Tag: alabama

Ogbonna Nets Second Hat Trick In 4-1 Win Over Real United FC

Chisom Ogbonna scored three as AFC Mobile dominated Moss Point, Mississippi’s Real United FC in a 4-1 win on Saturday. A crowd of just over 900 witnessed Ogbonna net his second hat trick in as many games for the Azaleas. 

“Anytime you can have someone score like that, it really takes the pressure off of you. He just moves off the ball really well, gets into good spaces and when he gets in front of goal he’s a really good finisher,” AFC Mobile manager Nate Nicholas said.

Mobile dominated possession in the early minutes of the game, but was unable to present a real challenge to Real United’s veteran keeper Todd Langlinaus. However, the home team attack of Ogbonna, Clairy Kengeye, Abdal Almutairi and Erik Aispuro controlled possession and kept the ball in their attacking third for much of the match.

Real United was called for a handball in the box in the 33rd minute. Ogbonna stepped up and slotted home the penalty, but it was called back by the referee, who signaled encroachment into the penalty box by an AFC Mobile player. Ogbonna coolly slotted the second attempt home as well, giving the home team a 1-0 lead.

The Nigerian national doubled his tally two minutes into first-half stoppage time. Ogbonna played the ball to Tomas Lopez who threaded the ball between two Riverhawk defenders to the feet of Greg Hosford. Hosford was knocked down by Real United’s TJ Gines, but Ogbonna followed the ball into the box and scored the goal that gave the Azaleas a 2-0 lead at the half. 

Ogbonna completed his hat trick soon after the start of the second half. Jackson Barber won the ball on a crushing tackle to a Riverhawks player then played the ball down the wing to KC Espoir. Espoir placed a cross across the box to Ogbonna who played the ball off his chest to the ground and fired it into the top left corner of the net. 

“We’ve kept working hard since the last game; we’ve been working hard in training and this season is going to be much better then last season,” said Ogbonna . 

Bradford Clark pulled a goal back for Real United after sneaking between the Mobile center backs and getting on the end of a great ball played from just outside the box to make the score 3-1, the lone goal for the visitors.

Tempers flared late in the match as Real United FC stared down the barrel of its third consecutive defeat. After losing the ball in the 80th minute, Mobile’s Greg Hosford went in with a strong tackle on Moss Point’s Thomas Keen. Keen confronted a still-grounded Hosford until Mobile’s Martin Fiemawhle rushed in and shoved him away. Fiemawhle, Hosford and Keen were separated by other players and the match officials. Hosford was given a yellow card for the original challenge. No caution was issued to Keen, who had received an earlier yellow card for unsporting behavior.

The Azaleas scored their fourth and final goal in the 91st minute after Sherman Winchester jumped in front of a free kick to win the ball, breezed through the defense, and slid the ball past the keeper into the far left corner.

AFC Mobile will return to The Lip next weekend to face GCPL newcomers Gulf Coast Rangers FC from Foley, Alabama, in the first ever GCPL Battle of Mobile Bay.  Kickoff is at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, June 9th at the Archbishop Lipscomb Athletic Complex located at 3610 Michael Boulevard in Mobile. Tickets are $5 and children 12 and under are admitted free. Next Saturday’s game will also be Military Appreciation Night.  All veterans and active duty military personnel will be admitted free of charge. 

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AFC Mobile Gets First Win of GCPL Season Against Cajun SC

Chisom Ogbonna netted the first hat trick in AFC Mobile history to lead the Azaleas to a 3-1 win over Cajun Soccer Club of Lafayette, Louisiana.

We knew after losing our first home game we had to pick up some points somewhere, so this was a big win for us to pick up those three points we lost at home, AFC Mobile head coach Nate Nicholas said. “Hopefully from here on out we’ll keep on accumulating points because we want to be in one of those playoff spots.”

The Azaleas opened the game with an early chance from Erik Aispuro. Ogbonna played the ball to Aispuro on the right wing, but his shot sailed over the crossbar. The pair would link up for the game’s first goal. Aispuro played the ball into Ogbonna who scored his first goal of the night from close range.

Ten minutes later, Ogbonna doubled his tally. After winning a crushing tackle in the midfield, Iba Ndaw boomed down the left flank and played the ball across the face off goal that was cooley slotted home by the leading goal scorer in club history.

