Editor’s note: Alexa Ball is a remarkable young writer with a rare combination of talents and perspectives. This is the first in an occasional series of articles she’ll be writing about the experience of reconnecting to her roots with the Charleston Battery this summer — and then comparing our soccer culture to the one she’ll enter when she returns to Scotland for another semester of college this fall. We’re more tha excited to be adding her to our lineup. — dc
When I first considered the task of documenting the life and times of a local soccer fan, I came face-to-face with the question of why we choose to support such teams in the first place — especially in the South, where soccer rarely plays a starring role, save for the World Cup. So why do we love the Battery?
In short, it’s because they bring us home.
Raise your hand if you have ever been a part of any soccer team that took a team trip to a Battery game. Raise two hands if you or your child has been a ballboy/girl.
Now raise your hand if you’ve ever been to a Battery-hosted soccer camp.
And again if you’ve waited in line by the players bench to have your black-and-yellow Battery ball signed until all of the yellow hexagons were full.
If nothing else, raise your hand if you’ve ever sat at a game, rain-soaked in a torrential Charleston downpour, because screw it, it’s a good time anyway.
And that’s why the Battery is our team — because in lieu of having the glitz and glam of an NFL game, it brings the people of Charleston together in a way that only sports can.
As a bit of personal background and my own relation to the Battery, I am Canadian-born and Charleston raised. For 16 years I was rooted on James Island — attending, playing for, and graduating from James Island High School in 2010. I have been through all of the clubs; Mt. Pleasant, JIYSC, and the Bridge FA.
For college, I bolted to Boston for fear of getting stuck forever in the city I love. For my Junior year, I bolted to Scotland because I love small pubs named the Curly Coo Inn and losing myself in EPL fanaticism with like-minded people. I live in Stirling and play for the university, occasionally also studying journalism and always eating as many sausage rolls as I can.
The Battery was always part of being a soccer player in Charleston, and I can distinctly remember watching my signed soccer ball roll into the alligator pond during a camp. Now that I live abroad, it’s a bit of a scramble to replant my feet back in Charleston soil during the summers, and part of the reason I love the Battery is because it is a team you can always come back to and realize you’re home.
The Homecoming – the Battery v Charlotte
Despite my shiny new Battery press pass, I wanted my first Battery game back at the ‘Baud to be down and dirty — and as pure as local fandom can get. So we bought tickets for E1 and happily made ourselves at home in the designated supporter’s section.
One major benefit of E1 is having the American Outlaws supporter group in close proximity, whose chants were charming if not always so family-friendly (although they did try to modify the words…).
As I sat in E1, trying in vain to resist the temptation to devour the entire bag of kettle corn, Richard Todd’s announcement of every Battery corner and birthday over the constant rattle of child-sized cleats on metal bleachers was comforting.
The ‘Baud was not quite sold out but comfortably full, and the Battery played well — better than the score reflected. This is one of the more frustrating parts of being a sports fan, especially soccer, when playing better does not necessarily translate to a W. But the Battery defense played solidly, “Shannon cannon” had a great game, and though the American Outlaws’ calls to “put the ball into the goal and we’ll go *really* mental” went unheeded, the fans were happy. The playoff campaign, although far from over, is nowhere near out of reach, and the black-and-yellow army marches on to the tune of feet stomping on metal bleachers.
After the game I managed to snag Falvey for a photo. The easy access to the players bench is an adjustment from being a hardcore Chelsea fan, where the players are about as available to the fans as Beyonce. Standing within hailing distance of these local heroes, you realize that the players are also our friends and neighbors. Despite often coming from far and wide to play for our humble Battery side, the players in black and yellow have amassed a fan base that loves them as our own.
In Scotland, football often contributes to your identity. In Charleston, the identity of soccer is created by the community and for one brief summer, I am excited to be a part of it again.
TOP IMAGE: Alexa Ball grabs a photo with Captain Colin Falvey after the Charlotte match.