By CHARLIE CORR – firstname.lastname@example.org
Thursday, January 7, 2016
San Antonio is beginning its chapter in the USL for the 2016 season, and the expansion club has well-established support already in its corner.
The team, operated by Spurs Sports & Entertainment, officially became the league’s 31st franchise on Thursday while introducing its first head coach, Darren Powell. One face of San Antonio’s fandom heading into the upcoming campaign will be built around the Crocketteers, an independent supporters group that was founded in 2009, before the city even had a team to support.
“Myself and a bunch of close friends were hanging out at a pub in the summer of 2008, the Euro Championships, enjoying the atmosphere we were creating in the bar, and we joked around about how we didn’t have anything in San Antonio,” Crocketteers founder Michael Macias said. “We started a movement without a team to show our support for the idea of professional soccer in San Antonio.”
- RELATED: 31st USL Franchise Awarded to San Antonio
Further drawn toward the movements of support such as Seattle Sounders FC during its inaugural 2009 MLS season, and with the 2010 FIFA World Cup also on the horizon, Macias founded the Crocketteers in March of 2009. While there was a stretch without a club in the city, the well-hyped 2010 World Cup was a perfect platform to set things in motion for the Crocketteers.
“We put on some big watch parties at the Alamo Drafthouse, got the media out – TV and Spanish – and the newspaper covered it,” Macias said. “We started to get good membership because of the World Cup parties, to the point where, go figure, we set up a watch party with the Spurs, had an English double decker bus, and really put ourselves on the map.”
The Crocketteers, branded to honor the heroes of the Battle of the Alamo, have been stout supporters for professional games in San Antonio and at U.S. National Team events over the years.
“Organizing events is one of our strengths,” Macias said. “We start game day three and a half hours before with a tailgate behind the stadium, underneath the road overpass and make it free and open to the public. … We’ll get the flags out, start marching to the stadium, where we have a direct shot to get in, but we take the long way around the corridor for the full effect. We have our drum line, chant leaders elevated to cue our section and lead our team. From time to time, we’ll create special Tifo banners, and then during the game we mix some original chants and songs of yesteryear. We want to show the players that we’re giving it our all, and we hope they show the same energy on the field.”
Macias said having a team with a number of local adversaries makes this potentially a better fan experience than previous years.
“I think the USL will be better for us because we’ll have local rivals, not only in Texas,” Macias said. “We have Oklahoma, Arizona, Saint Louis, and the one constant we have had is support in the stands and support on the road.”
Time will tell as to how the relationship with SS&E will be out of the gate, but in the short time since SS&E announced its move to the USL in late December, Macias has been happy with the direction ownership has shown.
“In the short stretch since they announced near Christmas and leading up to that, they seem to have a good knowledge of the sport and seem to be hitting the right notes for savvy soccer fans,” Macias said. “We’ve had our doubts in the past among people at the top and whether they really understand the sport, but from what I can tell the signs show that they do know how to promote and run things. We are a big part of the community, and we hope it isn’t just for the staunch soccer supporters, but also the casual fans to migrate over to Toyota Field in ways we haven’t seen, to adopt this team. We want this to be the next biggest thing after the Spurs. That’s our hope.”
Macias, who will be 34 when the 2016 USL season kicks off, was born and raised in San Antonio. His software and web development background made it seamless to launch the Crocketteers initially through online platforms.
According to Macias, the Crocketteers’ following is now in the realm of 1,500 people, with more work on the way as the group and other supporters gear up for the club’s first USL season.
The Crocketteers’ grassroots movement reminds Macias of his early support of the San Antonio Spurs. In 1988, Macias attended his first Spurs game when they played the L.A. Lakers during Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s final season in 1988-89. The attention was more on a future Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, but in the years that followed, San Antonio’s NBA success and fan support reached incredible proportions.
“We were in the nosebleed seats where they handed out posters of artwork to see a Laker legend. We were a bad team,” Macias said. “But the following year, Sean Elliott and David Robinson came in as rookies and people started to go see the team. It was remarkable, and we all know what the Spurs have become since then, becoming Championship City five times over. I grew up here when basketball wasn’t the sport.
“I feel we’re at a transition point that could be the soccer story with winning ways and a winning organization, where my kids will be in the same situation coming up to support,” Macias said. “The Crocketteers, when I was 27, was my first child, and there are more people who were like me seven years ago that we have passed along the baton to. I want that atmosphere at Toyota Field.”