Vive Le Rouge

Field notes from a minor league soccer revolution in Detroit.
Share |

In downtown Detroit, there are horns blaring, drums pounding, people yelling and singing; smoke rises into the sky. It's not what you think. The people creating this ruckus are the supporters of Detroit City Football Club, the Motor City’s new and wildly popular minor league soccer team. The fans fill the grandstand at Cass Technical High School's football field, which is narrow for ideal soccer standards but comes complete with dazzling views of the city’s skyline, and Detroit landmarks—General Motors’ Headquarters, the Book Tower, the Penobscot Building—watch over the field like additional spectators.

That blend of soccer and city is exactly what the team’s founders wanted. The motto of the team—which began its first season in the National Premier Soccer League in May—is “Passion for our city. Passion for the game.” The supporters—usually more than 1,500 strong at each game, most of them clad in the team's maroon and gold colors—certainly deliver on the passion part. The people in this group are young professionals and middle-aged folks, white and African-American, Hispanic and Arab-American. They are a group as diverse as the population of the city itself.

“You have fans chanting every second of every game,” said Knox Cameron, a midfielder on the team and former member of Major League Soccer’s Columbus Crew. “I haven’t experienced that in a long time, where fans can really carry you and boost your energy to take an extra run.”

Cameron's teammate Tom Oatley, a native of nearby Ann Arbor and a professional indoor player in Milwaukee, confirmed that assessment. “Other places and stadiums we go to are nothing like this. This is more like a pro environment.”

All this happy noise and fervor didn't come out of nowhere, though. The Detroit City Football Club is actually the outgrowth—the result, really—of the Detroit City Futbol League, an adult recreational soccer league which Sean Mann, a local community organizer, formed in 2010 to unite the city’s diverse neighborhoods around the sport.

In that league’s inaugural season, there were eleven teams, each featuring players from diverse backgrounds; they were Hispanic, Middle Eastern, white and African-American, young professionals and manual laborers. In 2011, its second season, the league doubled in size, to twenty-two teams, and jubilant crowds began turning out for games.

Amongst those twenty-two teams, five young men—four of them residents of Detroit, the fifth of a nearby suburb—formed a unique bond. When two thousand fans showed up for the 2011 league championship on Belle Isle, a small island in the Detroit River that’s one of the city's most beloved parks, those five young men saw an opportunity. Not so much to make money—minor league sports isn't a great place for that—but to give the fans barbecuing and celebrating the sport and the city, the two-thousand fans who had turned out for a rec league game, something that was otherwise impossible to find in Detroit.

“We thought we had tapped into a market that wasn’t being served,” said Alex Wright, now the team’s Director of Communications. They thought they could “create a soccer club that played in a downtown venue.” So late last fall, the five founders—Mann, Wright, David Dwaihy, Todd Kropp, and Ben Steffans—got together the money they needed to pay the NPSL to register the team, and the Detroit City Football Club was born.

***

The owners were never particularly worried about finding talented players for the team. Southeastern Michigan has a tradition of developing quality soccer players. One of the country’s top youth clubs, Vardar, is located in the area. Nearby universities such as the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, and Oakland University offered a crop of talented players eager to play in a competitive environment over the summer.

But Detroit City FC didn’t want to just field a team. As Wright said, their “main goals were to promote the game and promote the city. We are all Detroit residents. [We] work in the city.”

When more than 200 guys showed up for the tryouts, Wright said, “we started to get the idea that we were really onto something.” That large number gave the club an immediate opportunity to build a fan base as they worked on building a team. In exchange for paying the tryout fee, each hopeful got a team T-shirt and a season ticket. “So immediately after those tryouts,” Wright said, “we had 200, 250 season ticket holders.”

At the time of the tryouts, David Dwaihy, the team’s Director of Soccer Operations, said, “We want this to be a team that represents the city. We hope we get a collection of players who…show up early and run clinics and stay after the game to sign autographs. Guys who want to be more than just the entertainment on the field.”

