Editor’s note: Welcome to a new feature on the #SaveTheCrew website, we’re calling this Massive Memoirs.
The fans are critical to the success of this movement and we will spotlight stories from the people that make up the Columbus Crew SC as we try to answer “What do the Crew mean to you?”
I’ve been meaning to reach out and write you guys for a few weeks. I attended the Conference Semifinal game last Tuesday. I think being there in MAPFRE again truly made everything that’s been happening with the Crew so much more real to me than I suppose it had been before.
I just wanted to get in touch, tell you why the Crew means so much to me, and offer my help. Hold on to your butts. This is going to be a long story.
I attended the University of Cincinnati for college, where I was in a design program that gave me opportunities to intern all over the USA. UC was also where I met my boyfriend Jared, who is through-and-through a friendly local soccer nut. Little by little, he began to introduce me to the world of professional soccer, which I previously had been completely oblivious to. I never really followed a pro team of any kind. I had mostly followed small local teams and the US national teams. And feeding off of my sister’s love for playing soccer in high school and college was totally intoxicating to me, but nothing more. MLS and other leagues like it were a foreign concept to me. I had no idea what I was in for.
In the summer of 2014, I found an internship in Columbus, Ohio. Jared would make the drive up from Cincinnati almost every weekend, and it didn’t take long for him to suggest we check out a Columbus Crew game. I was told that the “Chicago Fire” would be an exciting match to see, and I figured seeing a local soccer game would be a fun way to spend a lazy Saturday.
I had no idea what I was in for, and I think Jared was secretly counting on that, and relishing my naiveté.
He had been to Crew games before and knew the ropes. I borrowed a yellow jersey of his and we headed over to the stadium in the late afternoon of May 24th. We found parking on 17th Street and then made our way to 4th Street Bar.
Sweet mother of god.
I had never before been in a place where I felt more love for a soccer team in my life than I did in that bar. There was Black & Gold everywhere, a chant was being sung by three intoxicated men on the patio, and the room was full of electricity and excitement for the game ahead. We easily blended with everyone else as we got a few drinks at the bar and watched the crowd grow and churn.
Jared knew from previous experiences that many Crew fans also tailgated at the stadium. We downed our beers and headed over to Columbus Crew Stadium.
Once we got there, we wandered through a sea of bright yellow in the parking lot. This was a community that I had no idea existed for my favorite sport. Despite my Black & Gold camouflage, I must have still stood out as someone new to the Crew-niverse due to the look of wide-eyed wonder stuck on my face.
Since neither of us really knew anyone there aside from each other, we made our way into the stadium fairly early. Jared purchased our tickets through Crew Union, and so for my first professional soccer game ever, we sat in the dead center of the Nordecke.
The crowd started filling in and I started to hear the word “tifo” floating around the section.
Jared saw my confusion and explained to me what a “tifo” was. Chants and drums started to rumble all around us as it became clear to me that this was not a place where one simply sat down and the bleachers started bouncing and teetering beneath me as players took the field.
The starting lineup was called, the national anthem was sung, and suddenly I found a massive piece of painted fabric rushing up over the crowd and up over my head. I will never forget how loudly the bouncing crowd beneath the tifo chanted, or how I felt when the fabric whooshed back down the bleachers and suddenly it was all smoke and streamers and tidal waves of happy song clouding the air as the game began.
That was the moment that I truly fell in love with soccer.
Right there in the middle of the Nordecke, in Columbus Crew Stadium, wearing Black & Gold. It might seem like such a small thing to someone who experiences it almost every week, but it’s a moment I will never forget.
The Crew won that game against the Chicago Fire 2-0. I went to many more Crew games that summer, and even continued into the fall when it was time to move back to Cincinnati for school. I made the trip up to Columbus with Jared several more times.
The next year was 2015, and I went to 7 or 8 Crew games in MAPFRE Stadium, including the Conference Final against the New York Red Bulls and the MLS Final against a team I’d never heard of before or since. Who were they again?
I longed to be more involved, but it was difficult to do so when I was living so far away. I loved the team and I loved going to games, but something was missing. I needed soccer like this in my home town. You may have caught on by now where this is going.
FC Cincinnati was announced, and Jared and I got involved with the supporters’ group called Die Innenstadt almost immediately after it came into being. I remember that moment under my very first tifo, before I knew what a tifo was, and I’m pleased to say that I actually had the opportunity to design the FCC supporters’ first tifo – in about 5 minutes in a friend’s studio space downtown, full of excited people shouting suggestions at me and hovering over my laptop. It’s admittedly not my best work. I can only imagine that you guys may have had similar experiences when you were first starting out.
I wanted to help spread that love of soccer by being a part of building a local soccer community in my home town. I was hoping for just a tiny bit of the love I’d experienced at Crew games.
I don’t care what anyone’s opinion is about how or who I support. I truly love both teams with all my heart. Both for very different reasons, obviously. Sure, when FCC played the Crew that fateful day in June, I hated you guys for about 90 minutes. But both before and after the game, drinking and laughing with fans from both sides, that tiny glimpse of what a rivalry between Columbus and Cincinnati could look like was absolutely electric. I could feel excitement and love and hate and passion coursing through the crowds, and I loved every second of it.
I help drape Nippert Stadium in painted banners before almost every home game. I’ve designed a few more tifos for FCC over the past two years and I help my friends trace and paint banners in old empty warehouses. Every single time I help to coordinate a tifo display on game day, I flash back to that day in 2014. At my very first professional soccer match under a giant tifo. When I fell in love with soccer, and fell in love with the Columbus Crew.
I so badly want to see the Columbus Crew around for many years to come. I want the soccer community in Ohio to grow, not shrink.
Despite my allegiance to my own local soccer club, the Crew still means so much to me. And that’s why I want to help in any way I can. If there are banners I can help paint or things I can help design, please get in touch. Friends of mine in DI have also expressed interest in helping you guys paint things if you need more hands.
I want to help save the club that led me to fall in love with soccer.
Save the Crew!
– Christina Koplyay