PantherU

Our PantherU Guide to becoming a soccer fan at #UWM

Good morning, freshmen, and welcome to an important part of your orientation: how to become not just a sports fan, but a Milwaukee Panthers fan. And not just any Milwaukee Panthers fan, but a Milwaukee Panthers soccer fan.

I know what you’re saying to yourself as you read this. Soccer? Yeah, trust me, I get it. I was a freshman too once upon a time in September 2005.  You don’t get soccer; it hasn’t been neatly packaged for you on network television on Saturdays or Sundays your entire life. There weren’t thousands of people going to your high school’s games. There is no local juggernaut, no Green Bay Packers of soccer to translate for the born-and-bred Wisconsinite football fan.

I understand. I was that guy too. I didn’t know a midfielder from Prince Fielder. I grew up in a football-loving family, the kind that made annual pilgrimages to Lambeau Field and always made it to the UW-Madison Homecoming game. And then I got to college at UW-Milwaukee, and all of a sudden, I was a college football fan where there was no college football (at least not the NCAA kind).

Luckily for me, some older students took me under their wing and showed me that we do have football. Just not the football I was used to.

First things first. This is Milwaukee. As in the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, my alma mater and your choice for the next four years of your life and education.

At Milwaukee, we don’t play American football. We play Association football, or as it’s called here in the States, Soccer.

This is a soccer ball. Duh.

 

There are 11 guys per team on the field at any given time. Some play offense, some play defense, and the point is to score while also stopping your opponent from scoring.  “Jimmy, that sounds like football!” Yeah, I know, try to keep up.

This is a yellow card. The ref gives this to someone who has been a naughty player.

The Yellow Card. There’s no flags. Coaches don’t challenge anything, except maybe tossing an expletive or two at the referee as he passes them. Essentially, this is a warning card – don’t be a dick and you can keep playing. It’s usually given when a player intentionally clips another player instead of going for the ball. Yeah, this game is actually physical – that whole “Field Fairy” BS that your high school football coach used to throw around is just that, BS.

I once stood five feet away from one of our players as he stomped the back of some UC-Santa Barbara kid’s head into the ground. It was awesome.

Red card means piss off.

This means the player is tossed from the match, and he has to go to the showers and cry. Usually this follows someone getting punched in the face, but usually it’s given when someone gets their second yellow card: two yellow cards equals a red and you’re out. Oh yeah, you’re also out for the next game too. Well maybe you shouldn’t have curb-stomped your opponent then!

Pretty much everyone understands these. The big rule that I had to learn is one that is shared with hockey, called “offside.”

This flag means that the offense is “offside.”

Now, offside is simple once you understand what it’s there for. You may notice at your first match that the sideline ref (linesman) blows his whistle and points his little flag forward. This means the offense is “offside,” which is when the offensive player gets behind the last defenseman before the ball is passed to him.  The rule was put in so no one would be a cherry-picking douchebag. It’s a good rule, although you’re going to pull your hair out when it gets called on your beloved Panthers.

Know these rules, and you’re pretty much ready to watch soccer and at least have a passing understanding of what’s going on. I watch soccer all the time and I barely know more than this. I think that’s why they call it the “Beautiful Game,” because it takes 5 minutes to learn. Oh yeah:

Can’t touch this bow-now-now-now

Only the keeper can touch the ball with his hands. Five-year olds know that rule, but it’s worth mentioning.

So what about Milwaukee? What makes Milwaukee soccer so special? What makes being a Milwaukee Panthers Soccer fan worthwhile?

It all starts with the pitch (that’s soccer lingo for “field”):

This is our little slice of heaven, right in the middle of campus.

Engelmann Stadium has been called the Fenway Park of College Soccer. It’s a beautiful pitch – now FieldTurf, which has led to more scoring – settled in between Engelmann Hall, Cunningham Hall, the Chemistry building, EMS (Math), and Syrup (School of Architecture and Urban Planning where the above picture was taken from).

What makes Engelmann Stadium special isn’t the lights that went up in 2006, or the way the sun sets over the west end zone.  It’s the noise.

