In case you’ve missed it, Terminus Legion is making a big deal over the first Atlanta United U18 match coming up on September 24. For the eager supporters ready to sing, chant and cheer on Atlanta United, it’s a perfect opportunity to do so, and get a glimpse of what the first meaningful AUFC matches could look like in the supporter’s section. That’s why Terminus Legion, Footie Mob and Resurgence should treat this as if it we’re being played inside The Benz, during the height of the inaugural Atlanta United MLS season.
I’m a stickler for great atmospheres. So is just about every soccer fan. The environment created around the beautiful game is sometimes just as important as the players, coach and results themselves. It’s exactly why, since the Atlanta United supporter groups are going to make a big to-do about this, the environment around this match needs to be a preview of what AUFC supporters from all walks of soccer life (EPL, La Liga, new MLS fans, new soccer fans) can expect at Atlanta United matches.
This focus on “how” the environment should happen is important. Soccer atmospheres across the US (Yes, you too NASL, USL, NPSL) have become stale. We hear the same chants, songs and traditions reworked to fit specific teams. There are some things that can be universal (March to Match, etc.), but for the most part, recreating an atmosphere similar to what you get at a US men’s national team match isn’t enough to entice the casual soccer fan and keep the supporters who have busy lives. It must be unique, exciting, new and innovative. We shouldn’t try to be like the Timbers Army or Emerald City Supporters. We should best those groups in our own way. We should hope one day Timbers fans look at the Southeast and think, “Damn, that’s a well supported team.”
So let’s get specific: how could the Atlanta United supporter groups capitalize and set the example for what AUFC matches could look like?
Chants and Drums
The two go hand-in-hand. If you’re going to have drums, let it be a legion of drums rather than just one of two. I’m not going to straight up say any of the groups should copy the Charleston Battery drum line, but it really did sound awesome. Adding proper chants with an entire row of drums is a spectacle by itself.
Speaking of chants, this is where all fans will hear or learn chants for the first time. I’ll reiterate the need for unique and creative chants. I’ve had an opportunity to hear a few, and, while great, it still left me wanting more creativity, more uniqueness, more spark. Granted, this was more than six months ago. What many of us don’t want to hear is “I believe we will win,” “Come on (team) score a goal it’s really very simple,” “Where you go we’ll follow” or any chant applicable to any team across the US. Atlanta is rich and unique enough in culture that it should be easy to create chants based on our city rather than rely on tired renditions. I challenge the SGs to ONLY use chants unique to Atlanta.
Songs are different from chants. Songs are sung before the match, during the walkout, at halftime, after a goal or after the match. They are sung once, and we move on. The idea train specifically for this has been running at full steam, with Georgia On My Mind sung in a You’ll Never Walk Alone fashion before the match being a heavy favorite. Admittedly, it’d be a bit of a rip off of most clubs that do the same. But in this instance, I’d be OK with that. We shouldn’t limit our creativity to what other teams do, however. If there’s an idea to use songs in a different or unique manner, let’s entertain the thought and go down that rabbit hole. About 70 years passed before Liverpool fans began singing You’ll Never Walk Alone, so we’ve got time to figure that aspect of the supportership.
If I walked into The Benz tomorrow and sat down for an Atlanta United match in the supporter’s section, I would have no idea what to expect. Again, I’ve seen a few Atlanta-centric chants, but most of the Atlanta United supporters have no idea. There’s still plenty of time before the team starts playing, but it’s imperative that the communication between SGs like Terminus Legion, Footie Mob and Resurgence towards both members and non members is informative. Atlanta United doesn’t have traditions. We just have to begin them. Knowing what the supporters will begin with, whether they like it or not, is vital to the success of the atmosphere of the match.
All three supporter groups already know most of this. Efforts are already underway to figure out tifos, chants and songs. For September 24, it should be rather basic; chants, drums, I’ve heard a tifo is happening, tailgating, march to match, figuring out what to do after Atlanta United scores. It can be simple, but the goal is to create a memorable atmosphere, a preview of what matches will look like in 2017.
Ultimately, it’s still just a U18 match. In the grand scheme of things, the atmosphere around this game moving forward isn’t a high priority. But, in this occasion, creating a good atmosphere could have ripple effects that will have nothing to do with the people in attendance. A young kid could become inspired by what’s happening on and off the field. A family looking for something to do could decide to purchase season tickets. The players on the field could be find renewed inspiration to make it to the top level, so they can give back to the city that motivated that player to begin with. Supporters play an immense role off the field and impact the direction and identity of the club. Let’s make ours the envy of MLS.