When I ask others about their first such experience, they also volunteer, in dewy-eyed reminiscence, details of who gave them the introduction. A parent, grandparent or friend took them along and an eternal debt is owed. It wouldn’t be easy to go alone the first time. Someone has to initiate you into the conventions and routines of how to use a football stadium and how to watch a game. You need to know when and what to cheer and also how to cheer, which I’ve since found has variation across cultures.
Football supporting is a learning experience. As long as the introduction works, football has you for life.
Like many American fans of the world’s game, at some point I adopted an English football club to call my own. It was one of the few things I found that made it easier to bond with my father. Arsenal was his club since he was a boy in Iraq. He was also a fan of Shorta (Police) in Iraq, but I bet if I pressed him on it that he would admit to being more into Arsenal. They’ve always looked prestigious and they are the quintessential London club. Holding my teenage rebel phase aside, my father and I loved Arsenal together, but I’ve come to learn that is not my club.
In missing the Detroit City FC home opener (#Iwouldhavebeenthere), I thought it might be nice to reminisce about a moment which felt like nothing less than magic. Allow me to first state that I recognized this moment before, but never as articulately as Professor Stephen Mumford, Professor of Philosophy at Durham University, provides context to the introduction of his book Football: The Philosophy Behind the Game.
RJ, a friend and colleague from undergrad, introduced me to DCFC. He spoke little of the march to the match from Harry’s and did not mention the “rabid supporters” and unexpected sensory overload.
For a few years, I heard rumblings about a new soccer team in Detroit, but people around me did not love soccer the way that I did. Then, I heard more and more about how I should check out Detroit’s club. I remember once being at Pig and Whiskey in 2014 when a large group of people in the whiskey tent broke out into singing “Just Can’t Get Enough”. Some parts are a bit clearer than others. Summer of 2015 rolls around and I wanted to go to a game. I had no idea that there was a complete ultras culture in Detroit. My first match was a friendly against Windsor Stars (now Windsor TFC) in 2015.
I remember arriving late – the sensation as a stranger walking towards the singing, the drums, the cheers. Observing thousands of people sing along to the music at a concert is a completely different experience from thousands of supporters at a football match, supporting their own club and antagonizing another. We stood atop the wobbly bleachers of Cass Tech High School claiming a place amongst a community which one may be envious of. Oh, those wobbly bleachers make me thankful for the terrace and fence line at Keyworth.
We joined without question, without judgement. Somehow my awful singing voice did not matter in that moment. RJ procured booklets for us to follow along with the songs. The drums were so intense, I could feel them vibrating through my body. This was complimented by the sulfuric scent lingering in the air from the smoke bombs lit around the supporters end of the ground, and far reaching across the pitch and to the other end. I remember thinking of how beautiful it was: The red – the gold – the black – the white. I could not see any of the match at times, but I completely forgot that my goal in that time was “to check out Detroit’s new club.” I lost all semblance of personal identity as I locked arms with my neighbors and ran left and right to the tune of the song in the Tetris video game. I’m told it looks from the other side like the video game playing out on these bleachers (However, I have never been so imaginative). I remember the atmosphere being celebratory even though the club lost that match. It was a friendly after all. It did not matter. I found my club in this moment and amongst thousands of others directed love towards the pitch and became one with this group. We all accepted each other and were in support of a common cause. It was an unforgettable experience.
Maybe I would figure out how to pay more attention to the match next time. My introduction to this club is something which can never be taken from me.
I believe this to be true of each of us. We all have a unique experience which we will hold dear. How did your first Detroit City experience go? What made it special? Relive your first experience with DCTID.com on Slack