Soccer fans are just a louder group of fans. They are more a part of the show than in any sport, even college basketball. Singing songs, taunting opponents, choreographed cheers – the fans make the experience. And at Engelmann, that noise they make is multiplied.   The Physics building may be to the south, but any Physics major will tell you the sound of 3,000 people is amplified so it sounds like 30,000 people when they’re yelling at full bore.

The first time you hear the cheesy Panther growl and “It’s time for a Pepsi Panther Corner Kick!” is when you really get it. This is a fun place to be. But it’s more than the noise, taunting opponents from 5 feet away and watching Panthers beat the crap out of opponents.

Tailgating is a common pass time at weekend home matches.

Tailgating is a common pass time at weekend home matches.

Week nights usually see fans catching a bite to eat at the assorted restaurants in the area; on weekends, though, you’ll find the Panther soccer tailgating to be just as fun as any Brewers or football game; just be sure to get your spot and get grilling ahead of time. And freshmen, be smart about alcohol.

Warning: turn your speakers down a bit, this video is loud:

The Milwaukee soccer fans sing many songs; they’re almost all extremely easy to pick up. This particular video comes from a road match at Marquette (yup, the Milwaukee Cup) where several Panthers broke out into “Sweet Milwaukee” to drown out the Marquette student broadcast. Yeah, we’re jerks. Get over it.

Keep the speakers turned down:

Essentially, when you Panther fans aren’t singing, your job is to constantly berate the opposing team’s players. This is Division I, you don’t let them come in, walk on your lawn and leave without being emotionally scarred for life.

But what is it about the team? Why this group of players? It’s all about the Glory Glory.

That’s their chant; Glory, Glory Panther Soccer. There is no video to post because it doesn’t exist. It’s a sacred chant, you don’t bandy it about on the internet. Same with Milwaukee (Encore), the song the fans sing when the Panthers score. It’s literally just fans singing Milwaukee over and over again, then ending it with a punctuated “Panthers!” (or FU, but that’s just for certain opposing players).

But this is about the game. Specifically, tonight’s game. THE GAME. The 41st Milwaukee Cup.

I know what you’re thinking. “Why have a traveling trophy, Marquette must be so much better LOL!” You’re wrong. Shut up. Saying LOL is as stupid as that big Marquette derp’s face.

DERP

DERP

Side note: he’s actually not a derp. Axel Sjoberg is a 6’7” behomoth who will eat your lunch. Which is why it’s up to you to get under his skin tonight.

Anyways, back to the Cup. This is the Milwaukee Cup:

mkecup

 

This is sacred. This is eternal. This is your birthright as Milwaukee Panthers.

That’s right. Your birthright. Because Milwaukee Soccer is the true king of college soccer in this town. Know this: of the 40 times that Milwaukee and Marquette have fought over this Milwaukee Cup, the Panthers have left the pitch with the Cup 29 times and own a 27-10-3 record in the derby.

That’s right. It’s a Derby. This is the most important of all Rivalries; a Derby is the rivalry fought between foes from the same city. Think of Duke-North Carolina, USC-UCLA, Yankees-Mets. Or better yet, think of a professional soccer counterpart:

Manchester City and United.

Don’t let anyone tell you that this Milwaukee Cup, fought for in this Derby, isn’t important.

rush

The 2006 match, in front of a record crowd, led to a field rush afterward.

You follow in the footsteps of many that came before.  Every year, the incoming freshman class has a chance to prove its worth by coming out and being louder and crazier than the class before them.

No one is going to hold your hand and tell you to come out and cheer. You’ve got to see this for yourself, to be a part of it. Drag everyone you know, from your high school friends who also came to UWM to your new suitemates to everyone you met in freshman orientation. It’s time for you to carve your place in the annals of Milwaukee history; it’s entirely up to you whether the Class of 2017 rivals those in recent years or if it shows its true colors as a class of apathy, devoid of school pride.

So are you going to step up to the challenge, or are you going to be the class of no backbone, content to just sip their beers out of a solo cup in an attic on Frederick Avenue?  The real classes are the ones who have their cake and eat it too; trust me, there’s nothing sweeter than partying following a victory in the Cup.

Classes start Tuesday. Panther Pride starts now.

Let’s see whatcha got.

Chris Zills’ preview of the match can be found here.

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