Humble Beginnings
How a typical American sports fan was converted to a die-hard Rapiods supporter
Richard Terry
Apr 13th 2011

Many have asked why I am so into the sport of soccer. Most friends and family know that soccer is a passion of my life and I enjoy playing soccer as well as following the sport professionally. Many posts on Facebook and Twitter revolve around the Colorado Rapids or some soccer-related theme. This article will revolve around the reasons why I am so into the beautiful game.

In 1996, Major League Soccer launched its inaugural season. I was in 6th Grade at the time, and my club soccer team from Greeley, Colorado, was on the pitch at Mile High Stadium getting autographs from the new Colorado Rapids players. We were well aware that USA National Team defender Marcelo Balboa was a member of the Colorado Rapids, but he was still under contract in Mexicos top division and was not present for the autograph session before the season started. I was excited that my home-town city of Denver was chosen as one of the places for an MLS original club, since there were only 10 teams in the inaugural season. Even though I grew up in Greeley, CO (about 60 miles north of Denver), mostly everyone in the northern part of the state were loyal to the professional teams based in the capital city. I also lived in Denver for a few years before my family moved to Greeley. The old Mile High Stadium (pictured below) was the original home of the Colorado Rapids before the stadium was demolished and made way for Invesco Field at Mile High that opened in 2001. In 2007, Dicks Sporting Goods Park debuted as the home stadium for the Rapids in nearby Commerce City.

Even through I grew up playing soccer and enjoyed going to some Colorado Rapids games with my youth club team or whenever my family could attend, I did not really follow the club that closely. As a young kid growing up I was constantly glued to the television screen to watch the Colorado Rockies or the Colorado Avalanche. Obviously, I watched the Denver Broncos and enjoyed seeing the brilliance of John Elway. I also enjoyed the NBAs Denver Nuggets, even though for much of my youth, the Nuggets always seemed to have losing seasons. The two titles that the Denver Broncos won in the late 90s and the Colorado Avalanche Stanley Cup triumphs in 1996 and 2001 were amazing. The local media, Greeley Tribune, Denver Post, and Rocky Mountain News did not usually carry articles on soccer and I grew up reading those newspapers. I was aware that the Colorado Rapids had made the MLS Cup final in 1997, but I do not have any recollection of watching the game or reading about it when it happened. The Rapids lost 2-1 to a DC United club coached then by Bruce Arena.

So the real question is when did I really start to become the Rapids die-hard supporter that I am today? Lets fast-forward to college and the year 2005. I spent the summer months of 2005 teaching English in the Hungarian city of Debrecen (which is the 2nd largest city in the country). It is close to the Romanian border and I was aware that the local side had won the Hungarian title that year. In college, I watched a lot of European soccer. I lived in Los Angeles and a lot of my friends enjoyed the UEFA Champions League, Englands Premier League, Spains La Liga, and Italys Serie A. When I was in Hungary, I was able to attend a UEFA Champions League Qualifier (2nd Round) between Debrecen VSC and HNK Hajduk Split, a popular club from Croatia. The photo featured below was not from that match, but the same stadium, the Oláh Gábor Stadion Út in Debrecen.

My friend and I arrived to the stadium from the public transportation and many Debrecen fans were chanting and singing in the tram cars. A day before the match, I saw many of the Croatian supporters with their team colors and scarves around their necks in the city center enjoying beer and food. I knew this was going to be intense, but nothing prepared me for what I saw at the match. The stadium was small by most standards, about 10,000 capacity. However, when I arrived to the stadium close to a half hour before kick-off, the supporters end was full and smoke was rising from the flares that had been lit. They were all in full-voice and the Croatian supporters were in their own section that was lined off by security. They had their own flares and flags and were also in full voice. I had never seen anything like this in my life at any sporting event in Denver, much less the United States.

The Hungarian side won the match 3-1 and during the second half, the Croatian supporters had lit more fire flares and launched them towards the pitch. It sounded (no joke) like a missile and we could feel the heat from the large flares even though they were not that close to us. No one was hurt by the flares as they flew just outside the pitch and did not start any small fires. Security waited for everyone to leave the stadium before they let the Croatian supporters leave. Also, there were (not joking) hundreds of riot police with shields and many on horseback as well. There was not any violence after the game, and the police were everywhere to make sure there was no trouble.

I thought to myself, wow what an amazing experience...why are fans in the United States not like this (at least with football, which is most popular)? I had never seen away fans at NFL stadiums have their own away sections or thousands of fans chant in unison before or during a game. I wanted to support my home-town team as intensely as this. When I got back to the US, I attended a few LA Galaxy and Chivas USA games in Carson, CA to get more familiar with MLS. I attended the MLS All-Star game at Toyota Park in Chicago in the summer of 2006 when the MLS All-Stars defeated Chelsea FC. I knew all of the Chelsea players but not any of the MLS players. I figured it was time to start following MLS.

The following year, I moved back to Denver after I graduated college and that was the same year that Dicks Sporting Goods Park was completed. My first Rapids match I attended at DSG was July 4th 2007, against Columbus Crew (a 0-0 draw). It was amazing and I bought my first Rapids scarf at that game. I started to watch a lot of the games on TV and got familiar with the players. I also went to more matches and bought season tickets for 2008 and 2009. I liked seeing our supporters sing and chant and light smoke bombs to make the atmosphere better.

However, once the supporters terrace was complete, that changed everything. I immediately identified with the newly formed BSG (Bulldog Supporters Group) and started to learn a lot of the songs that were written for the Rapids. I also started to travel to support the team as well. My trip to Salt Lake City in September of 2010 was an amazing experience for me. We were loud and sang and chanted all game for our beloved Rapids. As you know from my previous articles, I also travelled to Toronto for the MLS Cup Final. I will aways support the Colorado Rapids and I am also always one to recruit new fans who have never witnessed professional soccer in the North America. Major League Soccer has now grown to 18 clubs for the 2011 season and Montreal Impact will become the 19th club in 2012 with possibly another team from New York, Atlanta, or Miami. The Colorado Rapids will forever be my favorite sports team!! :D :D


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