Even on the rainiest of days, the beauty of New York and New Jersey can shine through.
Now playing at one of the country’s premier soccer venues, Gotham FC held its second home game of the season against the Portland Thorns on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. The game, held during the unofficial start of summer, should have been the perfect way for New Yorkers and New Jerseyites to celebrate the beginning of a new season and loosening COVID-19 restrictions.
However, Mother Nature had other ideas.
All day leading up to the match, cold rain pelted the New York and New Jersey region without relenting. As game time approached, fans could be seen waiting in their warm cars until the very last minute to don their most fashionable ponchos and make their way into the stadium.
Some fans made light of the situation, joking that they had waited all winter for this “summer kickoff” match, only to have to break out their cold gear clothing once again. Others simply kept their heads down to avoid the sideways rain while scurrying underneath the cover provided by Red Bull Arena.
No one would argue that the attendance numbers were understandably lower than usual. But the supporters that did come out showed why countless people in the soccer community are so high on Gotham FC.
The club has already made waves for its flashy rebrand and as soon as you entered the stadium, fans of all ages and backgrounds were snatching up all the new merchandise available. (Pro tip: Get your hands on one of the black NY/NJ hats if you see one because those things were going fast.)
Cloud Nine, the main supporters group for the club, also demonstrated why so many are looking to Gotham FC as an example of how to build a culture.
Whether sitting near the Cloud Nine section or not, fans across the stadium could see dozens of banners, signs, and flags hung up to emphasize inclusivity and show solidarity with refugees, LGBTQ+, Asian, Black, and countless other communities. Within the section, that message was also evident.
For 90 minutes, supporters of all styles chanted their way through the rain as Gotham FC went for the win. From the capo leading the songs to the Cloud Nine drummer keeping the rhythm going, everyone played their part. It may have only been one hundred-or-so supporters, but it’s those intimate moments that build culture. It was also in that smaller setting that you could see the beauty of Gotham FC supporters up close.
In one row, you had a foursome of two young women and two young men who looked to be on a double date. And while it was clear that all four were soccer fans, it was very apparent who were the organizers of this date. For the entire match, both young men bounced to the beat of the drum and sang every word to every Cloud Nine song at the top of their lungs.
Then, just a couple seats away in the same row, was an older pair of women donning Gotham FC scarves who could have been the foursome’s parents or grandparents. Like the younger group, the pair of women sighed at every misplaced pass and gasped each time Carli Lloyd or another player went on the counter-attack.
Even higher up in the Cloud Nine supporters section you could see the same reflected in each group that dotted the stands behind the goal. All ethnicities, genders, ages, and styles were represented and everyone was doing their best to will the home team to victory.
So while the weather may not have cooperated on a weekend we usually associate with outdoor barbecues and sunny vibes, locals of all backgrounds came out to watch in the absolute worst of Memorial Day Weekend conditions.
If that’s not a sign of Gotham FC’s bright future, I don’t know what is.