It seemed like it was too good to be true. One day we’re talking about how the love for soccer – or Futbol – in the Central Valley is growing. Then, it was all gone; no more professional soccer for the city of Fresno and with it, all the progress made in the last couple of years evaporated.
The lack of stadium, that’s what was said to be the catalyst that caused the team to leave Fresno for greener pastures, or fields, on the Central Coast. Neither the city nor the franchise were able to come up with a solution of where to play since the league was forcing all teams to play in soccer-specific stadiums.
I get it. The city didn’t have the money to build a soccer-specific stadium and to use taxpayers’ money is just not something that the current city leaders were willing to do.
The options for a stadium that the city gave to the team were not something that worked for them. So after not finding a solution, their only option was to move the team. After two years here in Fresno, it is hard to imagine the Foxes going anywhere else, especially after building a very loyal fan base here.
An average attendance of about 3,000 people per game wasn’t that bad for the Foxes, and many of those fans were young kids who loved seeing their home team on the soccer field. Many of those young fans were also loud and chanted along with the supporter groups that followed the team.
Every game, there were supporter groups there ready to scream and shout in order to let the team know that the people were behind them. These supporter groups were formed to attend games and help the team feel more at home.
The Fire Squad Fresno, Vigilantes 559 and Fresno Skulk are all recognized by the team as supporter groups. Fire Squad Fresno was one of the first supporter groups here in the Central Valley, getting their name from the previous Fresno semi-pro team, the Fresno Fuego.
With more support and more people involved in the sport throughout the Central Valley, the Fresno State women’s soccer team began to have more people in the stands during their home matches.
Supporter groups even came to the games with drums and trumpets, making noise all in support of the Bulldogs. This was felt throughout the Soccer and Lacrosse Stadium, and it gave each game a different atmosphere.
It wasn’t just for the fans but also for the players who knew that the supporters were there to watch them play, and each time the Bulldogs scored, they definitely felt the fans’ presence.
This impacted the Fresno State games, the players and the fans positively and it was all thanks to the culture created by having a professional team here in Fresno.
However, now that it seems very likely that the Fresno FC franchise will move, will that affect the soccer culture created here or will it stay?
Those are some questions only time will answer. But it would be a shame to see all the support disappear, especially since many young fans were just beginning to get involved and enjoy it.
Whether it was at Chukchansi Park or the Soccer and Lacrosse Stadium here at Fresno State, young fans seemed to enjoy the atmosphere created by the soccer culture.
Having a professional soccer team only to have it taken away just a few years later seems unfair, but it will be up to the fans to keep the culture alive.
It was nice to see the support for the women’s soccer team, and I do believe that the support will continue in the upcoming season. If the support continues, it could also be a way of bringing men’s soccer back to Fresno State.
There hasn’t been a men’s soccer team at Fresno State since the early 2000s when the team was taken away due to budget issues due to Title IX. If Fresno State can have both men’s and women’s soccer teams, that could be a way to keep the culture going.
Fresno FC showed us that there is a soccer culture here in Fresno and now that the team will be leaving, there will be a soccer drought that someone will have to fill. This can be a great opportunity for Fresno State to take advantage of by not just having one soccer team, but two.
It is not too far fetched to think that the Bulldogs could have two teams and take advantage of the void that will be left after the Foxes leave. The fan base and the culture are already here, and we already have one team.
Why not take advantage of this and create something future Bulldogs and fans will be proud to have and be a part of?