On August 12, 2015, just one year ago, the formation of FC Cincinnati was announced. To celebrate the club’s founding, Die Innenstadt presents a look back at the Crystal Palace match on July 14, 2016.
Captured here are the reflections of our own Ronny Salerno on that historic match between an American 1st year club and an EPL club in its 111th year, as well as quotes that day from many others.
- Tom Niehaus
I handed off the megaphone to someone else, the amount of people surging into the front of The Bailey was too much. Annoyed, I went to the top and decided to take in the game from up there. I wanted to enjoy the match, not fight for space. The rest of the stadium was filling up, even the upper deck on the east side. Not even a year before, there was no FCC, no Die Innenstadt. Yet, there it all was before me: 35,000 fans and many of them donning scarves emblazoned with our logo and the words: “Juncta Juvant,” the city’s motto, our motto. The club we rallied around, representing the city we love, was about to take on a squad from the top tier of international football.
The march from Mecklenburg had been the biggest yet. Standing at the corner of University and Vine, you could look down the hill and see a trail of people in orange and blue for the next several blocks. We marched and sang in unison, echoing throughout the concourse and towards the north end of the stadium. I don’t regret not taking a usual spot up front with a bullhorn in hand. For the first time this season, I was able to walk around and take in the atmosphere from all over the stadium, snapping photos of the huge crowd. It had been an incredible day. At noon, Mecklenburg Gardens was already packed as beers were toasted, a pig was roasted, buffet lines were jammed, and both Cincy and Palace fans alike sang in the crowded biergarten. It truly was a day to behold as a fan of sports, soccer, and Cincinnati.
It’s been said that this organization is ambitious, and the club made that clear in a statement of their MLS pursuit on day one. But scheduling a friendly against a Premier League side had been a huge step that turned some heads. On their summer tour, Crystal Palace would be taking on the Philadelphia Union and Vancouver Whitecaps of top tier MLS, as well as us down in American soccer’s “third division.”
Up front when the match began, I was annoyed at the amount of people trying to force their way into the front and center. I get it, The Bailey is a fun area, but when you’re being nearly trampled by so many people, many of whom you’ve never seen at a match before, your patience goes away quickly. Even in the presence of such a momentous occasion. In the end though, stepping away for this match proved to be the best thing (and I understand the excitement around The Bailey, this club, and that match). My girlfriend and I got to watch alongside my father and close friends. At the top of the section, people still sang, still chanted along. In the end I took it as just more people being exposed to what sets FC Cincinnati apart in the soccer landscape. In the warm sun as the evening wore on, that stadium’s energy never let up. In the second half, I came across my friend Evan standing by the Jimmy Nippert memorial, looking out at the packed house. I remember him saying to me back in November, in the early days of the franchise after a team meet and greet: “It’s going to be a fun summer.” Never would I have imagined that he and I would be standing there along with 35,000 others watching our club, not even a year old, take on an EPL side. The best memories of that day though, centered around celebrating what Die Innenstadt has become so far. I love FC Cincinnati, but I love our supporters group more.
I wanted to do something special to commemorate it, to maybe sum up how big of a day this was, how important it was to some. As a photographer and writer, I could’ve devoted the day to taking photos and writing an essay (but that would’ve gotten in the way of beer, chanting, and talking with friends). I decided to do a photo booth of sorts. Not the corny, use-our-custom-wedding-hashtag-on-instagram type of photo booth, moreso, portraits. And I wanted opinions, I wanted to know why people felt this match was important. So we strung up a small banner and a few of the flags, set up the camera in the biergarten and invited fellow Die Innenstadt members to pose and define the day in their own words.
I asked this question to each person:
“Why do you feel this match is so important to Cincinnati?”
“It’s a sign of the next generation of Cincy fans to have something of their own.”
“It’s establishing a soccer community here. We can show the English soccer community that Americans can do it just as well.”
“It’s the next stepping stone to being recognized.”
- Hien with Hoa
"This whole season has been incredible and beyond expectations. From how the club has grown in such a short time to how Die Innenstadt has grown in such a short time. It's all bringing together so many different people. It's a great reflection of where this city comes from and what it can be.
- Die Innenstadt President, Ryan Lammi.
“This match is lit.”
- Yosief Tzeghai (of Cincinnati Soccer Talk)
“This is the biggest game in Ohio soccer history, it puts us in a completely different stratosphere.” - Matt (left)
“Cincinnati is a city on the rise and this is showing that to the world.”
- Dan (right)
“Because I think our supporters can relate to the Palace supporters. They can be a role model for how we support our team. They are the most passionate in the Premier League. We’ve come out strong, but there is a lot we can take from them.”
“It puts Cincinnati on the map even more than it is.”
- Joshua (left)
“Because Cincinnati needs to keep growing its love for soccer.”
