Why the Pride: Abbey Witzgall
Anyone who knows me is usually a little confused when I tell them I'm now a soccer fan. They tend to slip into disbelief when I tell them that I am also on the executive board for The Pride. I'm not what you would call a “sports fan.” Sure, I followed the Cincinnati teams, I fill out a March Madness bracket every year (it doesn't usually go well), I even played some sports, including soccer, when I was younger but I was never the type to get this invested in sports.
When I joined The Pride, it was a purely practical reason: I wanted to know when the march from U-Square was leaving and I had heard there was a group text for it. I missed the march that match, funny enough but joining The Pride was one of the best decisions I could have made. My boyfriend had already joined so I figured, why not? Once we went to the first open meeting at Molly Malone's in Covington, I was hooked. This wasn't just sports. This was fun!
Before I started going to FCC matches, I could not tell you the first thing about soccer aside from “get the ball in the goal” and “red cards are bad.” I honestly still don't know much about soccer except now I kind of understand what offsides is. I don't just react to cheering now, I know what we're cheering for. I knew I was fully indoctrinated when one weekend morning I woke up on my own to watch the Tottenham Hotspurs take on Liverpool and woke up my parents with how much I was cheering.
After that first season, I wanted to get more involved and found a way by helping man the sign up booth at the 3rd kit release party at Madtree. It was that easy. I hung out with friends all night, had someone buy me a beer for signing them up for The Pride, and left feeling good. And then it was announced that the position of Membership Coordinator was open on the executive board. I was a little apprehensive at first: what business did I have being one of the people who ran these supporter's groups? I didn't know anything about soccer! I can honestly tell you then, and now, I don't know the difference between Messi or Ronaldo (except for that statue) or most of these players. I applied anyway.
Having been a soccer fan for only a year and a half, all of a sudden I was on the executive board for The Pride. I thought going to FC Cincinnati games was going to just be a fun thing to do on Saturday nights. I thought going to FC Cincinnati games was just a way to root for another sports team. I didn't realize that it would give me new friends, new motivations, propel me into learning the inner workings of local government, or give me a sense of pride in my city that was honestly waning.
When asked to write a blog from a women's perspective, I thought, “Well my perspective isn't really the one all women have about soccer.” and that's okay! For me, my perspective on all this has been different and everyone's will be! What I can tell you is while FC Cincinnati has given me so much, my favorite scarf isn't from any FCC match. The scarf I will treasure most is from the USWNT match at Nippert.
I took the entire day off for that match. I helped set up the tifo at Nippert beforehand and seeing all the pomp and circumstance for women blew me away. This wasn't something where women were the sideshow, they were the main event. Usually, when walking around during an FC Cincinnati match, you usually see little boys running around in kits. At the USWNT match I saw more girls in those kits than I thought possible. To be cliché, those kids are the future of our national teams, which I hear the men's team has some rough spot it's going through. Those women who play for the US are fighters. They fight for equal playing conditions, equal pay, and equal exposure. The fight on and off the pitch to show what is it and what it isn't to be a woman. A woman's perspective on soccer usually is limited to the sideline reporters interviewing coaches at halftime.
My perspective on soccer is this: it is for everyone. Young, old, man, woman, nonbinary people, gay, straight, somewhere in-between, rich, poor, whatever political party, it is for you. Whether you understand the game, or don't really even know who Messi is, it is for you! That is what made me fall in love with The Pride. If they can have me, someone who still doesn't really understand how formations work, on their executive board, it is truly for everyone.