Mobile’s 2-0 lead would not last for long. In the 28th minute, center-back Guillermo Lumbreras, Jr. brought down a Cajun player just outside of the penalty box. Lumbreras was shown a yellow card, the first of six for the Azaleas on the night. A minute later a Cajun free kick ricocheted off the crossbar. Mobile was unable to clear the lose ball and Cajun’s Berkley Laviere put the ball in the back of the net for the home team, bringing the score to 2-1.

Despite conseding that lone goal, Nicholas said the Azaleas did a much better job of defending this week after letting in four goals against Pensacola FC last weekend in Mobile.

We still need to work on it. I don’t know if it’s necessarily a defensive problem, it’s kind of a team defending thing we need to work on. Tracking runners from the midfield and other places a little bit quicker,” Nicholas said. “But we did give up a few chances…and tonight we’re lucky that Cajun didn’t finish all the chances they had, but neither did we.

Late in the first half Lumbreras took a hard knock and was replaced by Duck Vu, who made his AFC Mobile debut. Last season Vu was an Honorable Mention All-Conference player for Biloxi City FC (now rebranded as Port City FC).

Both teams would have one more solid chance before the end of the first half. A shot from Iba Ndaw was parried out for an AFC Mobile corner, but the ball was easily handled by Cajun.

In stoppage time, KC Espoir was shown yellow outside the box. Cajun’s rocket of a free kick rattled off the crossbar and was cleared by Iba Ndaw.

Ogbonna nearly completed his hat trick early in the second half, but his shot went just wide of the net.

Chisom Ogbonna goes up for the ball in AFC Mobile’s 3-1 win over Cajun Soccer Club on Saturday May 19, 2018.

Cajun almost equalized in the 64th minute when a nice ball found its way through the Mobile backline and was collected by keeper Barou Ndaw. Saturday’s match marked the first time that brothers Barou and Iba Ndaw shared the pitch in an AFC Mobile match.

Ogbonna did complete his hat trick in the 84th minute to kill off the game. Ogbonna finished a great ball from another player making his AFC Mobile debut, Donte Oliver. Oliver was an All-Eastern Conference player for Biloxi City FC last season.

AFC Mobile will travel to Gulfport, Mississippi, to take on Port City FC in the first leg of the “Forgotten Coast Cup.Kickoff is May 26th at 7 p.m. at Herbert Wilson Stadium. The Azaleas will once again be reserving a bus for supporters wishing to make the trip. Don’t miss the match that Non League America calls “The Realest Rivalry in American Soccer. For more details on how you can ride the fan bus, visit www.afcmobile.net.

AFC Mobile will return to The Lip in two weeks to take on GCPL newcomers Real United FC Riverhawks. Kickoff is at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, June 2 at the Archbishop Lipscomb Athletic Complex located at 3610 Michael Boulevard in Mobile. Tickets are only $5 and children 12 and under are admitted free.

AFC Mobile Falls 4-3 in GCPL Opener

Despite a late rally and a goal in the 85th minute, AFC Mobile fell 4-3 to Pensacola FC at home in the first Gulf Coast Premier League match of the season.

Pensacola started on the front foot, nearly opening the scoring in the fourth minute of the match when a shot from Pensacola’s Matt Brooks ricocheted off the crossbar and out for a Mobile goal kick. Four minutes later, Pensacola’s Dillon Gallet found his way in behind the Mobile defense, but keeper Elijah Gibson collected Gallet’s attempt.

Minutes later Mobile forward Iba Ndaw was brought down outside the box and awarded a free kick. Ndaw curled in a free kick into the left corner to give the Azaleas a 1-0 lead. It was Ndaw’s second free kick goal in an AFC Mobile shirt.

“You definitely could see we had some attacking talent out there. Iba Ndaw had a couple more goals. That’s been a great pickup for us.” AFC Mobile head coach Nate Nicholas said.

In the 21st minute, Chisom Ogbonna beat the Pensacola defense but his shot was easily collected by Pensacola keeper Rudy Seelman. Pensacola would nearly equalize in the 26th minute but Christopher Zeller’s header was stopped by Gibson.

Pensacola’s equalizer would not be delayed long, however, coming in the 30th minute in the form of an own goal after Martin Fiemawhle’s attempt to collect a low cross from Pensacola ended up in the back of the net. But only three minutes later, the Azaleas took a 2-1 lead after a shot from Ndaw fell to Ogbonna in at the back post.

