Eighty-four years before then Senator Joe Biden and Walter Bahr helped kick off the first ever Philadelphia Union match at Lincoln Financial Field, Rafael Garza Gutiérrez and Germán Núñez Cortina decided to take the best players from two college teams in Mexico City and combine them into one. In October of 1916, Pedro “Cheto” Quintanilla came up with the name “América” for the club and designed the logo: a blue silhouette of the North and South American continents on a yellow ball with the red letters “C” and “A” on either side of the silhouette.
Since that moment, there have been fans of Club América. Originally a local club, the team became a national and then an international institution. They’ve played teams from every continent with a team except Australia, and fans can be found literally everywhere. It’s not an exaggeration to say that Club América fans pre-date the Philadelphia Union, the Sons of Ben, and Major League Soccer.
Club América has also played right here in the Philadelphia area. In 2017 as part of their Tour Águila, they played Puebla at Subaru Park, then Talen Energy Stadium. Fans were treated to seeing Miguel Herrera managing current Real Betis players Guido Rodríguez and a then 17-year-old unknown named Diego Lainez right here. América’s fans were here too. I spoke with them, some of whom were locals and some who had traveled across the country to see their beloved team.
I guarantee you most of these folks will be back when the Union host América in September in the second leg of the Concacaf Champions League semifinal round. América’s fans will also come from all corners of the United States and possibly abroad as well. And there will be fans of other teams as well. For some Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, seeing a Mexican soccer team is as much a cultural experience as it is a sporting one.
I think back to the interview I did with Astrid Silva, a fan of Santos Laguna who lives in Nevada and is an advocate for the rights of undocumented persons in the United States. She goes to Santos games in the United States when she can because she can’t go and see her team play a game in their home stadium. Think about that. What if you lived elsewhere and through no fault of your own couldn’t come to Philadelphia to see the Union play a game?
Ahead of this match, I want to invite you to do something: read this article written by Nancy Flores-Sánchez, a Portland Timbers fan and member of the Timbers Army.
It’s a powerful read. In it, Flores-Sánchez talks about some of the abuse that Club América fans were subject to before, during, and after the match. About people being forced to choose between Club América and the Timbers. About the “bags of pee” trope that’s pulled out every time a Mexican club sets foot on US soil or plays a team from the US. It’s as misguided as the “Eagles fans threw snowballs at Santa” trope, only with an added dash of racism.
Learn from Portland’s mistakes.
It doesn’t have to be that way here. We can talk our trash without devolving into nationalism or racism. We can want our team to win while understanding it’s quite possible we won’t face them again in competitive play for a generation. We can welcome these fans to the stadium, and then after the game invite them to tailgate in the parking lot and perhaps more importantly, to come back another time. Just as most of you reading this have a favorite team in another country, why not encourage these América fans to become Union fans?