“Derby Day” if you’re like us, the mention of this phrase sends tingles down your spine, a palpable surge of excitement rushes through your body, and for some weird reason your mouth starts to water and a Guinness just materializes in your hand… Derby Day is what we as football supporters live for, the stuff of dreams, the day that you watch your club do battle against your most hated foes. The match may not be worth any extra points, or even have any impact on the league table, but try and tell any Liverpool supporter that beating United is the same as beating Burnley, or any Barca supporter that their big win against Real was only another three points in a long season. Derby Day means more because of us, the supporters. On paper yes it is just another match, another opportunity, but go see a Celtic-Rangers match and tell me that Glasgow isn’t the home of two warring tribes sworn to hate each other until the end of time. These matches’ true importance is derived one-hundred percent from the emphasis placed on them by the supporters.
So with the imminent arrival of Austin FC in just a few short years, the minds of many soccer supporters in the capital city have turned to one question: “Who will we love to hate?” I understand that to the uninitiated, this may seem to be an unnecessarily hateful and aggressive state of mind but bear with me… Soccer is all about the supporters, we bring the noise, the hype, and most importantly: the emotion. As a lifelong soccer player, I can attest to the effect that supporters can have on you. I’ve played matches in front of hundreds of my fellow students, and I fully would’ve run through a wall for them. Soccer is an emotional sport, and that feeling of “Us vs Them” is one of the most beautiful and unifying sentiments that any group of people can share. This feeling can be readily observed all around the world of football, from West Ham brawling it out with Millwall the absolute war-zone that is the Belgrade Derby (seriously if you’ve never seen this atmosphere look it up, instant goosebumps); but can we see it right here in the United States?
In short yes, there are some great examples of real derbies in the MLS, full of passion, unity, singing, and a whole lot of beer. However, there are some examples of Derbies that could’ve been, but for whatever reason are tamer than a petting zoo at your school carnival. FC Dallas vs Houston Dynamo, for example, is an excellent opportunity for a rivalry, especially in a state with such strong regional pride. Sadly, the South Texas vs North Texas feud never really gained that much momentum, with both sides rarely even selling out their stadium, little own creating a raucous atmosphere. That being said, there are some amazing Derbies in the US: El Trafico (hilarious name btw) between LA Galaxy and LAFC already looks to be a classic every match, and North of the border Toronto FC and Montreal Impact have no problem slugging it out… but the finest example of a true Derby in America is the Portland-Seattle match. The pregame festivities, the march to the stadium, and the sheer wall of noise generated within the ground when these two Cascadian counterparts square off is something that every American derby should strive to replicate.
So again, who will Austin FC love to hate? While most derbies are geographically based, I don’t see us having much of a row with either Houston or Dallas until we at least get a little history under our belt with them. We do however have a history with another club, a club who has hated us since before we even existed: Columbus. They have accused us of trying to steal their club, and while I could get into why this assertion is completely ridiculous and almost as empty as their stadium, I will refrain. I will say that I for one can’t wait for an Austin FC away goal to make Mapfre Stadium even more silent than it usually is. Here’s to a new (and hopefully one-sided) derby, bring it on, Y’all.
(Featured photo courtesy of VICE Sports)