Almost two hours before kickoff, before most of the players and staff had even arrived at the stadium, a group of Tampa Bay Rowdies supporters pulled up to the front gates of Matthews Sportsplex in Charlotte, NC.
The group had flown into town from Tampa the day prior as part of their annual tradition traveling to at least one out-of-state match per season. They backed in their cars, pulled out their chairs and tables, and started tailgating right across from the stadium entrance.
No more than ten minutes after setting up though, they were told to shut it down. A police officer walked over and explained to the group that they weren’t allowed to be drinking publicly in the near-empty parking lot.
Clearly, the local police aren’t accustomed to this level of dedication from traveling fans.
Understandably confused, the Tampa Bay Rowdies supporters explained who they were and why they were there. His puzzled look quickly turned to a smile when he realized they weren’t doing anything illegal at all. They were simply some of the most die-hard fans he had ever met. He apologized and explained that they don’t often see tailgating like that in the area, especially not that early for a match.
Turns out, the local police weren’t familiar with Tampa Bay Rowdies fans and the Ralphs Mob supporters group. For more than a decade, Rowdies supporters have been known as some of the most passionate in all of USL and the broader U.S. soccer community.
I mean, how many other U.S. teams can say they have a supporters group in Brazil?
When asked why they make these away game trips a tradition, the group spoke about the joy of watching their team in new cities and meeting fellow supporters.
In Charleston, for example, they were welcomed in by Battery supporters who loved that they made the trip up.
“We want to support the team wherever they go, whether that’s traveling to away games or watching on television,” shared Faith, one of the youngest of the traveling group. “Everyone that we meet is really nice and we love connecting with other passionate fans across the country.”
Faith has been a Tampa Bay Rowdies supporter for nearly a decade and has been coming to games with her family since she was little. Her father, who is originally from Germany and has a deep love for the sport, spoke about the stories they have from each trip. Whether it’s breaking bread with supporters in Charleston or drowning out their in-state rivals in Orlando, each stadium is unique and each trip brings new memories.
There’s no doubting that @TampaBayRowdies supporters are some of the best around in the @USLChampionship. Just ask Faith, one of the young fans who makes #awaydays an annual tradition with her family and friends. pic.twitter.com/wiOGHaNtUr— FNDM90 (@fndm90) June 8, 2021
Although Faith does admit that one thing usually remains the same.
“[Ralph’s Mob] is crazier than everyone else,” beamed Faith when asked about what separates Rowdies supporters from others they’ve met. “We’re always going hard, we’re screaming the entire time. Sometimes we go to away games and we’re louder than the home fans.”