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San Diego Loyal fans – non-stop chants, non-stop drumming

I don’t have any reason to hate Orange County supporters

"We don’t get to sit down and just enjoy the soccer match."
"We don’t get to sit down and just enjoy the soccer match."

“We didn’t pick the best year to start but we survived it,” is how San Diego Loyal interim president Ricardo Campos sums up getting a division-two United Soccer League team up and running in 2020. The club squeezed in a single home game at the University of San Diego’s Torero Stadium on March 7, 2020, before the Covid-19 shutdowns swept the country. The home-opener of their inaugural season became the only game they would play that year with local fans in attendance.

But one collective that was there from the start were the Locals. They are a supporters’ group for the Loyal that came together around the same time that the team formed in 2019. From the start, the Loyal had a highly organized, fan collective that would operate alongside of them.

About 150-200 Locals generally show up for the home games.

“Essentially, we’re the most dedicated supporters’,” Steve Brockhoff, president of the Locals, explained. “What we do is a sacrifice to enhance the gameday experience and to make sure that the home stadium experience is a great atmosphere and that the players feel like they’re playing at home — that they feel welcome, and they feel supported. We drum and we sing and we’re active. It’s a sacrifice in the sense that we don’t get to sit down and just enjoy the soccer match. We do miss aspects of the game that other people don’t, but at the same time, we do that because we want the team to succeed so much that we’re willing to take that hit.”

The Locals can be found in section 109 of the 6000-seat Torero Stadium during Loyal home games. It’s a general admission seating area directly behind the goal on the northeastern end of the field. If you find yourself sitting in section 109, as I did when the Loyal took on the Sacramento Republic on a recent Saturday night, you quickly realize that the supporters’ take their role seriously. It’s not an occasional chant and occasional drums — it’s non-stop chants and non-stop drumming. And it’s not random either, it’s all coordinated by the supporters’ group version of a conductor — the capo.

Campos described the capo as “the guy who leads the chants at the bottom of the section, killing his voice the whole time.” Brockhoff added that the capo will tip off the supporters’ as to which chant is coming next, and how many times they are going to do it to “keep everybody on the same page.” Supporters’ groups have a long history with soccer clubs worldwide, and Brockhoff cites the gameday rituals of US supporters’ groups (organized chants/drums/flags) as being more in line with those established by Mexican and Argentine clubs than the less organized and more organic random chanters that tend to support European teams.

The Locals can also be found at away games — some of which they arrive at en masse via chartered buses. But even when they travel in large numbers, they do not work the games the way they do while on their home turf at Torero Stadium.

“The away games are almost the funnest part of it all,” Brockhoff explained. “It’s kind of a different experience. It’s not at your home stadium. You’re in somebody else’s house, but you’re still there to support your team. At an away game you can have a drum, you can have a flag, you can still kind of do your thing on a much smaller scale. It’s this really unique experience that you’re able to bond with other people.”

But what does this bonding entail? What happens when the Locals step onto another soccer club’s turf? Is it akin to the potential fisticuffs that one could imagine flying between Chargers and Raiders fans in the Qualcomm Stadium parking lot circa 2005? Or do they simply exchange a clothing accessory? The answer is that latter.

“We bring a scarf, and they have a scarf that we are able to exchange,” Brockhoff said. “Then you shake hands and go, ‘What you guys are doing is really great. It’s really nice to meet you.’”

So, pretty much the exact opposite of the expected outcome of the Chargers/Raiders scenario.

“I grew up going to Chargers games,” Brockhoff explained. “That’s deep-rooted. Those rivalries are decades old, and this is brand new. It’s very hard to force a rivalry and to force people to not like each other just because you’re in opposition. I think that’s really unique about American soccer, too. Manchester United and Manchester City hate each other, and I don’t have any reason to hate Orange County supporters. They’re good people, and when they come down, they’re nice and they’re friendly. They’re just supporting their team and there is nothing wrong with that.”

According to Brockhoff, the Locals currently have about 400 active members, and about 150-200 generally show up for the home games. They are (at this time) the only officially recognized supporters’ group for the Loyal, but Campos did mention there are two other groups (Chavos De Loyal and Rainbow Loyal) that are attempting to build their numbers to become officially recognized by the club as well.

Campos also mentioned that the independence of the supporters’ groups is of vital importance to soccer clubs like the Loyal.

“They will always be able to call us out when we are doing good things, but, more importantly, they will call us out when we are doing things that they don’t believe are right,” he said. “If we’re not performing on the field or if we’re not approaching our community engagement the right way, these guys and girls will always have the opportunity to speak directly with the club and voice their concern about the direction that we’re taking it. I think that’s unique. You usually don’t get a group of people that is that big having that kind of voice within a sports club.”

