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Fans 'practice' for Charlotte FC’s record-breaking first home match

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Claire Donnelly
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WFAE
Charlotte FC supporters practiced their chants and march outside of Bank of America Stadium on Wednesday, ahead of the soccer club's first-ever home match on Saturday.

A crowd of some 200 people marched along the sidewalk outside Bank of America Stadium on Wednesday evening, chanting “Dale C-L-T!” or “Go, CLT!” in Spanish.

Some beat drums while wearing brand new Charlotte FC jerseys, hats or scarves. Others waved big flags in the team’s colors, black and blue. One man wore a sombrero emblazoned with “CHARLOTTE FC” in block letters.

Winding their way toward the stadium entrance, the group switched up its chant every few minutes,with lyrics like “Party like it’s Mint Street, everywhere we go!” and “We are Charlotte, the mighty black and blue!”

This was a practice run of what will happen ahead of Charlotte FC’s first-ever home match against the L.A. Galaxy Saturday night. Around 6 p.m., fans will march from a tailgate in a parking lot on McNinch Street to the stadium. The match as of Thursday had sold 73,500 seats — a near-sellout and enough tickets to break the Major League Soccer attendance record set by Atlanta United in 2019. The cheapest resale tickets as of Thursday evening were around $75.

Saturday’s tailgate and march were organized by supporters groups, or a collection of superfans.

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Claire Donnelly
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WFAE
Hector Cortes, a member of the Blue Furia FC Charlotte supporters group, leads fans in a practice run of chants near Charlotte's Bank of America Stadium.

“Teams and players really feed off the energy,” said David Carrasco, one of the co-founders of Blue Furia, a supporters group. “ We want to be that ‘12th man’ for our team.”

Carrasco said Blue Furia is mostly made up of Latinos whose families hail from places like Argentina, Honduras, Ecuador and Peru, where soccer is extremely popular. He said it’s exciting to now have a hometown team to cheer for and a way to share some of their traditions.

“The drums, the flags, the chants, the energy, all of that … comes from our cultural background,” he said.

At Charlotte FC matches, Blue Furia and other supporters groups have their own special section behind one of the goals. Fans who have tickets for the supporters' section can also sit there.

“We’re just excited that it’s finally here and all the work that everyone has been putting in on the supporters' side, the team’s side, is finally going to pay off in the next couple of days,” said Matthew Chantry, vice president of Mint City Collective, another supporters group.

Fans have put in hours of work since December 2019, when Major League Soccer announced Charlotte would get a team. Supporters, according to Chantry, have spent several nights staying up until 5 or 6 a.m. painting what are called “tifos,” essentially large murals on pieces of cloth. They have also written their own chants, like “The Mighty Black and Blue.”

“If you’re a long-term supporter of a team in England, a team in Germany, Spain, Brazil, wherever, your chants have organically grown over 100+ years. We didn’t have the chance to do that. If we turn up on the first day and say, ‘Hey, everyone just sing!’ You're just going to get a mess of noise,” Chantry said.

Christina Santos and her family enthusiastically sang along at the practice march on Wednesday. They will also be in the supporters' section Saturday night.

“My husband played soccer in high school and so did I, so we’re really big fans and super excited for another sport that carries on so we can celebrate and come to games year-round,” Santos said. “This is something we can do with our family. And it’s like a permanent date night.”

As for the score, David Carrasco with Blue Furia said L.A. Galaxy is a strong team, but he’s hoping Charlotte FC will at least tie the match. He hopes the energy from fans will push the team over the edge.

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Claire Donnelly is WFAE's health reporter. She previously worked at NPR member station KGOU in Oklahoma and also interned at WBEZ in Chicago and WAMU in Washington, D.C. She holds a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University and attended college at the University of Virginia, where she majored in Comparative Literature and Spanish. Claire is originally from Richmond, Virginia. Reach her at cdonnelly@wfae.org or on Twitter @donnellyclairee.