For supporters of local soccer in the U.S., the connection with the team is often cited as the best aspect of the game. Supporters know the players as friends as much as they do professional athletes. In Maryland, that relationship with the players isn’t just limited to the home team.
For the Old Bae Brigade supporters group, there is also a special connection with the opposition.
Because of the way the Maryland Soccerplex stadium is situated, supporters of the Maryland Bobcats stand just a few feet behind the opposing team’s bench. While in some venues that might create a combative environment, in Maryland it most often leads to 90 minutes of comedy and banter.
And right at the heart of that banter is Alex Windsor, one of the most active members of the Old Bae Brigade.
Last fall, Alex was interested in checking out a local soccer match but didn’t really know what his options were. So as most do, Alex fired up his computer and searched “pro soccer in Maryland” in Google. Up popped the schedule for NISA-newcomers Maryland Bobcats and sure enough, the team had a home game coming up against San Diego 1904.
“I still remember that first match,” recalled Alex. “We didn’t really know what to expect, but we spent most of the game heckling the opposing team with random 1904 facts.”
Throughout the match, Maryland players kept turning their heads trying to find out who this new group of loud and comedic fans were. Even the opposition couldn’t help but crack the occasional smile at the historical anecdotes that Alex and his friend Kevin were shouting.
“It was right then that I got hooked,” shared Alex.
Today, Alex and a few dozen Maryland residents drive in from across the state to take their place behind the opposition bench at every home match. And their tradition of heckling the away team hasn’t changed one bit.
At a recent game against Bay Cities FC, the Old Bae Brigade supporters welcomed the visiting coaches and players with a slew of lighthearted jokes and chants. As the game progressed, the banter became a two-way exchange.
When the game was nearing the end and the Bay Cities players were visibly tired, the Old Bae Brigade supporters kept lobbying the opposing coach to put the backup goalie on as a field player. Every few minutes, the supporters would recommend lineup changes, and every few minutes the Bay Cities coach and players would crack a smile and turn around to respond with a joke.
The atmosphere was about as lighthearted as can be with positive banter on both sides. Granted, the tone might have been different if the scoreline hadn’t removed all suspense from the game, but it still demonstrated exactly why local soccer is so special.
That closeness with the team, both home and away, is exactly what keeps so many supporters coming back to Maryland Bobcats matches.
Fans could just as easily drive to Audi Field in Washington to watch DC United play. And many do both. But the community aspect is something that everyone points to when asked what sets the club apart.
Said Evan Raimist, Vice President and Director of Operations for the club, “It’s less about competition from DC United and more about the connection with our local Maryland community. We’re still so new but people keep coming back because it’s something unique and different from anything else in this region.”