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"We don’t get to sit down and just enjoy the soccer match."
"We don’t get to sit down and just enjoy the soccer match."

“We didn’t pick the best year to start but we survived it,” is how San Diego Loyal interim president Ricardo Campos sums up getting a division-two United Soccer League team up and running in 2020. The club squeezed in a single home game at the University of San Diego’s Torero Stadium on March 7, 2020, before the Covid-19 shutdowns swept the country. The home-opener of their inaugural season became the only game they would play that year with local fans in attendance.

But one collective that was there from the start were the Locals. They are a supporters’ group for the Loyal that came together around the same time that the team formed in 2019. From the start, the Loyal had a highly organized, fan collective that would operate alongside of them.

About 150-200 Locals generally show up for the home games.

“Essentially, we’re the most dedicated supporters’,” Steve Brockhoff, president of the Locals, explained. “What we do is a sacrifice to enhance the gameday experience and to make sure that the home stadium experience is a great atmosphere and that the players feel like they’re playing at home — that they feel welcome, and they feel supported. We drum and we sing and we’re active. It’s a sacrifice in the sense that we don’t get to sit down and just enjoy the soccer match. We do miss aspects of the game that other people don’t, but at the same time, we do that because we want the team to succeed so much that we’re willing to take that hit.”

The Locals can be found in section 109 of the 6000-seat Torero Stadium during Loyal home games. It’s a general admission seating area directly behind the goal on the northeastern end of the field. If you find yourself sitting in section 109, as I did when the Loyal took on the Sacramento Republic on a recent Saturday night, you quickly realize that the supporters’ take their role seriously. It’s not an occasional chant and occasional drums — it’s non-stop chants and non-stop drumming. And it’s not random either, it’s all coordinated by the supporters’ group version of a conductor — the capo.

Campos described the capo as “the guy who leads the chants at the bottom of the section, killing his voice the whole time.” Brockhoff added that the capo will tip off the supporters’ as to which chant is coming next, and how many times they are going to do it to “keep everybody on the same page.” Supporters’ groups have a long history with soccer clubs worldwide, and Brockhoff cites the gameday rituals of US supporters’ groups (organized chants/drums/flags) as being more in line with those established by Mexican and Argentine clubs than the less organized and more organic random chanters that tend to support European teams.

The Locals can also be found at away games — some of which they arrive at en masse via chartered buses. But even when they travel in large numbers, they do not work the games the way they do while on their home turf at Torero Stadium.

“The away games are almost the funnest part of it all,” Brockhoff explained. “It’s kind of a different experience. It’s not at your home stadium. You’re in somebody else’s house, but you’re still there to support your team. At an away game you can have a drum, you can have a flag, you can still kind of do your thing on a much smaller scale. It’s this really unique experience that you’re able to bond with other people.”

But what does this bonding entail? What happens when the Locals step onto another soccer club’s turf? Is it akin to the potential fisticuffs that one could imagine flying between Chargers and Raiders fans in the Qualcomm Stadium parking lot circa 2005? Or do they simply exchange a clothing accessory? The answer is that latter.

“We bring a scarf, and they have a scarf that we are able to exchange,” Brockhoff said. “Then you shake hands and go, ‘What you guys are doing is really great. It’s really nice to meet you.’”

So, pretty much the exact opposite of the expected outcome of the Chargers/Raiders scenario.

“I grew up going to Chargers games,” Brockhoff explained. “That’s deep-rooted. Those rivalries are decades old, and this is brand new. It’s very hard to force a rivalry and to force people to not like each other just because you’re in opposition. I think that’s really unique about American soccer, too. Manchester United and Manchester City hate each other, and I don’t have any reason to hate Orange County supporters. They’re good people, and when they come down, they’re nice and they’re friendly. They’re just supporting their team and there is nothing wrong with that.”

According to Brockhoff, the Locals currently have about 400 active members, and about 150-200 generally show up for the home games. They are (at this time) the only officially recognized supporters’ group for the Loyal, but Campos did mention there are two other groups (Chavos De Loyal and Rainbow Loyal) that are attempting to build their numbers to become officially recognized by the club as well.

Campos also mentioned that the independence of the supporters’ groups is of vital importance to soccer clubs like the Loyal.

“They will always be able to call us out when we are doing good things, but, more importantly, they will call us out when we are doing things that they don’t believe are right,” he said. “If we’re not performing on the field or if we’re not approaching our community engagement the right way, these guys and girls will always have the opportunity to speak directly with the club and voice their concern about the direction that we’re taking it. I think that’s unique. You usually don’t get a group of people that is that big having that kind of voice within a sports club.”

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