Tag: Supporter Culture

Fan Reaction: Stewart Thames – the Face in the Crowd

Sometimes, the support of a team is simply about soccer. Not everyone will be popping smoke and banging drums. Some come to the matches to take in a full-on battle. They are their to watch gladiators on the pitch play the game they love for their city. This is Stewart Thames.

In this fan reaction, Stewart Thames recalls what is important about AFC Mobile to him: wanting his team to succeed. He came to AFC Mobile for soccer. He has never had issues being critical of the club, but that is only because it is his club.

You’ll find me inconspicuously hidden among the crowd of fans…[but] This is my team and I want them to win

I am not an influential person in the Mobile soccer community.

I am not a member of the Causeway Rebellion.

And I am not someone who is going to know everyone at an AFC Mobile match.

I am just an “average” fan.

Of course, one of the biggest disconnects between my life as a soccer fan growing up in Mobile and the soccer teams I watched was geography. I always enjoyed watching matches in England, Germany, and Spain, but I never really gained a real attachment to any European club.

When I really became interested in soccer, the closest top professional team was in Houston, and I had yet to become aware of the myriad of smaller leagues scattered across the United States. I took an immediate interest in our domestic league and I became an avid supporter of a certain Rave Green team in the Pacific Northwest. During those days, MLS matches were rarely televised nationally. So, I would stream Sounders matches on my laptop from suspect sports streaming sites, and I even paid for an online subscription so that I could watch every match.

While I was just as real of a fan as someone from Seattle, I still felt that I was missing part of the “fan experience” because I had no real connection to the city.

I first found out about AFC Mobile through Twitter. When I read that Mobile would have an organized “semi-pro” soccer team, I was engulfed with a wave of skepticism and excitement. While I had a small group of fellow soccer fans my age, I was curious as to whether Mobile was capable of supporting a soccer team. My excitement primarily stemmed from the fact that there would be a local soccer team that I could support and always call “my team” regardless of the circumstances.

In fact, I was so eager to learn more about the team that I privately messaged Abram Chamberlain asking him when the team would begin play. Even before the first whistle, I knew that I was committed to being an AFC Mobile fan.

I know that the fan and game day experience is a big deal to most small clubs and its supporters, but for me, my fandom consists of having a team that I can support regardless of the circumstances. Maybe it’s a little bit selfish that I don’t care that much about the camaraderie of the supporter groups or the “family friendly” atmospheres.

To me, it is all about experiencing the sadness and joy that you get from passionately supporting a team regardless of how good that team is or what division that team competes in. AFC Mobile has given me that chance to call a local team my own. I remember going to that first AFC Mobile game and being excited that over 800 people turned out to watch the match. I was pleased to see that Mobile could support a 5th division soccer team, but my “inner fan” took over as soon AFC Mobile started its first match against the Gulf Coast Texas.

While I was excited to be at the first ever AFC Mobile home match, I was also slightly annoyed that AFC Mobile lost. It wasn’t an “I’m not going to watch that anymore” type of annoyance, but it was a “this is my team and I want them to win, dammit” annoyance that any real fan of a team experiences. From then, my love for the club didn’t cease. I streamed away matches (when available), and I even stayed up until 3 a.m. in Oxford, England while studying abroad to watch AFC Mobile lose to Motagua and Gaffa. It didn’t cross my mind that the team was winless up to that point and that I could just check the score in the morning. AFC Mobile was my team and I was going to watch them just as fervently as I watch the Sounders or the United States National Team. I was a soccer fan from Mobile who finally had a Mobile team.

My fandom is not the typical type of soccer fandom that most people envision when they think “soccer fan.” You won’t find me chanting or beating drums in the supporters section. Every team needs those types of fans, but that’s not me. You’ll find me inconspicuously hidden among the crowd of fans questioning a call by the referee, applauding or cursing a tactical move by our manager, or just admiring the sheer brilliance of a good pass.

I may not be the one who shows the most outward emotion, but I am also the first person to stand up and applaud when Chisom scores a goal or when Matt Merrill makes a crunching tackle in the midfield. I can be annoyed when the team is not doing well on the field, and I can cheer for the club when it does the little things right. Being a fan of a team means experiencing all of the good and all of the bad. AFC Mobile’s lone win against Biloxi was made even sweeter because I experienced the last gasp golazo by a 10 (or was it 9?) man Biloxi in Lipscomb Stadium. That’s the fun part of being a fan: sticking with a club during the peaks and valleys of a season.

AFC Mobile has given me the opportunity to support an authentic Mobile soccer team. I now have a local team that I can root for and be proud to call my own. So, thank you, AFC Mobile, for giving a diehard Mobile soccer fan the chance to cheer for a Mobile soccer team.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Fan Reaction: The AFC Mobile Family

Mobile is a port city. A city of different cultures. A city of distinct identities. A city of disparate ideals. However, for ninety minutes on Saturdays, the people in Mobile gather together to cheer on their team. They become one voice with one cause. All of this grown from one idea: community.

In this Fan Reaction, supporter Stephanie Ward talks about how the club and its fans have become another family to her.

