It's almost time for soccer again in Chattanooga.
The Chattanooga Football Club is set to open their home season Wednesday, May 14 at Finley Stadium against the Wilmington Hammerheads. Originally, the home opener was scheduled for Saturday, May 17.
Chattanooga will host a match in the 2014 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open, an annual competition open to all amateur and professional soccer teams affiliated with U.S. soccer.
Season tickets are surprisingly affordable. A full season pass is $30 per person.
If you’ve ever been to a game, you know about the Chattahooligans. They scream and make a ruckus from section 109 and are easily the loudest, most passionate fans in amateur soccer.
We asked Galen Riley ("Capo") to preview the 2014 season for us. He serves as a sort of "head cheerleader" throughout the matches and agreed to speak candidly, with permission from the Chattahooligan collective.
In a nutshell, who are the Chattahooligans?
The Chattahooligans are a community more than an organization—there's no hierarchy, and everyone contributes where they can. I do serve a number of roles: social media management, travel planning, merchandise sales, chant/song writing, etc. We have a mascot; a brewmaster; a seamstress; a tailgate grill master; sign makers; some leaders in the drum corps; and a slew of creative, crafty individuals.
Suppose I've never been to a CFC game before. What am I walking into?
First, a bit about the league. The National Premier Soccer League is a semi-pro league that spans much of the U.S. Team rosters are filled with top-tier college players getting experience and staying in shape over the summer, guys seeking a professional career who see the league as a way to get exposure and extremely talented locals who play as a hobby. Chattanooga FC is unique among NPSL clubs: The team is always competitive, with four division titles, three regional titles and two appearances in the national championship since 2009. Chattanooga also boasts the highest attendance in the league ... With the extra soccer awareness from this summer's World Cup, I expect average attendance to approach or exceed 5,000 this season.
You're walking into one of the best entertainment values in the region. A casual spectator can expect high-quality play, generally free from diving and time wasting that are fair complaints about soccer, in the best facility in the league ... Chattanooga FC is all Chattanooga: The board is made of Chattanooga movers and shakers, the sponsors are local businesses, concessions are served out of the same food trucks you already love, and the beer is brewed just down the street at Big River Grille. You'll notice that the atmosphere inside the stadium is electric. All of the fans are intensely into the game.
We have a women's team now? That's cool!
Just announced and a surprise to most everyone. There's a Women’s Premier Soccer League team operating under the Chattanooga FC name this season. I had the chance to watch their debut in a scrimmage versus Carson-Newman College recently and was impressed.
Your role as a Chattahooligan is what, exactly? Taunt the other team?
The phrase "soccer hooligan" carries a lot of weight. Someone who hears it might imagine flares, smoke bombs, vulgar language and violence, but we don't endorse any of that behavior. I like to say the Chattahooligans are rowdy but PG. We've constrained ourselves to be clean, and a ton of creativity has come from that. When possible, we're really funny, and it's especially rewarding when a player or coach cracks a smile. We maintain a songbook, though there is a lot of improvisation. I count a large number of creative, hilarious people in our ranks, and the best chants are composed and sung on the fly.
What’s your favorite taunt or chant?
I really enjoy the chants and songs which are specific to the opposing team. Showing up at somebody else's house with a biting song is a great way to make an impression. If you really want to get in someone's head, seeming a little bit insane is quite effective. We've sung about water management and snarling traffic in Atlanta. We've brought bags of grass seed to a poorly kept field in Huntsville. In Knoxville, we wrote a great parody of "Rocky Top" about that team's style of play and made signs making light of the infamous UT fraternity "butt chugging" incident. Country singer Johnny Horton has a song about a famous Tennessean conquering the Battle of New Orleans, which was easily adapted for our purposes. I didn't get to go to Greensboro, North Carolina, but I'm told that the crowd was left stunned and silent when a James Taylor parody I wrote called "Scorin' on Carolina in My Mind" was sung.
My personal favorite isn't a taunt. I have a special place in my heart for chant that we call "The Back and Forth." It's simple and beautiful. The Chattahooligan section begins with a slow, deliberate "CHAT-TA" at the top of our lungs. The rest of the crowd responds with "NOO-GA," and the cycle repeats. It's moving, and nothing fills me with happiness and civic pride quite like it. The players take special notice, too.
Are the Chattahooligans a cult? If so, how does one join?
Just the opposite! The Chattahooligans are a community of fun, talented, intelligent, interesting, (relatively) normal people, most of whom have become friends outside of soccer season. We just celebrated our second intra-hooligan wedding, even.
Joining is simple enough: Show up. Be loud. Have fun.
If you're reading this article, you are invited. You can find the Chattahooligans at our tailgate party in the north parking lot at Finley Stadium before the game and in section 110 after the whistle. It'll be easy to locate us; we tend to stick out.