The quasi dark side of RBNY fandom.
By: Jason Iapicco
April 14, 2013; that’s the date that Women’s Soccer returned to New Jersey. Sky Blue FC hosted the Western NY Flash in both clubs first game in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), the third attempt to start a top tier women’s league in the United States. The NWSL is a joint effort by the US Soccer Federation, the Canadian Soccer Federation, and the Mexican Football Federation. Players for each country’s national teams were allocated among the eight teams that are playing in the 2013 season, and the player’s salaries are being covered by the respective federations. Aside from Sky Blue and Western NY, the other teams to play in the 2013 NWSL season are the: Boston Breakers, Chicago Red Stars, FC Kansas City, Portland Thorn FC, Seattle Reign FC, and the Washington Spirit.
I was lucky enough to be able to attend the first game of the season, and decided I wanted to hear about the league from the most important people, the league’s fans. The official attendance given by Sky Blue for the match was 2,611. While it’s just over half of the 5,000 capacity of the stadium on the campus of Rutgers can hold, the crowd was a decent one for the return of Sky Blue, considering a 6 pm start on a Sunday night and the slightly chilly weather. Before the game started, Red Bull Rant co-host Truman and I walked around the parking lot and observed the pre-game fan culture. You would think that you were at a Rutgers football game given the number of tailgate parties, if it wasn’t for the kids playing soccer with makeshift goals. You couldn’t walk more than 10 feet without seeing a kid kicking a ball around. We were lucky enough to be able to talk to some of the kids and get their thoughts on the return of Sky Blue FC and women’s soccer to New Jersey.
The first young woman we spoke to was Reghan Duval, who made the trip to Piscataway from Orange County with her club, Quickstrike FC. Her club wasn’t there to cheer on Sky Blue however. The club was there to cheer on one of their coaches, Brittany Taylor, who had once played for Sky Blue, but is now with Western NY. Reghan provided what might be the quote of the night when talking about NWSL filling the gap left by the folding of WPS.
I hope it stays because most of the girls in my club want to become professional soccer players, and go off to college and play. We’re really looking forward to it working out so we can look forward to it as we get older.
The previous two attempts at professional women’s soccer in the US, Women’s Professional Soccer & Women’s United Soccer Association, lasted a combined 5 seasons. Having a solid women’s league will only serve to help the already successful US team, because it will give many girls, like Reghan, players to look to and a league to aspire to join.
After talking to Reghan, we kept walking in the lot and came upon another group of young women, this group being the Players Development Academy U-11 Strikers team. When asked about the return of Sky Blue, the main answer we got was that they were, “really excited”. One brave young girl even went to say “Sky Blue will win this year”, and when asked if it was a prediction, she stated without pause, “No, it’s a fact.” When asked about who their favorite players are, we got answers which were to be expected; Christie Rampone, Kelley O’Hara, and Abby Wambach. The group said it was OK for Wambach to score a goal or two as long as Sky Blue won. We asked for predictions of the game, and we got usual answer like 1-1 Draw, 1-0 Win, 2-1 Win. One girl in particular was so bold to predict a 10-0 Sky Blue victory.
Sky Blue and Western NY played an exciting game which Sky Blue won on a WNY Own Goal. After the game was over, Truman, Cheryl Bertram (our main Sky Blue writer), and myself headed down to field level to talk to some of the players, as well as some of the fans. When asked how it feels to have played the first game in the new league, US National Team & Sky Blue player Kelley O’Hara said, “I’m so pumped, it’s so fun; we had a great crowd tonight.”
Goalkeeper Brittany Cameroon was also excited about the new league.
Oh man, it’s great, you know, woman’s soccer, we deserve this, everybody else has it, women’s soccer deserves it. It means so much to the girls; the little girls that come to our games mean so much to us. Hopefully one day they can come, and take my spot.
We were also lucky enough to get a chance to talk to Sky Blue Co-Owner Steven H. Temares about the first game for his team since 2011.
It’s a wonderful feeling, I mean, you can’t stand out here on a day like tonight, and see all the excitement, especially from all the kids, and not feel that it’s a wonderful thing.
When asked about the atmosphere that the crowd brought, Steven stated, “I like that; the banging on the stands. Whoever started that, kudos to them.” For those who didn’t watch, anytime that Sky Blue had a corner or free kick, the stands were shaking, and that’s in the literal sense as we felt it in the press box. We also asked if the team had any big plans for the season, Steven said that as the season moves along, the experience for the fans will evolve, but due to the timing of the league coming together, they had no big plans as of yet.
After the game, the teams make the players available for autographs, and kids were lining up 2-3 deep before the game was over to get their favorite players’ signature. I had a chance to talk to two girls waiting on the railing, Kylie & Matty, who came to watch the game from Morristown. They both were really excited for the return of Sky Blue and wish to play professionally one day. Unsurpringsly, their favorite player is Christie Rampone.
It’s pretty obvious from everyone’s comments that the NWSL has strong backing, not just from the players & owners, but also from the segment of fans which will have the most impact on the league, young women. There were many club teams who travelled together to watch the only win in NWSL’s opening weekend. We even spotted some NY Red Bull scarves among the sea of blue & orange. If the first game is any indication, Sky Blue and the NWSL will have a good season, and hopefully many more to come.
You can follow Jason on Twitter @DoctaStooge.