just that kind of Rider Nation thing that happens — and it’s pretty exciting.”
He said the bar’s busiest day of the week is usually Sunday due to NFL football, but he’s preparing an even bigger day this Sunday for the West Division final.
Bennett said they’ll have a few TVs in the main section of the bar dedicated to the game, along with decorations and Riders paraphernalia.
“It’ll be a lot of fun,” he said.
“There’s not as many Winnipeg fans around, but there are some, so most of the cheering will be on the Riders side.”
Either way, Bennett said it’s nice to have CFL fans back in the bar after many people put a halt on travel due to COVID-19.
“It’s just a breath of fresh air,” he said.
Bennett also has something to look forward to next week — the Grey Cup.
He said it’s one of the bar’s busiest days of the year.
“People arrive early and they stay late and it’s just a really good day for us,” he said.
The West Division final is set set to begin at 3 p.m. CST on Sunday. The East Division final between the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Toronto Argonauts starts at 11:30 a.m. CST.