Chisom Ogbonna after scoring against Pensacola FC on May 12, 2018. (Photo: Seth Laubinger)

In the 36th minute, Ndaw was fouled hard and returned to his feet gingerly. Minutes later coach Nicholas subbed Ndaw off for Abdul Almutairi. Almutairi, a former Kuwaiti U-17 international, was able to slot in several attacking positions throughout the match in his GCPL and AFC Mobile debut.

Just before the end of the half, Pensacola’s Isaiah Lopez headed in a shot at the back post to level the game at 2-2 after a high cross went untouched. Seconds later, Lopez was shown yellow during stoppage time of the first half after a hard flying tackle.

Pensacola took their first lead of the game in the 64th minute when Alik Morgan slotted in a low cross that deflected off Gibson. As the away team scored its third goal, Mobile centerback Pablo Sanjuan Delgado came off with a leg injury and was replaced with Guillermo Lumbreras, Jr.  

“For him to get injured and give up the game-leading goal at that time, at the same time, it was a tough pill to swallow.” Nicholas said.

The Azaleas nearly equalized in the 68th minute when Ndaw beat the Pensacola defense, but his low shot went across the face of goal. Two minutes later, Pensacola took a 4-2 lead after a scramble in the box.

Pensacola almost iced the match with a fifth goal on the night when an advancing Elijah Gibson was chipped, but the shot was cleared off the line by Mobile’s Markos Mallis, who played all 90 minutes for the home side. 

As is their wont, Mobile made it close. In the 85th minute, midfielder David Valverde’s pass opened the Pensacola defense to find Erik Aispuro on the wing. Aispuro then sent in a cross to the penalty spot, where Ndaw powered in the shot to put Mobile back in the game with five minutes left to play, sending the 871 fans in attendance into a frenzy. 

The Azaleas pushed for an equalizer late, but a last ditch free kick at the end of stoppage time was easily cleared. The match ended 4-3. 

AFC Mobile will travel to Lafayette, Louisiana to take on Cajun Soccer Club in the first of two out of conference matches this season on Saturday. That match kicks off at 6 p.m. at LUS FIber stadium. 

AFC Mobile will return to The Lip in three weeks to take on GCPL newcomers Real United FC Riverhawks. Kickoff is at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, June 2 at the Archbishop Lipscomb Athletic Complex located at 3610 Michael Boulevard in Mobile. Tickets are only $5 and children 12 and under are admitted free.

 

Getting to Know You: Pensacola FC

The preseason has officially ended and Gulf Coast Premier League action begins this weekend! AFC Mobile’s first opportunity to test its merit in regular season GCPL action will be this Saturday, May 12th, against Pensacola FC. Pensacola FC considers itself “The People’s Club” and has a strong group of former University of West Florida alumni at its disposal. Last year, AFC Mobile lost to them at The Lip before pulling off a stunning draw at Ashton Brosnaham Stadium in Pensacola. This year, both teams have reloaded, Pensacola FC has rebranded, and round two could be fascinating.

CLUB: Pensacola FC

NICKNAME: The 59ers

Last year was Pensacola FC’s debut year in the Gulf Coast Premier League. In that opening salvo, they took on the moniker of “Gulf Coast Texans” after the Pensacola-based youth club where several of the players either coached or started playing. For the 2018 season, they have rebranded to better represent the City of Pensacola by taking on the new name “Pensacola FC,” which was the youth club’s name prior to becoming an affiliate of the Dallas Texans youth club.

In their debut season, Pensacola FC found themselves relatively successful, finishing the season with a 6-1-3 record. It came down to the last Wednesday of the regular season when Biloxi City held the 59ers’ fate in their hand. If Biloxi had drawn with or beaten Gaffa FC, PFC would have qualified for the playoffs, but Gaffa won and Pensacola was sent home without tasting the playoffs in their inaugural year.

