Victory in Defeat? Fresno Celebrates its First Professional Soccer Match

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As game time approached the chances of rain seemed to increase. The sky and clouds above darkened, the air felt moist, and the cold breeze reminded you that your mom, your significant other was right: you needed a jacket over that hoodie. The water never fell from the sky, but the Las Vegas Lights were not so forgiving. They struck early and often. The first goal game in the first few minutes of the game, just as everyone was settling in their seats. It was followed by two more goals. When the third strike entered the net, a young ten-year-old boy got out of his seat, ran up the stands, and towards the exit. Tears covered his face. I expected others to follow, to leave early to get in line at the brewery or to get to the parking lot and beat the traffic. But they didn’t, they stayed for the ninety minutes and watched Fresno Football Club (Fresno FC) put two in the back of the net. In the end, Fresno FC lost 3-2 and yet the defeat felt much like victory.

Rain or Shine: Something like 7,700 people attended Fresno FC’s first official game. They arrived early and stayed late. They drove up from Visalia on the 99 and down from Madera. They were young and old, white and brown, and have been waiting for this. The crowd was energetic and the Fire Squad, the supporters club, is well versed in the language of fútbol and fandom, in marching and chanting, and even in the politics of language (more on that soon).

Somos Zorros: San Joaquin Valley residents want to see Fresno FC stay and stay for a long time. All sporting activities have lines: lines to get in the stadium, lines to buy shitty food, lines to buy beer, lines to use the bathroom. The longest line throughout the night was the line to buy Zorro gear…They ran out of the kid sizes.

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After every Fresno Fuego (PDL) home game, players head over to Tioga Sequoia Brewery to chill. Fresno FC continue this tradition. Fresno State students with Christian Chaney

The Squad: Leading up to today’s game the starting 11 has changed a few times. We were expecting to see Alejandro Covarrubias in the line-up as well as Jose Cuevas, who is from Farmersville. Many were hoping Milton Blanco might see some playing time. Bullard High School graduate and former Fresno Fuego star Christian Chaney got some playing time and played well. He looked good in the air and had a few headers on goal. We suspect fans will want to see local players, but fans will also start to get to know the team. Juan Pablo Caffa, Jemal Johnson, and Alex Cooper looked good. Overall, it took Fresno FC some time to adjust, the pace seemed a bit fast for them. Either way, its a good squad, one equipped to produce wins.

Highlights here

The Flag: Some of us were hoping to see the Mexican flag in the stands. To see it fly and represent not the Mexican nation, but the countless paisas that do the labor necessary to make everything work. To see it fly and say we are here to stay. It never appeared. Instead, what quickly emerged was the all too common homophobic chant of “puto” (homo). “Puto” before the goalie kicks the ball. The Fire Squad quickly took to twitter to condemn the chant: “as group of supporters that has tried to fight against yelling a certain word on goal kicks we are disappointed that so many around us did it throughout the match.” We hope that the Fire Squad wins this battle, though everyone has to do their part. Tell your homie from home and your tio to kick it already. In the end, the game doesn’t need it.

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Historia Publica & The Other Football: As Fresno welcomes it first professional team, historia publica is documenting and uncovering the history of soccer in the San Joaquin Valley. Is it possible to be a fan and a historian? To be both simultaneously?

Authorship: This piece was written with input from my students (who are also collaborators on The Other Football) via chats in the stands, on the street, messages via Twitter, Instagram, and email.

Author: Romeo Guzman

I am an assistant professor in U.S. and Public History at Fresno State, where I founded and direct the Valley Public History Initiative. I received my Ph.D. in Latin American history at Columbia University. I am the co-director of the South El Monte Arts Posse and its award-winning public history project East of East. I currently reside in the Central Valley (with regular visits to the San Gabriel Valley) with Carribean Fragoza, the writer, and Aura, our sassy and fierce six year old. For more on my writings visit romeoguzman.com

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