Over the years my friends and family have tried to get me involved in a sport known around the world as football, called soccer in America. I would always say "next match" or "next time", but it would never happen and over time they stopped asking. It took time, but in the end I took the plunge and decided that it was time to go to a match in person. It was time to see what this sport was all about and if it could be different than what is considered a main stream sport in America. Would it be driven by business, market share and product exposure like most major sports in America? Or would it be something more refined, more pure? Only time would tell.
Finally match day came, it was an unusually clear day in the northwest and I was going to my first football match. My friends and I drove into the city, found parking, waded our way into the stadium and made it to our seats. Near the start of the match as one of my friends was coming back from getting food he handed me a bundle of cloth (a scarf). I remember asking "what's this for?" and the reply I received was "just watch the crowd, you'll know". It was at this point drum beats and clapping started, teams emerged onto the field, the bundles of cloth were raised and the match started.
As the match began it felt like every other sporting event I had been to; there is hype at the start which eventually gets sporadic as it progresses until only a few are still excited. However it was as if my thoughts were being read aloud and there was a response of cheering, chanting and celebrating. It didn't let up, it was unrelenting, it was unstoppable and it was inspiring. Had I finally found a sport that was truly about the people? Only time would tell.
Shortly after the second half started the chanting somehow became louder. Trying to figure out where it was coming from I looked at my friends, to the stranger next to me, behind me, in front of me and I saw everyone chanting. Then I realized it wasn't just them chanting it was also me. I was cheering, I was chanting, I was celebrating. It was me.
And then my eyes truly opened. They were not strangers, they were not friends, it was not me. It was US. All of US. It was no longer about friends, family, or strangers because they are US and WE are them. WE are the storm that provides encouragement and loyalty into our team, while also providing doubt into the opponents.
No matter who you are or where you are, if you play or you don't, if you stand or you sit because:
WE support the team
WE support the players
WE support each other
WE are the Supporters
It is YOU, it is ME, it is all of US. WE are the Supporters.
Is OUR club changing? Yes.
Can WE adapt to change? YES!
Can WE overcome change? YES!
Will WE be allowed to? Only time will tell.