With many of the same players back this year and Nolan Intermoia taking over coaching duties from Nick Cardosa, the club is hoping to continue their success from last season and make that final push into an expanded playoff field.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: The 59ers have studs on both sides of the pitch including a few younger UWF graduates. However, it is the work of Lafayette-native Dillon Gallet that spectators will want to watch. Gallet was an All-GCPL East selection and finished tied for fifth place in the Golden Boot race. He may be one of the fastest players in the GCPL and will prove a matchup headache all night for any team. Defensively, Chance Chancellor was also an All-GCPL East selection. He has taken on player-coaching duties this year, but will make sure that his defensive line will again be one of the best in the GCPL.

The club can be found on Facebook at @pensacolafc1559 and Twitter at @PensacolaFC.

Tickets to Saturday’s game are just $5 each, and all kids 12 and under will be admitted free of charge. This Saturday is Teacher Appreciation Night! All school employees with a valid school ID will be admitted at no charge! All AFC Mobile home games are played at the Archbishop Lipscomb Athletic Complex located at 3610 Michael Boulevard in Mobile.

Getting to Know You: Northshore United FC

The return of AFC Mobile to the Archbishop Lipscomb Stadium is upon us. On Saturday, April 28th, the Azaleas open up the Lip as they take on GCPL debutant Northshore United FC at 7:00 pm. After facing off against one of the more historic amateur sides in the country, AFC Mobile will meet a fellow GCPL team in preseason action. This will be Northshore United’s first match after their inaugural year in which they competed in friendly matches against several GCPL teams.

CLUB: Northshore United FC

NICKNAME: United

Northshore United will look for a productive start in its inaugural GCPL season.  United is setup up like a traditional PDL team with more college players than local talent.  The club was created with hopes to fill the gap between the end of youth club competitive play and the professional level.  The Covington, Louisiana based team played seven friendlies last summer finishing with a 6-1 record in friendlies including against several GCPL and GCPL reserve sides.

The club held its final open tryout on Saturday, April 21, leaving one week of preparation for this weekend’s match.  “My expectations are just for continued growth,” said Head Coach Nick Chetta.  “To give an opportunity for some guys to show their abilities and hopefully find some to help us to be successful this year,” Chetta added.

NUFC will also get its first taste of a large GCPL crowd.  “I don’t know if any of our players have experienced an environment like AFC Mobile,” said NUFC Captain Sal Bavido.  “It should be exciting and a bit nerve-racking for us.  I’m sure we’ll settle in after ten minutes of playing, but definitely looking forward to the atmosphere and the experience.”

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Sal Bavido, who serves as the team captain, will be pulling strings for the Northshore attack in the midfield. Meanwhile, the defensive prowess and leadership of NUFC’s 2017 MVP Pat Rye will prove invaluable as they enter Sweet Lunacy’s County Seat for the 2018 home debut of AFC Mobile.

The club can be found at www.northshoreutd.com and on twitter @northshoreutd.

Tickets to Saturday’s game are just $5 each, and all kids 12 and under will be admitted free of charge.  There is still time to purchase season tickets giving you admission to all seven home games for only $27!  All AFC Mobile home games are played at the Archbishop Lipscomb Athletic Conference located at 3610 Michael Boulevard in Mobile.

AFC Mobile 2018 Season Passes Now On Sale

The 2018 AFC Mobile season will soon begin and now is your chance to get season passes to the party!

The 2018 season includes seven home games at the Archbishop Lipscomb Athletic Complex. Home games will be played April 28th against Northshore United (of Covington, LA), the weekend of May 4th-6th against a soon-to-be-announced opponent, May 12th against Pensacola FC, June 2nd against Real United FC (of Moss Point, MS), June 9th against Gulf Coast Rangers FC (of Foley, AL), June 23rd against Alexandria FC (of Alexandria, LA), and July 14th against Port City FC (of Gulfport, MS).

Season passes will be available for pickup at Will Call on game day.  Three season pass options are available:

Season Pass A ($27.00)

  • A high quality, embossed, silicone AFC Mobile Season Pass Wristband, which gives you access to ALL 2018 regular season home games and friendlies
  • 10% discount code for purchases made at the online store
  • Pre-sale priority for any playoff match
  • Invitation to the jersey release party

Season Pass B ($40.00) – Available through 12:00 pm (CT) on Sunday, April 8, 2018

  • A high quality, embossed, silicone AFC Mobile Season Pass Wristband, which gives you access to ALL 2018 regular season home games and friendlies
  • 10% discount code for purchases made at the online store
  • An exclusive AFC Mobile 2018 t-shirt OR the 2018 “Sweet Lunacy’s County Seat” supporter’s scarf
  • Pre-sale priority for any playoff match
  • Invitation to the jersey release party

