Sunday night, the Rowdies hosted Orlando City in the second leg of the I-4 Derby. After a back-and forth game that saw Orlando take the lead twice, and Georgi Hristov even the score both times, Orlando prevailed 3-2. The result, Hristov’s two goals and another strong performance by the trialist Ricardo Morris is what should be the main points of discussion, but all of the attention is focused on several incidents in the stands. I wasn’t able to attend tonight’s match (more on that in a minute) but my podcast partner Dan was, and witnessed the events. Here is his statement:
Tonight, I went to the Orlando City vs Tampa Bay Rowdies “friendly”. I ended up going to the match alone due to the other half of this podcast having reservations about bringing his young daughter and me deciding on not bringing my nephew. In hindsight, these were the best decisions we’ve made.
I got into the stadium about an hour early and sat to enjoy the scenery and a pre match beer. While sitting and listening to the warm up music I noticed a few Orlando Supporters climbed the wall behind the goal on the far side of the pitch and started lighting smoke bombs. The cops went over and took care of everything and I figured (Never attending one of these derby matches) that maybe that would quell the stupidity for the match.
As kick off approached and fans filled the stadium, Orlando City fans broke out their banners. Written upon one was “Puto Rowdies” Some Rowdies fans pointed it out to staff and it appeared to be removed. We could sit and debate the translation of Puto all night, but if you watched the World Cup you would have seen ESPN apologize for it being broadcast. Its inappropriate. Regardless, this is just a small piece of the night.
The first half came and went fine. I enjoyed it, it was entertaining. Halftime came, so did another beer. (I only had 2, my memory isn’t clouded)
I don’t even know what minute it was in since it all happened so fast. I heard someone yell, and turned around and there was a guy wearing a Rowdies shirt over his Orlando one lighting a flare in the Ralph’s mob supporters section. A few fans proceeded to knock the flare out of his hand and push (yes there were punches thrown on both sides) him out to the aisle. While that happened two or three more Orlando City supporters tried to then get into Ralph’s Mob supporters section but were pushed by fans and then police. Somewhere in this, a 12/13 year old child tried to stop an Orlando City fan from getting into the Mob section and the Orlando fan then punched the child. While this was going on, a few more fans tried to run across the stadium but were intercepted by security and police.
Now, that’s my recount of the events, let me say this, tonight was absolutely terrible. I understand rivalries and everything that goes along with it, and this isn’t necessary or appropriate. The Fort Lauderdale Strikers are also considered one of the Tampa Bay Rowdies rivalries, in state, actually in the same league, but when I went on a bus trip with the mob down to watch a match, I wandered over to their tailgate and was met with open arms. They without a question handed me beer and poured shots down my throat. That is what it’s all about. For 90 minutes we sing and yell ridiculous chants at each other but before the first whistle and after the final one, we’re friends. We all love this game. Does it really matter what color laundry you support? It shouldn’t when they aren’t actually playing. I’m sick and disgusted by the Orlando city fan behavior tonight, and I hope some of these idiots try to pull these things in the MLS and promptly get banned.
As Dan said, I wasn’t able to attend tonight, for a variety of reasons, and if I had been able to come up, I would have done it alone because I did have reservations about bringing my family, especially my daughter, to any game where Orlando fans would be present, based on their prior history. After the game, the Rowdies made a statement via Twitter:
Unlike most Rowdies matches, Sunday evening we had several overzealous fans act inappropriately. We expected a heated rivalry and had extra security and police on hand as a precaution. Both the Tampa Bay Rowdies and @OrlandoCitySC management do not condone this behavior. Rowdies fans, thank you for your unwavering support during this holiday weekend. #COYR
Orlando has made no statement on the incidents at this time, so we’ll have to take the Rowdies word that they don’t condone this sort of behavior. There is also a sentiment that the Rowdies statement doesn’t go far enough in defending some of their unwavering fans and could be construed as inferring that Rowdies fans and Ralph’s Mob may have played a part in the incidents. I’ve been following this story on Twitter and Reddit and I’ve seen a grand total of ONE uncorroborated mention that a “fan in a Tampa colored shirt” went into the Orlando section, with no mention of what the fan did after that. Apparently that is being used as justification, if it actually happened, for entering the Mob section, lighting a flare (banned per stadium rules) and instigating a fight resulting in a 12-13 year old being punched. Um…how about no? The president of Ralph’s Mob tweeted a denial of any Mob members having anything to do with instigating tonight’s shenanigans:
“The only thing I’m going to say about tonight is that @RalphsMob did NOTHING to instigate what happened. We take pride in never doing so.”
Having sat in the Mob section on Friday when someone unknown to other Mobsters entered the section wearing a red & yellow bandanna (Striker colors) and waving a “Don’t Tread On Me” flag that resembled one hanging in front of the section that other Striker fans were sitting in and seeing no one physically confront this guy, and from several previous times sitting with the Mob, I have no reason at all to doubt that statement. It’s easy to assume that because there was a scuffle, both sides are at fault to some degree, but I’ve seen nothing to indicate any Mobster or Rowdies fan did anything they shouldn’t have.
As for whether or not you think the “Puto Rowdies” banner is a homophobic slur or not, the word itself, according to those who swear it isn’t, translates as a word which would definitely fall under the stadium rule banning signs that use “Foul or obscene language,” so there’s no basis anywhere for allowing the sign into the stadium in the first place. If nothing else, it’s just not especially creative (the FTL “Rubbish” flag is much better, IMO) Overall, this is a sad series of events that has spoiled what otherwise sounded like one hell of an entertaining game on the field.
This post is all we’re going to say about it online, other than the plethora of tweets and RT’s that have come from our @UnusedSubsPod account. Next weekend is Atlanta. A league game, a home game, a must-win game. There’s too many good things happening with and around this team to let crap like this get in the way. Address it, eliminate it, and BEAT ATLANTA!