As fans we wanted more. We wanted something to call our own.

When I was asked to share my feelings about AFC I immediately said yes! I’m excited to write about one of the things I feel very passionately about. Soccer in general holds a special place in my heart. I was first introduced to the game when I traveled to Germany in 1989 as an exchange student. I fell in love immediately.

My boys played soccer when they were young and when I was dating my husband he would come out to practices and games. He knew nothing about the sport but quickly learned and even started doing a little assistant coaching at the YMCA. We had friends who played in the adult league at Sage Park where my husband eventually got a spot on a team. I would get several of my friends on Sundays and we would go out and watch him play. We would make a day of it…watching several teams.

As we both got more involved with the local soccer scene we discovered a group of fans who would gather at a local pub to watch the World Cup. Eventually the Crazy 88s, our local AO chapter, was born. We would get together and watch the US play any chance we could. Some of those same people also gather early on Saturday mornings to watch Premier League soccer.

As fans we wanted more. We wanted something to call our own. A group of very dedicated and diligent people worked tirelessly to finally bring us AFC! Yes! We now have our very own team, representing our great city, to support. I remember as the first home game approached, I was a little nervous that attendance would be low. I was pleasantly surprised when I looked around to see the stands almost full. We broke attendance records with the Gulf Coast Premier League that weekend. I cannot put into words to how much pride I felt for our new team.

So, what does AFC mean to me? The first thing that comes to mind is family. We gather together before the games to eat and celebrate. We gather together at the games and sing our songs and cheer with one voice. We know the players by name and a lot of them have taken the time to get to know us. It kind of feels like we all have this wonderful adoptive child that we love and want to protect.

I can hardly wait until next season! I know our family will continue to grow and break records. I’m so proud of what AFC has done so far and I’m looking forward to what they will do in 2018! As we say in the Rebellion…. Always Mobile Always Home!!

 

Fan Reaction: More than Soccer

“Down in Mobile, they’re all crazy,” or so begins the infamous Eugene Walter’s line. Nothing has brought out the feelings of every event being a party than the cow bells, drumming, second-lining, and other antics of the Causeway Rebellion. Every game is a party, and what began as a simple game has exploded into an event for everyone to take part in. But it goes beyond the ninety minutes.

In our second Fan Reaction, supporter Dustin “the cow bell guy” Wilson explains how AFC Mobile has become part of his daily routine.

I realized how in an almost eerie way how threads of my life connect back to AFC Mobile.

I think there are a lot of ways I could tell you what AFC Mobile means to me.

When I sat down to write this I was so full of good ideas I literally typed 5 or 6 full blogs out and looked them all over with some smug sense of accomplishment steeped in the tradition of a hipster who types poems on an antique typewriter for $5.00 each.

Then I highlighted them all and deleted them.

I didn’t like any of them.  The words I’d written seemed disingenuous at best, placating and condescending at worst.   Words like hope and pride and community fell to my fingers and spilled onto the pages ceaselessly and in the end, each of the blogs I’d written seemed very much like well written canned marketing hooey.

AFC Mobile is a soccer team.  The gentlemen on the team, and the people coaching and supporting the team, play a game.  They do it in a place surrounded by people laughing and cheering and screaming.  When you boil it down, it’s not much more than that.  So despite my un-wavering support of them, I had to ask myself. What does AFC Mobile actually mean to me?

And I thought.

And I thought more.

And about 2 hours and several thoughts later, it hit me.

AFC Mobile means almost everything to me.

I realized how in an almost eerie way how threads of my life connect back to AFC Mobile.   I can look back to the tiniest beginnings of the maroon and gold azalea and remember how my U6 coaching debut was against teams coached by AFC Mobile board members.  And while we’re on the subject of kids, mine were excited to go to each match and made homemade banners and signs to support the players and coaching staff.

If we are talking about homemade, I suppose I should talk about the custom cowbells and face paint mixtures I bought (because NO ONE sells the perfect AFC colors) to use in support of the team.  Being known as ‘the cow bell guy’ was a highlight of my summer year for sure.

Thinking about my financial expenditures in support of the team now, I fondly thought about the smile on my face every single time I wear my AFC Mobile silicone bracelet that served as my season ticket.  I wear it frequently; I love the way it reminds me of all the excitement throughout the season.  Another outlay was the ticket to the supporters’ bus to the Biloxi away match.  That may have turned out to be the best money I spent all year.

That was the trip where people who were just faces in the crowd became friends. The men, women, and even kids I had seen all year were now standing beside me, yelling, screaming, and singing as one single unit.  It made me feel like a part of something.  My nominal financial investment in support of the team seemed to have had one of the highest returns on investment of any money I’ve ever spent.

There was another investment I thought about while on the subject which was the investment of my time.  Silly frustration permeated my thoughts however, when there were no ‘bad’ moments spent in connection with AFC.  Whether it was being physically present, recounting matches with friends over pints, arguing over calls by the linesman or the referee, or the time I spend plotting and planning how to be a better more flamboyant supporter next year.  There was a lot of time spent in connection with AFC Mobile and the more I tried to discredit it, the more evident it became that it was time well spent.

