Category Archives: Supporters

In Sendai, A Revolution–of some sort–Is Televised

Japan has this eerily consistent habit of making observers feel as though they’ve fallen down a rabbit hole and landed in, if not Wonderland, then at least a pretty good knock-off of it. To American eyes, accustomed as they are to unforeseen snafus and unmet expectations, everything in Japan just seems to work. Consider: everything–for better or for worse–occurs exactly on time; lost wallets get returned untouched nine times out of ten; convenience stores not only sell food you’d actually want to ingest, but just about anything else you could conceivably want; and no matter where you go, there are friendly, vocal, vending machines to offer you hot coffee in a can. Any long term resident can tell you that the feeling fades as you discover the maddening inconsistencies and staunch resistance to change that hamstring this society in more than a few places. But even then, Japan keeps coming up with new ways to keep your jaw scraping asphalt.

As the daylight faded over Sendai this past Sunday, Yurtec Stadium  served up a doozy for followers of the women’s game. We know, by now, that captivating World Cups can give us a dream summer. But a scene like this, in 46 degree weather on a Sunday night, for a glorified friendly?

Photographers Perched at the Tunnel

This is to say nothing of the journalists encircling the pitch, the Japan Air Self-Defense Forces marching band warming up near the bench, or the souvenir stands emptied of the newly-released Nadeshiko Japan scarves by half-time. The fitting cap on the evening, of course, were the over 15,000 spectators–many of whom had begun lining up hours before the gates even opened–singing, screaming, and chanting “Mi-Ya-Ma, Mi-Ya-Ma” before each corner. In fact, save for a complete sell-out and Dan Borislow being shipped over freight class to take a Miyama free kick to the groin, few dreams weren’t at least fleetingly glimpsed on Sunday.

Maybe it’s only mildly surprising that the Nadeshiko’s first domestic match in ten months would be on such a grand stage. Since Frankfurt, Sawa and her teammates have become permanent fixtures on those fabled, diabolical Japanese game shows, graced convenience stores nation-wide with their endorsement of prepackaged deli foods, and hosted numerous clinics for displaced kids throughout the quake-stricken Tohoku area. Rural newspapers now have a small column devoted to covering Nadeshiko League results, and Miyama’s smiling face is sometimes the one to inform you “You’re Watching NHK” before the nightly news.  The Nadeshiko’s stature here is currently pegged at “Rock Star”, and the team is getting the treatment fans have long felt their own country’s stars deserve. Yet again, and in a manner few countries can manage, things in Japan seem to work exactly the way they should.

It’s easy to fantasize that if Rachel Buehler’s foot had extended just a few inches further, or Shannon Boxx had sent her spot kick a few degrees more toward the post, the above photograph could have been taken in Seattle rather than Sendai. After all, we’ve assumed the existence of a magic, missing ingredient for so long that the World Cup naturally becomes the “what-if” of the moment. But if Japan is women’s soccer’s soup du jour, its secret sauce may not be easily copied.

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Show Your Support: The Beat Fleet

The Beat Fleet is the official fan club of the Atlanta Beat. The team has been through its share of highs and lows this season and the Beat Fleet have been there with them through all of it. In the final edition of the Show Your Support series, you’ll find out why the Beat’s fans are as charming as the team itself.


AWK: Tell me about how the Beat Fleet came to be. Were you guys fans of the Beat during the WUSA days? 

BF: It was actually the decision of the front office of the Atlanta Beat to get us started.  They were kicking around the idea of starting a fan club, but the needed someone to head it up…me being me, I said “I’ll do it!”  So they drafted up some rules and we decided on the details of membership and here we are.  We’re not too strong in number of members yet, but the team is doing great now and I’m sure our membership numbers will come up soon.  As for being fans during the WUSA days, I wasn’t personally but we do have several fans and fan club members who talk about those days that were huge fans back then.  Listening to their stories and recaps of some of the games…it really makes me wish I was.

AWK: What makes the Beat Fleet unique compared to other WPS fan groups? 

BF: Well, other than the pregame tailgating, we have our own section in the stadium that we’re sat in.  unfortunately for the visiting keepers it’s almost directly behind the goal.  We have the reputation of being a little “vocal” to them…We really try to get into their head and we’ve had some pretty good reactions from them!  But of course when Hope Solo is on our side of the pitch it’s a different story!

