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Soccer Supporters’ Culture: My Trip To Houston

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Maybe the supporters’ section is just not for me?

MLS: Pachuca at FC Dallas
I love my fellow FC Dallas fans.
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Warning: the following article may be controversial, but let’s have ourselves a reasonable discussion.

For the record, this stream of consciousness (for lack of a better word) is not an indictment of the DBG or their leadership. They were very inclusive and told us to be very safe when we left. This is not directed at them. This is merely a call from me to reevaluate the soccer supporters’ culture here in the United States as a whole.

Growing up as a fan of a sport, you have always envied a certain group of “die-hard” fans and wished to be a part of them. Your love for the team binds you together in unparalleled camaraderie. That was me with the Inferno (which evolved in a shape or fashion to become the Dallas Beer Guardians or DBG) growing up. What an amazing group of individuals who chant together, as a fellowship, to support their team.

Unfortunately, I no longer feel this way and it has been a long time coming.

Fast forward almost two decades and I found myself drowning in my pool of sweat in the first row of the away supporters’ section of Friday’s match in Houston. My sister (wearing a hijab) and I meander up to our seats. The first thing we notice is that four or five chairs in that first row have been cleared up for one of the gentlemen to sing, rile up the troops, and chant his heart out. That included our seats. So, we picked the two open chairs next to him and sat down because that is the closest to where our seats were.

If you had a camera on me, you could see the discomfort etched on my face for 90 minutes. The DBG leadership was very accommodating and nice. They let us slip into that row and take a seat. What followed, however, was 90 minutes of vulgarity and hooliganism by a few individuals to say the least. The individual chanting was a kindhearted guy, but far too often he was agonizingly close to hitting me with the scarf when he was firing up the troops setting the stage for a miserable time when I was just trying to not get hit for at least 45 minutes.

Example #1: The Beer Shower

Yes, it was one fan. Yes, I heard with my own two ears the DBG leadership asking if anybody knew who it was who threw the drink. Nobody responded in the affirmative to my knowledge, but it was downright disrespectful.

Here is the caveat: as a practicing Muslim, I try to avoid anything and everything to do with alcohol for faith reasons. It was one of the reasons I stayed away from the DBG as an intern with FC Dallas when their beer showers were a thing because I did not want to get drenched in a forbidden drink if it at all possible. My disdain for those showers is rooted in that. The incident on Friday, however, was atrocious only partially atrocious for that reason. On Friday night, some genius decided to throw their drink in the air when Maxi scored. My elation changed to frustration and pure shock as the drink splashed and landed, to my horror, on a Houston Dynamo fan two rows ahead of me (there was a buffer row for security). I felt awful for that individual. I could only imagine the feeling of outrage if it was me in that seat watching that home game with my friends or family and having an individual throw a liquid on me from above. Imagine that being the only game you have ever gone to as a fan or being someone who is a casual soccer fan looking for that moment to get hooked like every single one of us and you ruined it? It was a bad look for FC Dallas and it was a bad look for the traveling support.

Example #2: The Obnoxious Clapping

This one I struggle to understand besides someone just being an outright jerk.

Two times over the course of the match, a different fan two rows ahead of us turned around and looked at us (perhaps disdainfully, maybe said something, and maybe not). Both times, this individual was pointed out by someone in the front row and the gentleman leading the chants proceeded to stand behind her and start clapping loudly, unnecessarily, and rudely so as to try to incite some sort of reaction from her. All of this, and the fan did not say a single threatening word towards the traveling support. If anything was murmured, it was under their breath. In what world is that okay? That is quite threatening to any individual and a poor show of class by any group of individuals. For it to not be one person initiating the distasteful behavior (and for those other individuals to be encouraging it) was very disheartening as an FC Dallas supporter. Again, I put myself in that lady’s shoes. I would have been absolutely livid if that happened to me.

Example #3: The Vulgarity

This is ridiculous and what I think riles up the fans that are sitting near the traveling support, especially with their families.

Someone may correct me, but I think a large percentage of the chants I heard on Friday had some sort of profanity in it with f*** or f****** in particular being a favorite slur of choice. Not only that, but the words directed towards players, referees, and other fans were particularly vulgar and made me ashamed to be sitting where I was. Do chants not get the point across if they are loud, united, and not crude/explicit? Why are supporters’ sections not as inclusive as they claim to be? Families and other individuals uncomfortable with that level of profanity for 90 minutes could be a key asset to the stadium culture. The kinds of things being said made me cringe sometimes and I hear a lot of nonsense being a mid-twenties young man. “Build a bonfire, put Houston in the middle, and we’ll burn the effing lot?” That’s the kind of stuff that gets a person arrested and is an awful thing to say. Soccer is above those kinds of things.

PS: why is the chant that says, “we don’t hear a f****** thing,” still used? It’s dumb, especially when we are on the road.

In the end, I think we can do better.

The supporters’ culture does not need to be one of hooliganism and disrespect. Is this something we inherited from overseas? If that is the case, then we need to be revolutionary and change it. We need to do better. A good example is the step the supporters took to get rid of the p*** chant on goal kicks. That was wonderful and a great step, but why is that any different than some of the other targeted chants?

I think supporters’ groups feel a sense of entitlement when it comes to MLS teams. You are not better than anybody else in that stadium just because you joined a supporters’ group. I respect everything that you do in terms of the atmosphere that you bring to the club, but supporters need to be unified behind what the team, the club, and the city can be proud of.

Yes, I dislike the Houston Dynamo like every last one of you. However, on Friday, I observed that we were absolutely deserving of the level of security they had there prepared for us. Maybe this is just my personality and style of thinking, so you can crucify me in the comments if you would like, but I love this team and I want it to be represented in the best possible way. To me, that includes less profanity, more compassion, and absolutely no more boneheaded decisions that infringe on the experiences of our other fellow fans. Otherwise, you will continue to give FC Dallas supporters (and soccer supporters as a whole) a bad name, and I will not be happy about it.

Sound off below! Do you agree or disagree with my assessment?