A view of soccer through fresh eyes
We have been hearing for sometime about this new professional sports team coming to the city of Charlotte. There were unexpected delays to the start of the team due to the Coronavirus Pandemic. That forced avid fans to wait yet another year. Through it all fans were becoming increasingly passionate with supporter groups becoming larger and creating a buzz around the city of Charlotte and surrounding counties for this long awaited opprotunity to have a Major League Soccer team right here in the Carolina's. Now you may be thinking to yourself, "This is a weather page. Why am I reading about soccer?" I know it seems like a strange story but I am here to explain.
Last year the Charlotte FC twitter handle @CharlotteFC followed Rowan County Weather on Twitter. Being someone who had only casually watched soccer at certain times in my life i.e World Cup. I never truly understood the game and it was just kind of a sport that was well known elsewhere in my opinion. I decidied I wanted to try and embrace this new team coming so I would at the very least give it a little more attention. "Boy am I glad I did!!!!" The first thing I wanted to really know is of course the weather involvement. Is soccer like American football in terms of the various types of weather they will play in? The answer is yes. Pretty much anything as long as there is no visible lightning or audible sounds of thunder at or near the match.
As time went on and I continued to look into soccer. The biggest and likely most notable standout is the supporter groups that come with the game. These are the most avid fans in terms of their love not only for the sport but for the team they are supporting. Supporter groups gather for viewing parties when the team is on the road. They also gather for birthday parties, anniversaries, holidays or any other reason for a good time. There are five major supporter groups recognized by the Charlotte FC The Carolina Hooliganz., Mint City Collective, Southbound & Crown, Uptown Ultras and Blue Furia. To be recognized by the team, they must purchase a minimum number of tickets and agree to bylaws that prohibit racial slurs, disrespectful language and other unseemly behavior. These folks came into last nights match by marching for their respective tailgate areas down to the stadium. The energy they brought with them was nothing short of electrifying. For over 90 minutes of gameplay these fans never stopped cheering, chanting, singing and letting the team feed off of their energy.
After learning about all of this I came in contact with Woody Wilder the Director of Communications for the Charlotte FC. Through email exchanges I was able to get Woody to give me the opprotunity to be allowed in as a member of the media to cover the inagural home match against the LA Galaxy. LA is a team rich in history with MLS and is likely the first team fans think of from America around the world. LA has brought in some of the sports biggest global stars in the past. Woody graciously allowed me to be included int he inagural home match and I will forever be grateful! In the past I have covered many sporting events around the county through this weather outlet and a few minor league baseball games along the way. I had the knowledge of the ins and outs for covering various events like this but never to the magnitude of what I was about to witness first hand.
Now to the match! Coming into this matchup I could see three main objectives by the Charlotte FC.
1. Break the single game attendace record for Major League Soccer
The attendance record coming into last nights match up was 72,548 set by Atlanta back in 2019. It was a tall order but nothing this team was afraid to take one. Especially with the supporter groups creating such a huge buzz around the Charlotte region. When I arrived to the stadium almost four hours before kickoff there were already tons of fans around. Parking was definitely filling up quickly and the word was spreading that the attendance record was going to be broken. The only question that remained was by how much? A few minutes into the match we got the word. Charlotte FC saw Atlanta's 72,548 and raised it by almost two thousand fans.
Objective #1 complete!
Objective #2 A party atmosphere
An hour before the match the supporter group section had started to fill up and those fans were getting the party started on the inside while others were parading their way to the stadium getting the party pumped up for fans on the way into the stadium. As the match grew closer an incredible light show started to take place with music and the fans becoming louder and more pumped for this match to begin. The party was defintely in full swing when the sound of unison and love for country also made their way into the party. As the National Athem was being performed the sound from the mic dropped to silence. You would have never known as the fans in attendance broke out into a seventy four thousand plus acapella group giving me goosebumps and I am sure many others in attendance as well. Below is a video on Youtube from one of the fans in attendance at last nights match.
Objective 2 complete
Objective #3 Get the elusive first franchise goal
Coming into last nights match the Charlotte FC had not scored to get their first franchise goal. There was a brief moment in the clubs season opener against DC United when we thought it had in fact happened before the referee removed the goal stating the Charlotte FC player was off side. Maybe this magical night that was unfolding before our eyes would lead to that historic first goal for the franchise? There were many opprotunities that presented themselves duirng the match for the first ever goal to be socred but much like fans saw against DC United a few of those shots on goal just did not go in. When asked about the lack of goals to this point after playing two full matches this season Charlotte FC coach Miguel Ángel Ramírez: had this to say "Simply by working and keeping on insisting and I think that to speaks to a bad streak and streaks, even positive streaks are not forever and losing streaks are also not forever. I think it’s a time for Dani and Rios to train for next weekend but its with training and putting in work and analyzing what we can do better. And obviously like I always say, I would be worried if we didn’t have a chance, that would worry me. But having it, there are moments that will give."
Objective 3 incomplete
In closing I wanted to give you how my interest in the sport of soccer has changed after attending last nights match. I have been forever transformed as someone who had a causal interest in the sport for the various limited four year brief glimpses to someone who has a new passion that he hopes to rival the passion of all of those in the supporter groups not only for Charlotte FC but for the Football clubs around the world! If you have had an intrest in Charlotte FC but have not been quite sure about checking it out. You absolutely should! Even if you don't get hooked you will be glad you at the very least went to a match.
For more on the Charlotte FC and how to purchase match tickets or merchandise vis ttheir website at https://www.charlottefootballclub.com/
Again a special thank you to Woody Wilder Director of Communications for the team and Will Martin Communications Coordinator for the team