AWK: What is the ultimate objective of the Beat Fleet? 

BF: At this point it’s the same as any other fan club.  We want to support our team, raise awareness and bring in more fans.  We tailgate on the side of the road that runs in front of the stadium and we try to talk to everyone that passes by on foot or everyone that gets caught at the red light that has their window down.  

AWK: Kennesaw State University Stadium is absolutely beautiful. Are most of the Beat’s fans from the area or does the team attract people from within Atlanta city limits as well? 

BF: Actually our fans are from all over including Atlanta and the surrounding areas. We have a ton of different youth soccer clubs around Atlanta.  So our fans come from KSU, all the different areas around Atlanta, inside Atlanta and we even have people that drive in from Birmingham, Alabama for every home game!  The word is out about the Beat and it’s drawing people in.   It’s really interesting to see all the different counties on the car tags as they pull in to park.

AWK: What was it like when the Saint Louis Athletica folded and the Beat inherited most of its players? And do you have a favorite Atlantica player? 

BF: To be honest, it was scary!   We didn’t know if it was a sign of whats to come for other teams or even the entire league.  I hated to see a team fold but it did play in our favor.  We were really lucky to be in the position to sign some great players and of course as a personal favorite we signed Hope Solo.  It’s been great watching her work…She’s like a machine in the goal! 

AWK: The team is currently on a win streak (although that might change by the time this is printed). What have been your impressions of the team as of late? 

BF: We were really excited at the beginning of the season.  The team had just come off a really impressive pre-season run with only one losss and I just knew we were going to be crushing teams left and right.  Then the regular season began and it was clear we really needed to start working as a team to finish goals.  Right when the team work started we added new players from Saint Louis and we had to start over with working as a team.  As you can see, that is really starting to work itself out nicely.  We have a three game winning streak and last night we went on to a 0-0 tie against the #1 team in the league FC Gold Pride.  

AWK: What’s been the most memorable moment so far as Beat fans?

Bf: These are the hardest questions to answer!  There has been so many single moments that have been awesome…the first goal scored, the first home win, the team owner coming outside to the fan zone to hang out with us, the second and third straight win, the first time Solo made a diving save, Ocampo’s two goals in our July 28th game and the list goes on and on…and it’s just the first season!  Every game has another exciting “single most memorable moment” in it.  So I encourage you, if you haven’t seen our Atlanta Beat play, come out and be apart of one of those moments with us!  GO BEAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Thanks to the Beat Fleet for participating. Here are the previous editions with other supporters groups from around the league:

The Boston Breakers’ Riptide

Chicago Red Stars’ Local 134

The Washington Freedom’s Bravehearts

Show Your Support: The Washington Freedom's Bravehearts

 In the third installment of All White Kit’s Show Your Support series, Jim Dougan introduces us to The Bravehearts, the Washington Freedom’s fanatical supporters group. Jim founded the Bravehearts with his friend and fellow DC United supporter Jared Smith after falling in love with the Freedom after a DCU doubleheader last season. He discusses just what got the whole Bravehearts idea cooking, why the SoccerPlex is an ideal place for rabid fan support and why it’s impossible to choose between Sarah Huffman and Erin McLeod. 




AWK: What was the inspiration behind the Washington Bravehearts? Did you follow the Freedom in the WUSA days?
JD: First, let me start by saying that we have no truck with Mel Gibson and his craziness, and as exciting and compelling as the “Braveheart” movie is, it’s got some pretty distasteful homophobia that is not something that we endorse, which is also something we’ve had to address with various prospective members.  Still, that famous battlefield speech and the “FREEDOM!” shout was something that kept coming up at games last season, so it seemed a natural choice when naming a supporters’ group, and I think most people take it in the spirit in which it’s intended.  Plus, we already had Bigg Al the bagpiper, so it was a no-brainer.

On to actually answering your question:  I actually never did get out to see the Freedom during the WUSA days, even though I always meant to.  I think my interest in soccer had kind of waned during those years (2001-2003), as DC United was pretty abysmal (by their previous high standards in the early days of MLS), and I wasn’t making it out to RFK as regularly as I’d done before or have since.  The thought that I had a chance to watch Mia Hamm play on a regular basis and never did haunts me to this day.  And when the WUSA folded, I felt like it was ALL MY FAULT.  Which is not to say my ticket purchases would have saved the league, but that the ticket purchases of thousands of people like me who really loved soccer but didn’t get off their asses might have saved the league (though I now understand the WUSA business model was pretty flawed). 