- Mariana (right)
“It helps us branch out locally and internationally.”
“Shows the world that Cincinnati is a serious and educated soccer fanbase."
- Blake with Joe
“Shows we have the best venue and best fanbase in the state of Ohio.”
“This game, this crowd, is crucial to our image. It’s massively positive. Unbelievable that we sold out this match.”
“Having Crystal Palace here shows the world that Cincinnati is a real football city, and that the world should take notice.”
- Bjorn, Bailey drummer.
“It shows the true spirit of football in Cincinnati.”
“FCC is showing the world that we’re on the map.”
- The legendary Tom Niehaus
“This is the biggest soccer happening in America this summer.”
- David Kurtz of the Crystal Palace American Fan Group
“This match shows that Cincinnati has embraced this club and this sport. And that this will be a testament how far we’ve come in such a short amount of time.”
- Bob, Bailey drummer
“This match helps foster the interest in soccer in Cincinnati where the focus usually gets diverted to baseball and [gridiron] football. The encouragement of soccer will help build a talent pool for soccer in this city and contribute to the development of soccer nationally.”
“We’re on the map now, now we’re on the international radar.”
- Bryce (the leader of our marches) and his father
“First English side to play in Cincinnati. Hopefully they invite us back to their home sometime.”
“It exposes our team to the masses.”
“It’s been incredibly exciting watching this team go from an announcement to an international friendly.”
“Because it’s the world’s game and Cincinnati needs to join the world. You know that alleged Mark Twain saying about how when the world ends he wants to be in Cincinnati because everything happens ten years later? Well, when the world ends, we still need to be playing soccer in Cincinnati ten years later.”
“Just to have a team from the EPL playing here...it’s amazing.”
“We’re literally on the international stage right now. The most important USL match being played in the world.”
- Tom who runs the fantastic charity, Sports Games For Kids
“It shows that there’s a passion for high quality soccer here.”
“It’s another great opportunity for the club and the city to show that Cincinnati is finally ready to support a pro soccer than that can keep up with international heavyweights."
- Timo, Die Innenstadt Vice President
“Now we find out what we’re made of.”
- Pat with Ryan and Mike.
“This match wasn’t about Cincinnati or the clubs playing in it. This match was about people coming together to share their passion for something beautiful. This match was about love. Love for the game, love for the club, love for the city, love for the country, and how amazing things can be when there is love. And for one day, we saw just that."
“This is a world match. This goes beyond MLS, this is international, it’s going to be crazy.”
- Fox, Bailey drummer.
“It allows the city to showcase soccer enthusiasm to an international audience.”
- Adam with Alex
“It’s putting us on the international map.”
- Taylor with Seth, Louige, and Kimberly
“Because it’s fun and Cincinnati’s awesome.”
- Annie (right) with Nick.
“Because my boyfriend dragged me here.”
- Taylor with Alex
“Sha-la-la-la-la-la-la. Sha-la-la-la-la-la-la. FC. Cincy.”
“It shows that we’ve got the chops to make it big time.”
“It helps spread the game. Philly was nonexistent, Cincinnati is alive.”
- Traveling CPFC fans from Michigan, Kevin and Kyle, with FCC fans/DI members Hien and Hoa.
And a quote from a man who became an honorary DI member when he posed with the scarf...
"This club is fantastic; we're so proud and privileged to be part of it tonight."
"You can't help but to say that this is a club we should get involved with because of the way they've conducted themselves, and the fans, and the way they've welcomed. It's like brothers-in-arms, it was brilliant."
"I'd love to come back here; this was a great game, great facilities, and a tremendous occasion."
- Crystal Palace Football Club Manager Alan Pardew (comments to the media following the match)
A year ago, I spent a week wandering all over the city, photographing how it was hosting the Major League Baseball All-Star Game. It was a great time for the true Queen City and it culminated in the 86th Mid-Summer Classic, something I was fortunate enough to see in person.
Those were some of my favorite moments as a Cincinnatian. A year later and I’m watching this city embrace the world’s game, while rallying together with great people, old friends and new, who are working to create something special. Six years ago, I resented soccer. Six years later, I’m incredibly proud to be a member of Die Innenstadt, a supporter of this club, and a supporter of my city.
So why do I “feel this match is so important to Cincinnati?”
“Because through a sporting event we were able to show Cincinnati at its best. We recognized its history and enthusiastically promoted its future. FCC and the fans that gathered were just a sample of how great this city and its people can be.”
- Ronny (right) with Blake
We’ll see you this weekend at Rhinehaus to watch the “boys in blurange’” take on the Kickers down in Richmond. We’re back at Mecklenburg Gardens and Nippert on the 24th of August. See you then.
Stand with Die Innenstadt. Stand with Cincinnati.