all images: Kyle Mahnke
San Antonio FC (3-5-5) defeated one of the best teams in the West on Saturday, handing the visiting Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC (7-3-2) a 2-1 loss.
There are plenty of other articles and video recaps that can give you details about what happened on the field. What I want to get across with this post is what happened before, during, and after the match underneath the Thousand Oaks Bridge and in sections 112 and 118.
If you’ve ever listened to our podcast, you’ll know that I don’t belong to either of the two main San Antonio soccer supporters groups, The Crocketteers and Mission City 118. I love what they do and think their continued success and growth is vital to our soccer community, but my seat is in the press box hacking away at a keyboard.
But when the groups announced they would be having a Supporter for a Day event, I knew it was the perfect time to see what I had been missing out on. This event saw the two groups buying blocks of tickets in their respective sections, 112 for Crocketteers and 118 for Mission City, to give away to anyone interested in seeing what being part of an SG is all about. I decided the best way to get to know both groups was to sit with the Crocketteers for the first half and Mission City for the second.
The Crocketteers are the older of the two groups, having established in 2009. Those of you who know your San Antonio soccer history know that the group predates professional soccer in the Alamo City, with the San Antonio Scorpions beginning play in 2012. “We were here just doing nothing,” says founder Michael Macias on the creation of the group. “We didn’t have local soccer to go to. So we would drive out or take busses out to go see soccer.”
But the group’s size exploded the following year with viewing parties for the 2010 World Cup as well as the announcement of the NASL franchise San Antonio Scorpions. The grassroots effort suddenly had a massive role in the growth of professional soccer in San Antonio.
Mission City Firm is the other side of the same coin when it comes to San Antonio supporters groups. An amalgamation of former Scorpions supporters groups, Mission City is making huge noise in their inaugural season. What has “risen from the ashes of (section) 118”, as their website says, is a passionate group of supporters who go the full 90.
The two groups host neighboring tailgates underneath the Thousand Oaks Bridge across from the North West entrance of Toyota Field before nearly every match. Here I caught up with Mission City leader Lee Ochoa to chat about the Supporter for a Day event. “We thought it was a great way for people to come out and experience being a supporter for the first time,” says Ochoa. The he said a phrase I heard from members of both groups throughout the night, “My thing is once you’re a part of it, you’re not going to want to leave.”
From the tailgate, the two groups marched into the stadium together. I snapped a couple of pictures, but they really don’t do the event justice. Doing my best to recall the details of the march would go something like this: Hundreds of supporters marching and singing together as they made the journey into the stadium and around the full-circle to their sections. Mission City and Crocketteers alternating which group’s chants were used as we slowly made it through the security checkpoint. Multiple “regular” fans snapping pictures and videos of the chanting, drumming, marching mass of black shirts, scarves, and flags. The group had the high energy reached in a group of supporters who just witnessed their team win, but in reality hadn’t even made it to their seats yet. Passion. Pride. Excitement. Family. To say it was an exciting few minutes is the understatement of the century. This group loves San Antonio, San Antonio FC, and being at Toyota Field.
From there the two groups broke off into their sections at opposite sides of the north end of the stadium, Crocketteers in 112 and Mission City in 118. For the first half, I stood in 112 unsure of what to expect. I’ve seen the groups in action from afar at many Scorpions and SAFC matches, but being in the thick of it was a whole different monster. There is no other sound than what’s surrounding you in 112. Mission City’s drums, the stadium’s music, even the fans just across the aisle in 113, none of it exists when you’re surrounded by the drums and chanting coming from SA’s oldest supporters group.
I didn’t have to wait long to experience what happens when the home side scores. Local Trinity grad Victor Araujo scored in the 8th minute, ending the chant we were in the middle of and starting a riot of cheers and smoke. Oh that smoke.
We got to bathe in it again in the 35th minute as defender Stephen McCarthy got one of his own.
Between the smoke, Crocketteers definitely brought it in the first half. The group was very welcoming, making sure everyone had chant sheets so no one would feel left out for being new. It was a fantastic experience. I had the pleasure of standing next to someone who was also experiencing his first time standing with the Crocketteers. He told me that he sat near the group his previous two times and couldn’t pass up the chance to stand and yell with them this week.
For the second half, my plan was to jump straight over to 118 for the remaining 45 minutes of play. I’m going to be honest here, I’m an out of shape Texas transplant and it was effing hot. So for the first 20 minutes or so of the second half, I was marooned at the top of 118 nursing a few bottles of water. Watching from afar, it was pretty clear that 118 is a section of heat-resistant robots sent to overthrow the soccer world. Or maybe they just weren’t wusses like me. Either way, my point is that 118 was on fire from the start of the first half to the last whistle (and beyond).
One of the things I love most about 118 is that some of their chants are in Spanish. I’m far from fluent in Spanish, but know enough to get by when visiting with my wife’s Cuban-exile family. On a bigger scale, I hope that the Spanish chants help attract the city’s vast Spanish speaking fanbase to the local club. On a small scale, it was fun to yell in Spanish and felt very “San Antonio” to do so. One of the best things about our city is the Hispanic and Northern European traditions that collide here. It really only makes sense that it happens in chants about the city at a soccer match.
Two events happened at the end of the match that really caught my eye. The first is that several SA players came over to the north side of the stadium, the exact opposite side from where the dressing rooms are, to thank the fans. They started with the general seating, moved to 118 and finally over to 112.
The second thing is that Mission City welcomed some new members into the fold after the final whistle. The new members had to individually lead a chant before being “official.” The first new Mission City member (white tee shirt near the center of the image below) got about three words of his chant out before his voice was swallowed by his fellow supporters.
I left Mission City as they marched back out of the stadium to return to the tailgate area. As I walked to my car, the music and good times were still echoing from underneath the Bridge where the night began.
All-in-all, sitting with the supporters groups was one hell of an adventure. They aren’t exaggerating when they say you’ll be standing for 90 minutes. But there’s a togetherness of
sitting standing with 112 or 118 that I haven’t felt at any other sporting event. It’s family.
And Lee was dead on in his assessment. Once you’re a part of it, you really don’t want to leave.