So when WPS started up, I was bound and determined to support the league as strongly as I could. My co-founder Jared and I have been in the Screaming Eagles supporters’ club for DC United with season tickets for a few years now (and been going to United matches since 1996), so we were introduced to the Freedom during their doubleheaders at RFK.  We were impressed enough with what we saw – and especially by the play of Sonia Bompastor – that we bought a ticket pack for the remaining Freedom games out at the Maryland SoccerPlex. 

And what we noticed there was a severe lack of atmosphere, where people would cheer louder for the free t-shirt toss than for good play on the field.  This was really disturbing to us.  Even more disturbing was fans cheering for BOTH TEAMS, which drove us nuts.  Was it family and friends of the opposing players?  A residual affinity for USWNT players on both sides?  Or just a “I’m cheering for the league!  Yay! Girl power!” kind of thing?  Probably a combination of all three, and as passionate home-team supporters, it drove us NUTS.  We set out to fix it.  There seemed to be a few loud fans in each section, a few who would give you dirty looks for standing up and being loud, and then the majority who pretty much sat there the whole time.  Trying to get quiet people to be loud, or to cheer in a way that they’re not comfortable doing seemed like a thankless task, so we proposed to fix this by putting all the loud fans in one place, and hoped the rest of the fans would eventually catch on. 

We ran this by some of the players at various happy hour events (Sarah Huffman, Allie Long, Alex Singer) and they were really enthusiastic.   We went to the front office staff, and the rest is history… or history in the making, anyway.



AWK: What is your ultimate aspiration for the group and is the Freedom front office/team supportive of you guys?

JD: Our ultimate aspiration is to bring soccer culture to the SoccerPlex and to have a huge section of loud, singing, drumming, creatively-heckling fans giving inspiration to the Freedom and intimidation to all of their opponents.  The SoccerPlex is a lovely place to play soccer compared to some of the other stadiums in WPS (read: real grass, no American Football line markings on the field), but it shouldn’t be a place other teams look forward to playing.  They should fear the Freedom, and by extension, us.   We know that a lot of MLS players really don’t like coming to RFK and playing in front of the Barra Brava and Screaming Eagles, regardless of how strong or weak United happens to be at the time, and we aim to be like that someday.
At the same time, we’re a family friendly group, and know that the Freedom organization is committed to preserving that atmosphere as well.  But you don’t have to be unruly and vulgar to be loud and intimidating/inspirational.  You just have to be committed and have a strong pair of lungs.
And yes, the Freedom front office has gone out of their way to help us out, dedicating a section of the stadium for us (Section 111!  Come join us!), loaning us flags and drums, all kinds of stuff like that.  I know that GM Mark Washo someday wants to see us fill several sections with a giant Freedom jersey pulled over us (like at United games) but we’ll just take it one step at a time.
The team has been great, too.  I think they know that we’re ultimately doing this for them, and they appreciate that.  They’ve started coming over to give us a round of applause after the games, which I know means a lot to our group who work really hard for 90 minutes, even in sometimes ridiculous heat.



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Show Your Support: Chicago Red Stars' Local 134

The Chicago Red Stars is noted as having one of the best-run organizations in WPS. And the team’s passionate fan support certainly does its part. Local 134 is the Chicago Red Stars’ supporters group. All White Kit talked to one of its co-founders Nicole Hack and the 2010 Chair of the group Melissa Harman about the origins of L134, the recent changes in Chicago and why it’s so important to have organized fan support in WPS.  


AWK: How did Chicago Local 134 develop and what were your initial aims for the group?

Nicole: L134 developed in the fall of 2008 when a member (Omar Shaker) of Section 8 Chicago (Chicago Fire’s supporters group) had the idea to start up the group.  Many S8 supporters were excited about the Chicago Red Stars because of Peter Wilt’s involvement with the team.   Omar and Ben Burton (the then Chair of S8) approached me to gauge my interest in helping out with the supporters group, as they thought it would be a good idea to have the organizers of the group be lead by females. That September we had a short first meeting at the Red Stars trailer at Toyota Park before a Chicago Fire game.  Two other female soccer fans/Fire supporters (Kari Kouba and Elizabeth Currie) expressed interest in helping and things took off from there.

