Something special happened after the final whistle that marked Utah Royals FC’s opening victory over Washington Spirit.
If you were one of the 18,015 in attendance at Rio Tinto Stadium this past Saturday, you were there as Gunny Jónsdóttir broke from the team celebration, hopped the rope that was going up to keep fans on the grass away from the fireworks, and ran to get the drums going.
The time had come for this:
This will never not be a passionate and inspiring thing to be a part of. #URFC pic.twitter.com/VVK7SWurh6— Ryan J. Kelly (@sirveaux24) April 23, 2019
It was fitting to see this after a win over Washington, as they were the opponent the first time this happened following the first home win on May 5th, 2018. I had lamented at the time that a “small” crowd of 7,500 were there for it, and wondered how it would sound with a nearly full stadium. This past weekend, I got my wish.
If you’ve followed soccer for long enough, you’ve seen things like this from other teams, usually in Europe, but American clubs are starting to catch on as well. Even Real Salt Lake has finally begun a post-match tradition of celebrating in front of their supporters group in the south end, but the Royals were doing it from the first win at home, and I find it to be extremely important.
To my mind there is a vital piece of soccer culture that exists where the players and the supporters make a connection. It’s hard sometimes because they feel so distant and larger than life, and we yearn for any chance we can have to be close to our heroes. Though the Royals players, and most women’s players in general, are very accessible and engaging with fans, sharing a moment with your gathered crowd solidifies the bond between us and them. They stand there on the field, exhausted from the effort of winning, and ask for us to join them in celebrating.
It forges something unique for us, something more than just a group of people who cheer for 90 minutes and then walk away. Each of us is part of what it means to be URFC. When they wear those uniforms, they carry us all with them, and we carry them with our cheers and songs, our waving flags, our unending love and support. When it’s all over at the end of a match, we celebrate together as one, a united family that never gives up on each other. It’s more than just them recognizing us for being there; it’s a celebration that we share with them.
It makes the wins that much more special, knowing that they’re excited to start the chant and bring us along to share the joy. It’s passionate and inspiring, always a thrill to be a part of, and hopefully something that endures as a lasting tradition for every player and supporter who is a part of our club.