Dear FC Cincinnati Supporters,

Today is an incredibly exciting and triumphant day. The first match played in the new West End Stadium. An MLS match played in the heart of Cincinnati's downtown and more-or-less in OTR. What a journey. 5 years all leading up to today.

This is a love letter to each and every one of you, members of The Pride, Die Innenstadt, The Briogáid, Queen City Mafia, Hanger 937, Queen City Firm, Norden, Auxilia One, Los Caballeros, and the dozen or so fake ones that KLR has plugged over the years. You all put in the work to help get us to this point.

This is also an apology to every wife, husband, girlfriend, and boyfriend who had to ask "Really? Another soccer thing?" at any point in the last half decade. But it paid off. It has been worth it. Probably anyway.

Go ahead and take some credit for what is about to happen today. Without the work supporters put in, there's no way this stadium happens. FC Cincinnati developed a reputation for having an amazing match day atmosphere. Non-soccer fans and non-sports fans knew they had to come see a match because it was so unique. Yes, turning the Reading Rainbow song into a stupid chant helped open an MLS stadium in OTR. Max making YouTube videos of K-Pop inspired songs that drummers learned over a winter helped build a quarter of a billion dollar stadium in Cincinnati. Jeremy leading fans into ever-increasingly creepy warehouses to paint banners earned this city "513" LED fins. Without the atmosphere, there isn't the fan support. Without the fan support, FC Cincinnati is not in MLS. It's that simple.

And how many of our members learned about local politics by trying to drum up support for the stadium and MLS bid? Physical altercations with reporters, city council members berating supporters in meetings, being called liars by county commissioners, and organizing it all on a secret website. Good times.

Speaking of good times, every time there is some supporter drama in another city with their supporter groups, this fanbase should count ourselves thankful to have had the leadership in place with all of the Supporter Groups. Sure there have been some squabbles (I think I'm still blocked on twitter by a few of you), but overall, together the supporters have built a cohesive environment to foster active support not just among the supporters, but with the club as well.  And to their credit, FC Cincinnati takes the Supporter Groups seriously. Mostly anyway. No need to talk about that mini-marathon thing.

Every person who has sacrificed other... let's be honest here, more important aspects of their lives to help contribute to the supporter culture around this club deserves a hearty congratulations today. Across our fanbase we have some of the best song writers, graphic designers, artists, and parliamentarians in soccer. And all that talent and effort has been leading us up today.

In a lot of ways, supporters made it look easy to the outside world. 1500+ dues paying members, electing boards, executing beautiful active support in the stadium, raising money for charity, forging strategic partnerships, managing egos, creating a unified organization to run everything through; just incredible. It's now assumed when people go to FCC matches there will be drums, beautiful banners, songs, smoke, a tifo at big matches, a march, pregame bars. Nobody sees the hundreds of hours that go into making each and every aspect of this come together.

It would be discouraging to know how many people think the club is the one putting this on. Please never publish the results of that survey if it is ever taken.

It's impossible for an Supporter Group leader to write something like this and it NOT come across as self-congratulatory or worse, I understand that. But Cincinnati has some of the best soccer supporters in the country and I've never felt like the work supporters have done has ever been properly recognized by the outside world. It's a niche inside of a niche. So hopefully this post helps tip the scale back a bit. Hell, remember when one of the Supporter Group members had to write the smoke liability waivers for the club to make... supporters sign? Classic.

But supporters also wrote a list of demands to the FO about what you wanted in a new stadium and supporters got every single thing they wanted on that list. Chris White delivered us cup holders and we fended off Bailey Boxes.

Speaking of, how on earth did we manage to avoid Bailey Boxes? Crazy.

So here's to the best damn soccer supporters out there. Here's to former board members, once active members, old front office contacts, smoke bombs, Toyota flags, dropped megaphones, wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tube men, members we've lost along the way, streamers, skeleton glove invasions, Florida monsoons, Reddit shitposts, beheaded mascots, taking banners down, and the decades of stories and memories to come in the West End. Today might feel surreal in many ways, but it's one the supporters more than deserve to enjoy, even when everything invariably goes wrong.

What time is the march?

Yours in Heineken,

Kevin

Remember when DI was going to march from Rheingeist to Nippert every match? Hilarious