Season Pass C ($65.00) – Available through 12:00 pm (CT) on Sunday, April 8, 2018

  • A high quality, embossed, silicone AFC Mobile Season Pass Wristband, which gives you access to ALL 2018 regular season home games and friendlies
  • 10% discount code for purchases made at the online store
  • Replica 2018 AFC Mobile home jersey
  • Pre-sale priority for any playoff match
  • Invitation to the jersey release party

Season Pass Packages may be purchased online through our shop or by clicking one of the above links.  Scarves ordered with Package B will ship soon after you place your order.  Exclusive T-Shirts ordered with Package B and Jerseys ordered with Package C are pre-sale only, and will be shipped at a later date.

Package B-Exclusive T-Shirt and Package C are only available through 12:00 pm (CT) on Sunday, April 8, 2018. Shop now to take advantage of these great deals!

We look forward to seeing you at the Lip this season!

AFC Mobile Partners With Youth Soccer Club Mobile United FC

Mobile, Alabama – March 7, 2018 – AFC Mobile is pleased to announce a partnership with Mobile United Futbol Club, the Alabama Gulf Coast’s oldest and most successful competitive youth soccer organization. After continued success, including six 2017 state championships, Mobile United FC will now serve as the youth academy for AFC Mobile.

“We are thrilled to partner with such an accomplished and well-known organization as Mobile United,” said Jeff Garl, AFC Mobile Vice President. “AFC Mobile has always been focused on providing opportunities for the young players in Mobile, and giving them a visible outlet for soccer at a high-level. With this partnership, our team will be able to work directly with Mobile United teams, giving them the chance to work side-by-side with the players they get to watch on Saturday nights.”

While Mobile United FC and AFC Mobile remain separate entities, together they share a common vision: to grow the sport of soccer in the city of Mobile. This partnership will result in  the formation of two new teams. The AFC Mobile United U23 squad, managed by Ruben Risco, will wear the MUFC crest on their AFC Mobile uniform sleeves. Going forward, the Mobile United U19 State League team will be renamed AFC Mobile United U19. The U19s will continue to wear their traditional MUFC uniforms, but will proudly sport the AFC Mobile crest on their sleeves.  These teams will conduct joint training sessions, public events, and benefits.

“This partnership gives us the potential to become one of the premier clubs not just on the Gulf Coast, but in the entire Southeastern U.S, and to give Mobile the stature of club it deserves,” said Wayne Etheridge, Mobile United FC President.

Founded in 2010, Mobile United FC is the area’s leader in youth soccer, offering programs from ages three to adult. With more than 20 players from Fall 2016 alone playing collegiate soccer, MUFC concentrates on player development and competitive play.  Tryout times and dates for Fall 2018 will be released soon. For more information on MUFC go to mobileunitedfc.com.

AFC Mobile is Mobile’s minor league soccer team, competing in the Gulf Coast Premier League. The 2018 season begins in May and runs through July. All home games will be played at the Archbishop Oscar H. Lipscomb Complex – “The Lip.”  Tickets begin at just $5, and children 12 and under are free with adult admission. A full schedule and information about season tickets will be available soon. Select merchandise is available now at afcmobile.net and The Trading Post at 7985 Tanner Williams Road.  Follow AFC Mobile on all your favorite social media platforms to keep up-to-date on additional information about the 2018 season!

 

AFC Mobile Wins Soccer Round Table Logo Cup

AFC Mobile began 2018 with a cup victory on Wednesday night, despite the season being a few months away. The club won the Soccer Round Table Logo Cup, a Twitter competition organized by the podcast and website Soccer Round Table. AFC Mobile was the last team standing out of 128 lower-division soccer teams participating in the contest.

“I designed the logo a few years before we actually had a team. There was a ton of thought put into it,” club president Abram Chamberlain said. “The fact that people in Mobile and throughout the country looked at that logo and decided that it is the best lower division soccer logo is a humbling response. It is proof that we have built something incredibly special in Mobile.”

On the road to the title, AFC Mobile knocked out some major teams, including USL side Sacramento Republic FC, perennial NPSL power Detroit City FC, the ever popular Minneapolis City SC, and last year’s US Open Cup darlings Christos FC in the final.