These thought processes really led me to memories.  Surely, I thought, the memories connected to AFC Mobile worth cherishing and holding on to were fewer than I realized.  There were those memories of my kids being a feature photo in a recap of a match and how excited they were to wave at all the player each time they went by.   There were the memories of watching my friend and neighbor break a rib jumping the fence to celebrate the team’s first win.  There were the memories of grown men and women running down to the side of the field to give high fives and hugs to sweaty players who for 90 minutes were the root cause of every emotion experienced.

They couldn’t all be good memories worth holding right?  Realistically I won’t remember the smiles on the player’s faces, or the flags of many nations waving at the stadium, or the sore voices the day after matches from yelling so hard.  The names of the players, the supporters, the owners.  Those are things that surely were not going to stay in my head. The taste of Jepsen’s Malort shared on a supporters’ trip, okay well maybe that memory is terrifying, but the friendship and camaraderie born of that drink is certainly not.  I can concede however the swarm of termites early in the season was a touch unpleasant but seeing 850 people all swatting at the air at the same time actually looks pretty humorous and it was towards the end of the match anyway so even the bugs had the decency to not be too bothersome.

I kept trying to find something, anything, even in some remote, Kevin Bacon game way that wasn’t actually connected to AFC Mobile and I just kept failing.

My sense of community pride in the mayor who showed up to a match, the silly second line parade, the Causeway Rebellion, the phrase Sweet Lunacy, the Facebook friend request from one of the star players, (OMG CHISOM FRIEND REQUESTED ME!!!) the fact that in this time of swirling craziness outside the bounds of our team, AFC Mobile becomes a safe unifying topic of conversation that transcends borders, nationalities, race, status, demographics, or any other barrier we can construct.

So when I was asked to say what AFC Mobile means to me, I can honestly say,

Everything.

Fan Reaction: Discovering Sweet Lunacy’s Soccer Culture

For centuries, the lighthouses on Mobile Bay have guided sailors home to safe harbor in Mobile. Since AFC Mobile’s founding, this club has held the people of Mobile as directional beacons, as guiding lights. With that in mind, we are turning the keys to AFCMobile.net over to said supporters to talk about their experiences in year one. For the next few weeks, various fans will elaborate on what exactly this club – their club – means to them.

Our first blog is written by Robert McArthur. Robert and his wife Betty have been huge supporters of the club since its inception. Robert explains how the club ended up striking a chord and affecting him and his wife during its inaugural season.

Prior to this AFC Mobile season, Betty and I had generally confined our soccer viewing to our television at home.

My wife Betty and I were on a Gulf Coast Tours bus a few months ago on our way back to Sweet Lunacy’s County Seat from Mississippi. We were in the good company of other AFC Mobile supporters. We had all ventured west to witness our side take on our new heated and hated rivals Biloxi City FC.

We were both experiencing what we could only describe as a bittersweet moment. Sweet, because AFC Mobile avenged an earlier season defeat at home against Biloxi with a comprehensive thrashing of our rivals on their home field. A wonderful night, indeed. Bitter, because this was the last game of our first season…and we wanted more.

We first found out about AFC Mobile about a year ago through some social media post. Our excitement began to grow immediately. We participated in a Go Fund Me initiative to help give the organization an initial financial boost; we bought t-shirts, scarves, etc.; and we helped spread the word to anyone we knew that had even a passing interest in soccer that Mobile now had a team. We attended the jersey reveal downtown and began counting down weeks and days to the first ever game. 2017 matches came and went and the club never disappointed. Betty and I attended all home matches at the Lip and, as mentioned before, one away game against Biloxi. There were many others fans who did the same.

We cannot say enough  regarding the hard work and passion that was brought to the atmosphere of each match by AFC Mobile’s supporters group: the Causeway Rebellion. The Causeway Rebellion brought an unparalleled energy around the team which I believe was instrumental in the overall success of the first season.

Yes, a few more wins would have been great, but in the grand scheme of things the win-loss tally really wasn’t the big take away from the first season. Everything about AFC Mobile was done right and done well. I know “we” made an impression on the rest of the Gulf Coast Premier League. The fact that AFC Mobile was attracting league-wide record crowds with nearly each successive game became news locally, regionally and even nationally.

All of this in the initial season. It is clear to all that witnessed it that the first season, by all measures, was an overwhelming success and just the beginning of something truly special.

Prior to this AFC Mobile season, Betty and I had generally confined our soccer viewing to our television at home. The surprising benefit of our participation and support of AFC Mobile has been that it has opened us up to a whole new group of friends. We have become American Outlaws with Chapter 88 in Mobile, and regularly watch games with other USA supporters. We have started showing up at O’Daly’s Draft Picks on Saturday mornings to support Chelsea FC among the other EPL supporters.

Basically, we have joined the Mobile soccer community. Thank you, AFC Mobile. We look forward to bigger and better things. We intend to be with our club every step of the way. We cannot wait for the start of AFC Mobile 2018.