Sunday, July 13, 2014

For Orlando City's supporters, it's not purple that's off-color

Saturday night at glorious Disney Lion Stadium (or whatever Orlando City's calling the field out back at ESPN Wild World) was much like any other of the soccer matches there this season.

The Boys in Purple were unrelenting on the soggy pitch. Fans came out in droves despite both lousy weather and I-4 traffic on a buggy, humid, damp weekend night.

But in the beleaguered supporters section, it wasn't about what USL PRO scoring leader Kevin Molino was going to create (he almost created a score in the 60th minute), or if Oviedo's own Dennis Chin would excite the crowd by scoring a goal (he did, and he did 33 minutes in), or if the Lions would keep their unbeaten league match streak intact, now up to 17 games. It was how the Iron Lion Firm and the Ruckus would react to a rough week.

After nearly 20 members of two of the most vocal supporter groups were involved in a fracas and four fans were arrested last Sunday at a non-league match against the Tampa Bay Rowdies (what may now be the last in the lackluster series), the club included banning the four arrestees until further notice and put the supporter groups on "double secret probation" until they agree to adhere to a "a new fan code of conduct which follows MLS Supporter Group guidelines."

The New Testament according to Phil Rawlins
Saturday, the first home game since the Tampa Bay fracas, team and Disney officials handed out a copy of the new Fan Code of Conduct to each patron. They couldn't get a game lineup right there at the gate, but they were reminded not to use chants with questionable language, make abusive gestures, "no bullying", and to not to anything "damaging to the reputation of Orlando City or MLS".
The biggest concern on the mind of Orlando City brass was that the stupid fans were going to act stupid.

Oh, by the way, Orlando City defeated Wilmington, 2-0, keeping that unbeaten streak alive.

Aside from the two goals the game was mostly uneventful -- except for when the teams broke into a brief scuffle that saw matching yellow cards issued and a chant from the Iron Lion Firm (or maybe the Ruckus, they blend) rang out ... "Hooligans!"

Takes one to ... nah, too easy.

In the past, and despite recent unpleasantness, and the club has allowed those clubs have at it while expecting them to police themselves.  Smoke bombs, flags, banners, more horns and drums than a Tejano band and streamers cascading onto the field and were all in a night's work for the ILF and Ruckus. But those were just the moments between the near constant chants and often featured foul language which became a talking point last year.

Offered miles of slack, the supporters ran with it and made going wild as much a part of the soccer games as offside calls and slide tackles under the premise that "fans in Europe do it and it's all cool."

Yeah boys? Attitudes are different over there, because when it comes to sports there's soccer and ... um, well, I guess they get excited about the Winter Olympics every four years. That's it.

Two thoughts come to mind here ... "You're better than that" (why compare yourselves to ugly Europeans?) and "Govern yourselves accordingly," which would have served those guys well, including the four who left in handcuffs, who got escorted from Al Lang Field Sunday.

I've heard stories from both sides about the Tampa game. The Rowdies' fans started it. Orlando fans sat in their section. Lions fans got "disorderly" only because Tampa fans were pummeling their fellow fans.

Here's a solution: don't get into fights at an away match. Simple. Succinct. Don't start none, there won't be none. Be better than that. Be above that.

They had the chance to start Saturday at Disney, and by in large they did. The match was already minutes old by the time I made the cross-continental trek from media parking to the press box and I was told that rooter-section members had already broken two of the covenants.

A Disney-Orlando City-Sheriff's show of force tells
a couple rooters they'll have to go elsewhere to drink
their expensive, watered-down beer.
I thought it would be a long night; a unified front of at least six team security, Disney security and Sheriff's deputies were standing along the boundary fence, staring -- no, glaring -- at the supporters, waiting for them to get out of line. A cop held out a picture, presumably of one of those who had been arrested in Tampa and trespassed from Disney. Saturday was the night a streaker could have evaded a pre-occupied show of force and crossed the entire field.

Late in the first half, ILF started a chant that was funny, topical and conforming to the new rules: "No one likes, no one liiiiiiikes us and we don't care ... we're Iron Lion Firm." But at halftime, two rooter members clearly were heard dropping f-bombs at the field and were pointed out and escorted from the premises.

Does this look like a suspended rooter section to you?
In the second half, those who survived the night chanted again in glee: "We're still here!" Well, come the 75th minute, they weren't, as much of the ILF walked out as one, cursing the name of "Alex".

I don't like the idea of throwing someone out of a sporting event for foul language. We're not in church. We're not in a library. And an MLS stadium will never be mistaken for either. But parents should feel at ease bringing all the kids to the game. They wouldn't take them to a game in most of Europe for safety and salty reasons.

Luckily, Disney World and downtown Orlando are far, far from Europe.

Listen to Ken Jackson, along with Austin David and Juan Bernal, each week on the Community Sports Report on WPRK-FM 91.5, or online at

No comments:

Post a Comment

Wanna tell me how wrong I am? Be my guest, just form an orderly line, please.

Tweets by @Phoulballs