The team, coached by Michigan State assistant coach Kyle Stannard, took shape as a mix of current and former college players, all of them Michigan natives or current residents; some spend their college seasons as rivals at Michigan and Michigan State. Then there are older players, like Cameron and Dwaihy, a Kalamazoo College graduate in his early thirties who is still fit and skilled enough to play with guys ten years his junior.

The team’s commitment to the city extends from its players to its sponsors and even to the club’s logo, which pays homage to The Spirit of Detroit, the prominent city monument of a man seated cross-legged and holding in one hand the sun, in the other a family. Their colors—and the team’s nickname—“Le Rouge” are a tribute to the city’s French heritage. Ninety percent of the club’s sponsors are local, and they now have more than twenty-five—so many that each company sponsors an individual player.

Even after the owners’ planning—the work they did to communicate the team’s message and form a team—they were still surprised by one unexpected element that’s lead to the team’s success. “The attention we’ve gotten from supporter groups,” Wright said “That was the wild card that’s taken the whole team to the next level.”

Three formal groups support the team. The Northern Guard Supporters and Motor City Supporters are formal soccer supporter groups in the Detroit area. The third, Le Rouge Supporters, was formed by friends of the team’s founders.

Before each game, the supporters march—often from Harry’s, a nearby bar—to Cass Tech stadium, all sporting some of Detroit City’s signature swag: replica jerseys, warm-up jackets, scarves, T-shirts that say “City ‘Til I Die.” Some wave huge homemade flags, others bang drums with the team’s logo emblazoned on the drumhead. All of them sing.

The owners saw how important—and unique—those fans were during the very first home game, against Cleveland. Detroit City scored first, and as Wright said, “Every single one of the players on the field, as soon as we scored, just turned around and sprinted to the supporters section. It was this incredible moment where everyone could see that everyone who was there got what was going on.”

Ever since that first game, Wright said they’ve seen a steady increase in attendance of about 10% at each game. The owners also coordinate a bar night after every game, always at a different location, to bring the supporters and the team together to celebrate—if not a win, then at least the experience. The bar nights ensure that all game days end in revelry, but they also help the establishment hosting the event.

“When we say we’re about the community, it’s not just a tagline,” Wright said. “We live in an area where one great bar night a month can mean the difference between a profit and a loss.”

***

Knox Cameron, a former youth national team player and University of Michigan star, described himself as “pretty much over soccer” by the time his MLS career ended in 2006. But his experience with Detroit City FC has rekindled his old feelings for the game. The “big thing,” he said, “is it’s really united the residents. To know that the sport that you love is making an impact…that is really, really gratifying.”

He said that his experience playing with Detroit City FC has been one of the greatest of his career. “This would be right there, just below playing in an Under-20 World Cup or a Major League Soccer game. Just because of what the ownership is trying to accomplish. To be able to bring this level of joy and camaraderie to the citizens of Detroit, that ranks up there.”

While the fans have made even these most minor of minor league games feel important, Cameron and Oatley credit the owners for running a seamlessly professional organization—which is no small thing in a league in which the uncompensated players are not, technically, professionals. “From the practice gear we wear—everyone’s in the same kits,” Cameron said. “Emails are sent out, detailing everything—what our travel plans are going to look like, what our meals are going to be.” Those small things have added up to a successful inaugural season—Le Rouge finished the season at 5-5-2, second in their division and good for a berth in the NPSL playoffs.

But while the wins are great, Detroit City FC is after larger and longer-lasting victories. If the evident bond between the team and the supporters is any indication, Le Rouge are winning in the way that matters most, both for the future of the team and its fans.

The team’s third home game, against Erie, started in a downpour. As usual, the two teams took the field for player introductions and the national anthem. “In a normal event, the crowd would take cover,” Wright remembered “When the players came out for the anthem, the supporters stayed there and did this chant. All through the player introductions and the national anthem. This was what their support looked like. A bunch of people getting soaked at a football field in downtown Detroit.”