Our initial aim was to create a supporters group targeted for adult fans of women’s soccer (and to a degree, young adult fans). As a group we wanted to target women’s college soccer players and ex-collegiate players.  We also wanted to target non-mainstream subcultures, such as the supporters of roller derby (Windy City Rollers), fans of the punk rock or underground music scene , the gay/lesbian community, etc.   We also have other women’s professional sports teams (Chicago Sky of the WNBA & Chicago Force with women’s pro football) with fans that might be interested in joining our support in women’s soccer.


AWK: What kind of atmosphere do you guys bring to Toyota Park?

Nicole: That’s a difficult question to answer since the league is so new and the group is definitely still in its infancy. Last year L134 had several games that gave the Red Stars that extra boost of energy in addition to the already enthusiastic crowd of young girls that typically fill up the stadium.  Chants, drumming, and all that. I’m especially proud of the group that went to St. Louis for the Red Stars and Athletica’s inaugural match.  There were about 50 of us that took a bus down and another 50 that met us out in St. Louis.  To this day I think the energy we exuded at the game is unmatchable to the atmosphere at any other WPS game. 


Melissa: We want to be a group who consistently shows up to home games, consistently organizes tailgates/activities and consistently sits together as a group during games, cheering and being unified in our passion for the game. We aim to provide a fun atmosphere because soccer games are supposed to be fun! The more seasons the Stars have, the more I think (and hope) our group will grow. That is very important right now: numbers, people who want to be more involved. I know there are tons of women’s soccer fans in this great city, it’s just a matter of finding them and having them join Local 134!

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Show Your Support: The Boston Breakers' Riptide

At every Breakers home game you’ll undoubtedly find The Dock; a colorful corner of Harvard Stadium where the Boston Breakers’ faithful supporters reside. They call themselves The Riptide and they a special part of WPS’ identity. A few weeks ago I had the chance to chat with Jackie Anderson, one of the founding members of The Riptide. Here’s the conversation:


AWK: How did the Riptide begin? Has it been around since the WUSA days?

JA: There was no supporter’s group for Boston back in the WUSA days as far as I know. After the league folded I started following MLS more closely and got involved with the New England Revolution. I joined the Midnight Riders, the Revolution’s supporters group, and met a lot of fans who were Breakers fans from back in the WUSA days. And I kept hearing the same thing over and over again with people saying they enjoyed going to Breakers games but didn’t have anyone to go with or felt a little out of place in the environment with a lot of kids, families and youth soccer teams. And so it must have been right after they announced that a women’s pro league was coming back in Spring of 2007. There were a group of about six of us at a bar watching a Revs away game and it just so happens that pretty much of all of us were Breakers fans from the WUSA days and we got to thinking that this time around the Breakers should have a real supporters group. That night we started brainstorming names and that’s when it really got off the ground.


AWK: So you’ve been around since ’07?

JA: Yeah, but after they announced it the league got pushed back for a year so things got kind of delayed. But the discussion started then.


AWK: It looks like the Riptide are one of the few supporters group with an actual website. You seem like you have the most organized supporters group in WPS. For someone who has never been to a Breakers game or maybe has never sat with the Riptide, what can they expect? Whenever the Breakers play on television it always looks like a fantastic atmosphere with the drums and the flags.

JA: We have members all over the stadium but the bulk of us are in a section called The Dock which is Section 14. It’s a standing section and they allow drums, flags, streamers, banners and lots os singing. We try to provide the type of atmosphere that you’d see in the men’s game or in Europe over in our corner.


AWK: What kind of members make up the Riptide? Are there any Harvard students?

JA: I’m not sure if we have any Harvard students, but there’s a very wide range. We have families with kids to college students to adults. The age range varies, where people are from varies. It’s a very diverse group.


 AWK: What do you think is it about the sport in general that makes the level of fan support so prevalent, especially in the women’s game?

JA: I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that it’s not completely mainstream. We’ve had to network with other fans to try to find people who we can talk about the game with. We don’t see a lot of articles in newspapers so fans develop blogs and it’s just one of those things where because there isn’t a mainstream outlet fans have to come together and create that environment where fans have to discuss the game together.

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