Before I start waxing philosophical here, I should preface with the fact that while I call the Austin Aztex “my team”, I’ve only been to a handful of games. I say that they are my team because after a decade or so in a city that is so incredibly nasty, negative and obnoxious to it’s teams and fellow fans, even if they are winning (which is admittedly rare), I’ve finally experienced “home-town-sports” the way it’s meant to be experienced — it was actually fun. I love the Austin Aztex because when I’m at their matches, I feel a part of the community. Even the fact that the team was exiled to Kelly Reeves stadium (20 minutes away from Austin) because of all the cray-cray floods has brought folks together.
A couple of months ago I made a new friend at a diner. Two new friends, actually; a couple. Yoni and Inbar. They are both from Israel and both my age, so pretty obviously we have a lot in common. Inbar is even a huge Hapoel Jerusalem Basketball Club fan, and so am I! Her husband Yoni and I share something different; the primal love for football that I think every Israeli, and really, almost boy has. It’s what makes us throw our arms in the air after we miss a gimme on FIFA, it’s what makes our hearts drop when the wrong team scores, and it’s what makes it tick like heaven when the good guys finally make that comeback. Naturally, I took Yoni to an Aztex game.
Community? At the gates who did w run into? A girl from my Austin SSC soccer team. At the concession stand we ran into my boss Carl! In the stands? A friend taking his young, soccer fanatic son to the game. THAT is a community. The people that you love doing the things that you all love together. I loved, for example, the fact that there was no alcohol permitted at the premises. There’s the rare unruly drunk, sure, but everyone behaves. So the families keep going to matches. As long as there’s a team, that is. And here’s the real danger of saying “we don’t have a stadium this year, so no games” — any grassroots movement, to succeed, needs to have consistency. What is the point of getting a soccer specific stadium, if you are constantly (second time in recent years!) plucking the team away.
I want to live in an Austin when the next generation of our community are a) soccer fans, and b) are fans of their local team, and if that team is the Austin Aztex, then let’s get started. I want to live in an Austin where our 40 thousand seat soccer-specific stadium is affordably filled with singing matchgoers at every game, a city that’s not only known for it’s music festivals, but for a burgeoning soccer scene. A city that can one day hold a World Cup match. Think of that. The fun part is that my generation’s already in. You can’t go to Zilker park without finding several pickup soccer games every day. Austin SSC deemed soccer so popular that it has three soccer leagues running concurrently (two 8v8s and one full-field, full side league). Eberly’s Army are singing and dancing their butts off at every home game. We want it, y’all.
But in order to give us what we want, and furthermore capture the imagination of the next generation of fans, the Austin Aztex need to start now. And they need to start by giving us stories. By giving us heroes and villains. By giving us, and the kids, something to emotionally invest in. By giving us those same memories that turn someone into a fan forever. Unfortunately the only story for the next twelve months is that there is no season. And until there is one really, there are no Austin Aztex. This isn’t Wimbeldon. That club had existed for 115 years, playing at the same ground for 79 of them. The absolute truth is that the stands weren’t filled this past season. And yeah, sure, the corporate entity may exist, but don’t assume that the relationship between the city’s dwellers and the football club that strong that going a year without playing a competitive game isn’t going to put a ding in attendance. While I say that my generation wants it, we want a local club to root for, not every’s that invested quite yet.
And we won’t be for as long as y’all aren’t playing games.