Share |

Comments

I am really enjoying reading your well written Information. I think you spend numerous effort and time updating your blog. I have bookmarked it and I am taking a look ahead to reading new Information. Please keep up the good Information!
my feeds

This article is an appealing wealth of informative data that is interesting and well-written. I commend your hard work on this and thank you for this information. You’ve got what it takes to get attention red candy

I can see that you are an expert at your field! I am launching a website soon, and your information will be very useful for me.. Thanks for all your help and wishing you all the success in your business. broker test

toronto rug cleaning I truly savor merely lesson sum of your weblogs. Merely loved to alert you that you bear persons love me who admire your process. Definitely a fantastic advise. Hats away to you! The info that you own provided is truly beneficial.

midfielder on the team and former member of Major League Soccer’s Columbus Crew. “I haven’t experienced that in a long time, where fans can really carry you and boost your energy to take an extra run.”
escort lebanon

diverse backgrounds; they were Hispanic, Middle Eastern, white and African-American, young professionals and manual laborers. In 2011, its second season, the league doubled in size, to twenty-two teams, and jubilant crowds began turning out for games
alquiler de furgonetas madrid

Facebook Page Thanks for taking the term to bandy that, I sense strongly about this plus so truly want getting to distinguish again on this sympathetic of sphere. Do you will updating your blog announce beside auxiliary clairvoyance? It should be truly convenient for sum of us.

Cameron's teammate Tom Oatley, a native of nearby Ann Arbor and a professional indoor player in Milwaukee, confirmed that assessment. “Other places and stadiums we go to are nothing like this. This is more like a pro environment.”
lebanon escort girls

those five young men saw an opportunity. Not so much to make money—minor league sports isn't a great place for that—but to give the fans barbecuing and celebrating the sport and the city, the two-thousand fans who had turned out for a rec league game, something that was otherwise impossible to find in Detroit.
Hostgator coupons

featuring players from diverse backgrounds; they were Hispanic, Middle Eastern, white and African-American, young professionals and manual laborers. In 2011, its second season, the league doubled in size, to twenty-two teams, and jubilant crowds began turning out for games.
Toronto Limo

This post is very simple to read and appreciate without leaving any details out. Great work! You completed certain reliable points there. I did a search on the subject and found nearly all persons will agree with your blog.
broker vergleich

certainly deliver on the passion part. The people in this group are young professionals and middle-aged folks, white and African-American, Hispanic and Arab-American. They are a group as diverse as the population of the city itself.
exchange panama coins

Just keep in mind one thing that you go through the channel of a reliable and renowned shopping portal so that to have a unique gifting experience. http://www.claif2013.com/vive-sin-ansiedad/

A good informative post that you have shared and thankful your work for sharing the information. Got some appealing information and would like to give it a try. Applaud your work and keep sharing your information.
unique kitchen gadgets

artimino dishes I really enjoy simply reading all of your weblogs. Simply wanted to inform you that you have people like me who appreciate your work. Definitely a great post. Hats off to you! The information that you have provided is very helpful. pampered chef grapefruit knife

Wow! This could be one of the most useful blogs we have ever come across on thesubject. Actually excellent info! I’m also an expert in this topic so I can understand your effort.
Dog Toys For Chewers

I love the blog. Great post. It is very true, people must learn how to learn before they can learn. lol i know it sounds funny but its very true. . .
best gas self propelled lawn mower

artimino dishes I love the humor your post has offered. I enjoyed this site a lot. Keep posting article like this. It is fun. Nice photography too! pampered chef grapefruit knife

buybacklinkscheap.com This is also a very good post which I really enjoyed reading. It is not everyday that I have the possibility to see something like this.. online marketing agency

Thanks for making such a cool post which is really very well written.will be referring a lot of friends about this.Keep blogging. auf Rechnung bestellen

Thanks for posting this. Your blog is so interesting and very informative.Thanks sharing. Definitely a great piece of work Thanks for your work.
monash ivf group

Wow.. it’s a great place to get information ... Because now a days any kind of little bit information is every helpful.. Wonderful Information.
getting pregnant at 35

