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Everlasting Joy - Pro soccer a unique experience
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I’ve been a soccer coach, referee and fan for the past 20 years. I’ve even laced up my cleats and played a few games during that time, with mostly forgettable results.

Saturday night marked a first for me when it comes to soccer. It was the first time I’ve seen a professional soccer game in person as I was in attendance for Nashville Soccer Club’s 3-0 win over Atlanta United at First Tennessee Park.

The most memorable part of the experience was the rock-concert atmosphere. I’m not sure if pro soccer fans live a repressed life and soccer games are their only outlet for expression, or if they are really that enthusiastic about this new Nashville team. Whatever the reason, some fans go absolutely bonkers.

It starts hours before the game at restaurants surrounding First Tennessee Park, which is the relatively new stadium where the Nashville Sounds play baseball. The restaurants are loud and off the wall with fans jumping up and leading chants while folks are enjoying their entrees. The chants are pro wrestling in nature with the basic purpose to give people a chance to yell.

One group of diehard fans wears long scarfs and yellow shirts. Many of them sit together in a section behind one of the goals, waving flags and pounding drums during the game.

I was reading a story in the Atlanta Journal Constitution which says fan clubs are an integral part of pro soccer. In Atlanta, where a pro soccer game drew more than 70,000 fans over the weekend, there are four official supporter clubs which follow the team.

The clubs give fans a chance at fellowship before, during and after the games. Just as important, they encourage people to cheer like crazy. Heavy alcohol consumption appears to be involved.

My favorite spot was Von Elrod’s, a large restaurant located directly across from the main stadium entrance. Von Elrod’s has an extremely large patio which serves as a prime viewing spot to watch the enthusiasm unfold as fans promenade into the stadium.

Whether by design or not, the soccer game itself seems like an afterthought. But there was a game and for the few people who seemed concerned with that trivial aspect of the night, Nashville was dominant in winning 3-0.

Nashville has certainly become one of the “it” cities in all America and professional soccer is yet another bonus.
Nashville Soccer Club will play the rest of this season at the Sounds stadium, although it does have a prime time game this Saturday at Nissan Stadium.

Looking forward, a $250 million stadium will be constructed for the team at Nashville Fairgrounds with seating capacity in the 27,500 range. If you’re looking to experience the thrills of pro soccer, Nashville plays through mid-October with seats starting at $25 and standing room only admission at $15.