What were about a dozen people doing last Saturday at 10am outside Stout on East Main?
More accurately, the group is the firm or the ultras of the Spurs, the names given to hard core if not fanatical “football” fans — sometimes referred to as hooligans. The firm was waiting for Stout to open so they could cheer on the Hotspurs in their match against Stoke City
Due to a miscommunication, Stout had not opened early as it normally does when the ultras gather for morning games (afternoon in the UK). So instead the firm watched the game on a computer. Fortunately, the group stressed they were “non-violent” hooligans. Hence, no effort was made to enter Stout by force. After a while, many of the fans went over to the Winfield as the Spurs destroyed Stoke City 4 – nill.
Founder and President Zachary Slade explained what the Rochester Totenham Spurs supporters are about. The group, mostly Americans, are basically lifelong soccer fans. Instead of following the Bills or another NFL team, they watch US and international soccer.
But every fan needs a team, so two years ago the group adopted Tottenham as their own, becoming dues paying members of the Hotspurs’ international fan club. On the internet, Rochester fans can get all the team news they need and go to global chat sites that discuss the minutiae of each game, if not each play.
The group chose Tottenham partly because American Clint Dempsey had signed with the club in 2012. Also, the firm did not want to join the “evil empires” of Arsenal or Manchester United who seemingly buy all the best players. Zach said Arsenal was like the Yankees, while Tottenham was like the Mets, historically not as successful but easier to root for.
One advantage is members are eligible for hard to get tickets over in England. Managing to secure tickets, in October Rick and Jennifer are going to the Spurs’ home turf, White Hart Lane.
Until I met the Spurs, I didn’t know that decent sized fan clubs of English soccer flourish in Rochester, each having their “home” pub (bar). The Brickyard is Arsenal’s home turf. Once, the Spurs’ firm went to the Brickyard to watch a draw between Arsenal (Yankees) and Tottenham (Mets). Zach said the atmosphere was “a little tense,” between the competing fan clubs, but because the Spurs are non-violent hooligans, the peace was kept.
I can see the appeal of the fan club. Its numbers are large enough to be a real community. At the same time, while they don’t look down upon the masses who fill the Wintonaire and the Distillery every fall Sunday, the firm can enjoy a certain distinctiveness. And I like that the fan club adds a little international-feeling flavor to the North Winton neighborhood on Saturday mornings.
My own interest in soccer fits a common Rochester pattern. In the summer of 1977, Rochester had what the newspapers called “Lancer Mania” as our NASL team surged into the playoffs. The frenzy was especially pitched when the Cosmos and Pele came to Holleder Stadium in July and then again in the playoffs in August.
Along with over 14,000 others, Brian Schultz, his father and I went to the July match. After the Lancers 1 – 0 shootout win, going home we noticed Pele’s small motorcade on its way to his hotel.
Somehow we managed to park nearby and caught up with Pele, his bodyguard and a few others as they entered the hotel. Pele graciously signed a card for me. To this day, to everlasting chagrin, I can’t locate the autograph. Writing this compelled a re-searching of old boxes to no avail. The Pele autograph is lost.
But I never really caught the soccer bug, only having been to one Rhinos game (when they played at Frontier Field).
At same time, I did closely follow the last two World Cup. Like many, I enjoyed the festive atmosphere at the corner of East and Alexander as several bars showed all the matches. It was poignant watching young British women living in Rochester stream out of Monte’s Corner in tears after England lost to France.
During the 2014 World Cup, my friend Stephen Shapiro who has lived now in the UK for many years was back in Brighton for an extended visit. Stephen taught my father and I about the nuances of the beautiful game.
For Brazil v. Germany, I arrived about 15 minutes into the game. Watching with my father, Stephen was feeling a little frustrated because my father had wanted to see the end of a 1930s movie, and they missed an early goal. As non-aficionados, my father and I didn’t think it was such a big deal. Stephen knew only too well one goal could decide the match.
From that point on, we shared Stephen’s disbelief as Germany won in a 7 – 1 historic route. As the goals piled up, Stephen said he was now glad they watched the end of the 1930s movie.
As seen in No Jills; no playoffs for the Bills, with the Bills headed for mediocrity again, maybe it’s time for a new team. I think I’ll drop by Stout some Saturday morning and cheer on with the Rochester Totenham Spurs supporters.
Now if only another international sport that deserves more love — badminton — had a fan club.
ON THE SECOND MOST POPULAR SPORT IN THE WORLD.