That blend of soccer and city is exactly what the team’s founders wanted. The motto of the team lebanon escorts

hungry shark evolution hack.apk

I think this is a really good article. You make this information interesting and engaging. You give readers a lot to think about and I appreciate that kind of writing.
clash of clans hacks

on. The presentation of these loans has wiped out every one of those onerous technique and gets certified within a shorter compass of time. To get this credit you should have a general pay and a current generous record. For more info visit at: claif2013.com/vive-sin-ansiedad/

Cameron's teammate Tom Oatley, a native of nearby Ann Arbor and a professional indoor player in Milwaukee, confirmed that assessment. “Other places and stadiums we go to are nothing like this. This is more like a pro environment.”
escorts in lebanon

Awesome blog. I enjoyed reading your articles. This is truly a great read for me. I have bookmarked it and I am looking forward to reading new articles. Keep up the good work! mazda dealer philadelphia

Thank you for another essential article. Where else could anyone get that kind of information in such a complete way of writing? I have a presentation incoming week, and I am on the lookout for such information.beirut escort

midfielder on the team and former member of Major League Soccer’s Columbus Crew. “I haven’t experienced that in a long time, where fans can really carry you and boost your energy to take an extra run.”
exchange panama coins

8 ball pool cheat

I admit, I have not been on this web page in a long time... however it was another joy to see It is such an important topic and ignored by so many, even professionals. professionals. I thank you to help making people more aware of possible issues.
free gems clash of clans

When will you be here to give me relief. west palm beach virus, malware removal

Awesome post ever seen Top University in Vietnam

You have done a great job. I will definitely dig it and personally recommend to my friends. I am confident they will be benefited from this site. Richard A Kimball Jr

Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. wholesale watchess

I want you to thank for your time of this wonderful read!!! I definately enjoy every little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff of your blog a must read blog!!!! nissan dealers philadelphia

Through this post, I know that your good knowledge in playing with all the pieces was very helpful. I notify that this is the first place where I find issues I've been searching for. You have a clever yet attractive way of writing.Tca Peel

I really enjoy simply reading all of your weblogs. Simply wanted to inform you that you have people like me who appreciate your work. Definitely a great post. Hats off to you! The information that you have provided is very helpful.
Aquarium lighting

Very nice blog and articles. I am realy very happy to visit your blog. Now I am found which I actually want. I check your blog everyday and try to learn something from your blog. Thank you and waiting for your new post. Terry Cloth Robes

Great Post. Really it will help lot of people. Thanks for the post. visit this website for the simcity buildit hack apk

A very awesome blog post. The article touches many urgent Thank you for the great article I did enjoyed reading it, I will be sure to bookmark your blog and definitely will come back from again.
Japanese Car Exporter

Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts. Any way I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon.Discount Bed Linen

I just got to this amazing site not long ago. I was actually captured with the piece of resources you have got here. Big thumbs up for making such wonderful blog page!
National Bubble Soccer

how to get free likes on instagram

Thank you, I've been seeking for info about this subject matter for ages and yours is the best I have discovered so far.
free instagram followers no survey

elo boost I just got to this amazing site not long ago. I was actually captured with the piece of resources you have got here. Big thumbs up for making such wonderful blog page! inspirational speaker

I cherish the online journal. Extraordinary post. It is genuine, individuals must figure out how to learn before they can learn. lol i know it sounds entertaining however it genuine. .

retailerdeal.com

wow..i had no idea you were so young! haha, i just mean you seem so experienced and skilled already to be only one year out of college. i am in school for design right now, with about a year and a half to go. thanks for the tips and insight! Motley Models

I think that you could do with some pics to drive the message home a bit, but other than that, this is great blog. A great read.
learn more

I hope the public health sector will take the appropriate decision on this. . This article was very helpful, interesting, informative, helpful and valuable..

levinlaw.com

I agree with your blog and i will be back to check it more in the future so please keep up your work. michael kors outleti love your content & the way that you write.

girlsdoporn

This is cool post and i enjoy to read this post. your blog is fantastic and you have good staff in your blog. nice sharing keep it up. love sms text