Riders’ Elie Bouka compliments Bombers’ fans name-calling: ‘They do their research’

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

Saskatchewan Roughriders’ defensive back Elie Bouka can’t help but feel impressed by the jeers his team receives from the crowd when visiting IG Field in Winnipeg.

“I try not to pay attention too much but it’s tough not to pay attention when they start calling you names,” said Bouka via videoconference. “They do their research. It’s a fun crowd. I love playing in front of crowds like that, I find it funny. We don’t get opportunities to play in that stadium too much, so once we do it’s always a fun time.”

The native of Laval, Que. was a third-round pick out of the University of Calgary in 2016 but didn’t become a regular in Saskatchewan’s lineup until 2019 due to stints with the Arizona Cardinals and Philadelphia Eagles. He played in his first Banjo Bowl in 2019, which ended in a 35-10 victory for the Blue Bombers.

“This is pro sports and I think they are just trying to do their best to help their team,” said Bouka. “At the end of the day, I just find it funny. I don’t get offended by it. I just say, ‘Hey, I guess you know how to use Google.'”

The Banjo Bowl is always deafening, but this year could be particularly loud while the Roughriders are on offence. Significantly fewer fans are reportedly making the trip from Saskatchewan, which means the sold-out crowd should be even more supportive of the home side than in past years.

Head coach Craig Dickenson knows that fans in Winnipeg will bring the noise on Saturday, though he appreciates that most don’t resort to crass obscenities.

“They’re an interesting crew right behind our bench. I don’t hear them very often because I got the headset on, but every once in a while I hear some good ones. They’re a neat bunch and I think it’s going to be a great environment and a fun game,” said Dickenson. “The one thing about Bomber fans, they will razz you but they’re pretty good about keeping it clean and respectful. We’re looking forward to the game.”

The 17th annual Banjo Bowl is slated for Saturday at 4:00 p.m. ET from IG Field in Winnipeg. The Blue Bombers won last week’s Labour Day Classic for just the second time since 2005, giving the team a rare opportunity to sweep the back-to-back series against their prairie rivals.

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.