According to the contest’s sponsors, AFC Mobile will receive a set of 18 kits from Impact ProWear and a trophy. Keep an eye on our social media pages for more details about the kits in the future!

Shatarva

Fan Reaction: Nervous Energy

No one knew exactly what to expect at the home opener for AFC Mobile. But the AFC Mobile’s supporters group, the Causeway Rebellion, and its Red Leader were exceptionally nerve wracked awaiting the first ever game.

In this Fan Reaction, supporter Michael Shartava recounts how the first ever AFC Mobile match surpassed his own expectation and how a soccer culture in need of an outlet took hold and took off.

AFC Mobile is the epitome of a grassroots club.

I wake up early on a Mother’s Day Sunday. Typically I like to sleep in on weekends, but am wide awake today. I am nervous as hell… On my TV Barcelona has won 2-0 but today is not about the Blaugrana or professional football. Today AFC Mobile plays its inaugural match in the Gulf Coast Premier League against our neighbor, Pensacola’s Gulf Coast Texans (currently rebranded as Pensacola FC). The first high end football match in Mobile for more than ten years.

AFC Mobile is the epitome of a grassroots club. Owned and operated by local enthusiasts, AFCM has given the footballing community a sense of identity and camaraderie. Our players were recruited from the South Alabama Soccer Association (adult city league) and area schools. Volunteers and owners’ families make up the stadium and club staff. The board of directors even reached out to every youth club in Mobile and invited their kids to mascot for the team during pregame introductions. My seven-year-old nephew will always remember walking out with AFC Mobile for their first match ever.

There is a ragtag group of scoundrels and low lives for a supporters group, it’s called the Causeway Rebellion; I was drafted in as Red Leader (Red, cause I’m Russian, get it?). At The Lip, our stadium, flags fly for every nationality (what’s up to the Serengeti Boys) in our club and an all inclusive attitude is promoted. During the season we honored our little hero Bradley Lowery after his fight with neuroblastoma and always speak out loudly against all forms of racism and extremism; its a powerful outlet.

That is what got me so nervous this morning. Will anyone show up to the match? Can we create an atmosphere of support and energy for our lads? Will Gold Leader bring any Malört?

Nervous energy…

Cup of coffee. Nicotine. Chill out man, it will be good!

I arrive to the stadium an hour and a half early with my nephew to get ready for the walkouts and there is already a crowd forming in the stands… holy crap this is going to be big. Nervous energy turns into excitement and adrenaline, I feel this pressure cooker about to blow!

The match flies by in the blink of an eye. There are over 800 fans, singing, screaming, chanting, and willing our team forward. The energy in the stadium makes the hairs on my arms stand up. Mobile “turn’t up” with drums, trumpets, CONCH SHELLS, vuvuzelas, loud speakers, two poles, banners, you name it! The noise was unreal. Somewhere in the chaos, Moises Muhubao scored our first goal ever and was eternally immortalized in lore. It was like we won the Champions League! The owners were crying tears of joy! An amazing evening.

Afterward I had a moment to reflect on the day and what it meant to me. I came to the conclusion that this is what has been missing from my life. Football has been my love since childhood, but my Russian parents wanted me to play chess and study, ha, ha, ha. I went to my first match (Bundesliga, 2006) when I was an adult but I have been a passionate fan of Brazil’s Seleção since World Cup USA in ’94 and FC Barcelona shortly after that (most of my favorite Brazilians played at Barca). I was a long distance fan. A lone wolf…

After Mother’s Day 2017, I gained a pack of crazy, like-minded FANATIC brothers and sisters. A sense of identity and belonging. The coming together of the African, Latino, and Balkan immigrant communities with old Mobile. I can sing and chant at home matches and take away-days with the Causeway Rebellion on The War Wagon; I was meant to do this!

I hope you’re ready for next season, because we are going to be louder, stronger and still crazy as hell in those stands. There will be big tifo displays, choreography, and of course high decibels of noise.

Join the Rebellion!

Red Leader, out.

#AlwaysMobileALwaysHome
#AFCMobile
#CausewayRebellion

Fan Reaction: Grassroots Growth

I’ve always been a sports fan. Growing up, I participated in sports but wasn’t all that good. I played a little junior high soccer, got cut from the team at basketball try-outs; and while I grew up in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where hockey was king, I couldn’t skate to save my life.

