An Open Letter to Old & New FC Cincinnati Fans
I'll be completely honest, I haven't always been a fan of soccer.
When I was a small kid, I didn't really understand why anyone was interested in sitting through an entire soccer match.
The clock counted up instead of counting down, and the games could end in a tie, which at the time felt like the worst thing ever. Also, soccer just wasn't really a part of my culture growing up. Not knowing many of the rules or strategies, matches seemed boring, and growing up, my neighborhood played pick up football, baseball and basketball games, but never pick up soccer games.
In the summer of 2010 when I was 13 years old, my parents allowed me to stay home during the day, rather than ship me off to a relative or some day camp. Home alone with limited resources, I looked for things to do during the day. While watching SportsCenter every morning after I woke up, I noticed advertisements for this little event called the FIFA World Cup. Even though I wasn't into soccer, I was bored out of my mind and thought I'd give it a try.
With each game I watched, I began to understand the rules of soccer and how it was meant to be played. With each day passed, I began to become more and more invested with the United States National Team and watched each match with intense passion.
When "Dempsey was denied, but Donovan scored," I ran around my empty house screaming like I won a lifetime supply of double-stuffed Oreos (Which would be amazing no matter what age you are). I even re-enacted Landon's celebration of sliding into the flag after scoring a goal while playing a soccer game with some friends. My parents may not have been happy that I came home covered in mud, but I was truly living the dream.
All good things must come to an end though. My love and passion that I spent all summer developing went away after the USMNT was knocked off by Ghana in the Round of 16. It was the same story for the World Cup in 2014, I had the passion, only for it to fade into the distance once the U.S. lost to Belgium. As I soon learned, the problem is that when it came to soccer, I did not really have a team to call my own.
Fast Forward to the Summer of 2015.
I received a text from a friend saying that Cincinnati had been awarded an expansion soccer franchise, but rather than it being in the MLS, it was in a third division league named 'United Soccer League'. As it relates to most things involving professional sports in Cincinnati, I was skeptical. Pro soccer had been tried multiple times before and had not done well in the Queen City.
While my friend appeared to be all-in for this new soccer team, I initially pushed the thought of a USL team in Cincinnati to the side, thinking that it would just be another minor league addition to the city. Unlike most love affairs that you'll hear about FC Cincinnati, I have not been on board since day one, but I ask that you don't hold that against me.
Now, fast-forward to the Summer of 2016.
FC Cincinnati was beginning to pull in some noticeable crowds and was beginning to attract some buzz around town. In early July, my friend invited me to experience this new phenomenon first hand, by taking me to a match.
But this match wasn't just any match, it was a match against one of the top English soccer teams Crystal Palace, and not only was this match against Crystal Palace, I would be witnessing it in The Bailey.
The extension of an invitation in the form of attending a game was really the only push that I needed. Mesmerized by the environment of over 35,000 fans at Nippert Stadium, the moment I had been waiting for became reality, and I was hooked. I realized that I finally had something to get behind, I had a team to call my own.
More importantly, I realized that this city had the opportunity to achieve something truly special, something that its residents had been waiting a long time for.
You've probably seen how the rest of this story plays out. Don Garber held a pep rally in the city after our first season in the USL. We've proved that Hell is Real, we put out the Fire, and we ran with the Bulls, we've had stadium renderings, stadium sites, stadium debates, and stadium arguments.
We had to wait nearly six months longer than we initially thought to be rewarded with an MLS team, but it was so worth it.
However, if you didn't know this and it's your first time reading about FC Cincinnati, welcome. If you haven't been to a match, I'd personally love to take you to one, so that you can experience what I felt almost two years ago.
Because as everyone that has been paying attention to the FC Cincinnati movement knows, the fans are what makes this club truly special. We were given the chance to build this club from the ground up and we took the opportunity and ran with it. This team has a story that is truly unique to the American soccer landscape, and I don't think we plan on stopping here.
As fans, it is our responsibility to continue growing the game of soccer in the City of Cincinnati, so that more people are given the opportunity to experience this revolution for themselves, just like I was able to. If we continue to display the passion that we have shown during the past three years, there is no way anyone can stop us.
I'm truly excited to write for Cincinnati's new major league tea and look forward to learning more about the beautiful game.
Juncta Juvant (Strength in Unity),