But my dad took me to a hockey game or two, and I still remember the fight between the Marquette Iron Rangers and the Green Bay Bobcats with 52 seconds left in the game. It was quite a sight. When the ice finally cleared of players, it was still covered with gloves and hockey sticks… and a little blood. Not sure this is good for an 8-year-old to see, but I was hooked. And I went to everything after our family moved to Seattle — football, baseball, basketball, hockey, even a soccer team called the Seattle Sounders.

The Sounders became a very big deal to me and introduced me to soccer in the 70s. Tickets weren’t expensive, and I could easily go to their games as a kid. So my friends and I would take the bus in to watch them play at the Kingdome. Fun Fact: the Sounders drew over 58,000 to a game in 1975 and were averaging about 25,000 fans a game by the late 1970s. The energy in the building was awesome, even though we still hadn’t figured out supporters group or scarves or any of the things we associate with soccer today. Sadly, soccer wasn’t quite a thing yet in the rest of the country. The NASL of that era spent too much money and had too few fans, and the league collapsed in the early 1980s.

As my sports fandom grew, so did my awareness that I was definitely NOT an athlete. I instead became the best fan I could be — loyal, loud, proud, and with the team to the end. If I couldn’t make an impact on the field, at least I could contribute from the stands. I’ve always cheered for the home team, where the jersey represents the communities I’ve called home.

The teams don’t have to be good, just ours!

Enter AFC Mobile — a club founded from the grassroots, a labor of love. AFC Mobile was formed to support soccer, and then joined a league and put out a schedule. When it became clear that we finally had a team, one that would represent our community, that was simply fantastic news to me! I don’t totally know how to describe my excitement, and my nervousness about this soccer experiment. Would soccer even work in Mobile? My wife and I decided we had to buy season tickets. Sure, we love soccer and wanted to see the games, but we also understood the importance of “butts in seats” to a team’s success. If this was going to work, it was critical that fans show up.

We didn’t need to worry.

AFC Mobile came out of the gates with more than 800 fans for its first match, one scheduled on Mother’s Day. The atmosphere was just incredibly fun, thanks in part to the Causeway Rebellion supporters group, but also due to the pent up energy of a crowd that was just excited to have a team and had been anticipating this opening match for some time.

We lost the game, but we clearly won the hearts and minds of the community. At the next game, the crowd was even bigger. And at the home finale, we had more than one thousand people on hand. This is in a league that typically drew 200 or fewer fans a game, and the Mobile community delivered five times that! Sweet lunacy, indeed!

AFC Mobile became something more than a team in its inaugural season. They became our club, our community, and a rallying point for a city that’s used to cheering for teams 200 miles away (looking at you, Auburn and Alabama). They embraced the community, and we loved them right back.

Even though the first season wasn’t great on the pitch, AFC Mobile is ours.

We finally got the elusive first win at the very last match of the season — a wild affair on the road that saw AFC Mobile take down its arch rival Biloxi City FC. (And how Biloxi became our derby match is a grand story in itself, best saved for another day).

If there was promotion and relegation in our league, we would have been relegated. We won one game in ten, finishing in last place, and yet it was one of the best times I’ve ever had in sports. Because so many people came out, so many people cared, and something special happened in the Azalea City. I was sad when the season ended.

In American soccer, teams don’t move to the next level on the pyramid because they’re good. They move on to the next level for a metric that’s at least as important: fan support! AFC Mobile and this community passed its first test. AFC Mobile had a great first season in the stands, and it will grow. When I met some of our players at the kit reveal before this inaugural season, I reminded them of who they were, and what they represent. Years and maybe decades from now, they will always be the first representatives of our community’s soccer team. They were keenly aware of this, and thrilled to be part of it.

As supporters, we should also remember our role in all this. We showed up and we wore scarves (in 90 degree heat) and we sang and we stomped. We bought swag and wore it proudly. We made the players feel like they were part of something. We showed a community that soccer can and will work in a city that’s addicted to the other kind of football. We did the unexpected.

We can take pride in that fact as fans and supporters. We are the first generation of AFC Mobile, and we are laying the foundation for the best that’s yet to come.

Always Mobile, ALways Home.

#SL1702