Linfield soccer has been ‘Hooliganized’

Hello ’Cats, old and new! We’re back for another fun-filled year of rain, schoolwork and sports and yours truly will be here writing away as always. The semester may be young, but things have already started sizzling on and off the field. So don’t blink folks, or you’ll miss something cool!

On that note, something took place on Sept. 1 during the men’s soccer team’s season-opening game against Northwest Christian that moved my heart and showed me just how strong Linfield’s love for its athletics can be. Throughout last year, I wrote often of this love and that although it beats in the hearts of many of us Wildcats, I had yet to see Linfield fans take this fanaticism to the next level.

I longed to see the day when fans would stand and scream their heads off for every play and every gained yard, assist dished or point scored on the
playing field. I yearned to see fans getting up and letting the referee hear it when calls didn’t go our way and jeering the opposition until they feared setting foot on our hallowed grounds. This new level of fandom has finally been achieved, and we who have reached it, go by the name of ‘Hooligan.’

Let me back up a bit. For the past two summers, I’ve worked on campus for facilities painting dorms and external properties. Both years, I’ve worked alongside a senior soccer fanatic named Dan Harmon. When I say fanatic, I mean it. The guy breathes soccer. He loves everything from Major League Soccer in America to the English Premiere
League to Linfield College.

He had dabbled the year prior in bringing soccer enthusiasts together to support both the men’s and women’s soccer programs and mercilessly heckle the visiting team with non-profane chants. You have to keep it classy, Harmon emphasized. Unfortunately, he was met with little success and it mostly amounted to only him and four of his friends taunting the opposition.

During the summer, Harmon sent out a mass email to dozens of people around campus who he suspected might be interested in helping take things up a few notches. That’s how he met senior Evan Wingren, a newfound soccer nut who latched onto the sport when the Portland Timbers made the jump to the major leagues. According to Harmon, Wingren took the concept and ran with it, whipping up a full page of Linfield-specific soccer chants, some original and some based on existing English Premiere League or Portland Timbers. Both seniors continued to spread the word around campus and convinced head coach Ian Lefebvre to part with 20 throwback soccer jerseys for the first game of the season. If he could fill every one of those jerseys, Harmon was told, Coach Lefebvre would consider selling them to the fans for cheap.

Needless to say, I was excited beyond belief at the concept Harmon was pitching. He didn’t want to expand Linfield soccer’s fan base, he wanted to create a Linfield soccer culture. Not only that, but he wasn’t restricting the group’s influence to just the men’s side of things, as so many fan groups are prone to do. Soccer is soccer, he says, and he wanted people to get crazy for both the men and women. It was exactly what I had been writing about week after week, and I told him I would make as many games as I possibly could.

The Linfield Hooligans arrived in full force for the game against Northwest Christian, marching to the field through HP Park while chanting and banging on empty 5-gallon paint buckets. People were coming out of their apartments and standing on the balcony to see what was happening. As for filling those jerseys, we had so many among us that we had to rotate who got to wear them so everybody got a turn. As soon as the match got underway we chanted, hollered, heckled and generally raised hell without a word of profanity or vulgarity with Harmon and Wingren at the helm directing chants and
keeping the energy level high.

The other fans in the stands kept looking at us in disbelief, as though they couldn’t fathom that a small school like Linfield could muster that amount of ferocity. The team walked away that day with a 1-0 win, and I’m told the talk in the locker room among the players was how much harder they could play with a rabid section of fans. I hadn’t felt so excited after a live sporting event in months, maybe years, and couldn’t stop smiling the rest of the night. Wingren now has scarves in the works bearing the words of our favorite chant: “Everybody Wants to Be a Cat.”

Folks, if you love soccer or you just love to get loud for Linfield, the Hooligans have a place for you. The women next play at home on Sept. 14 against Lewis & Clark University and the men don’t return until Sept. 24 against George Fox. No
matter which game you go to, you’ve got plenty of time to get your purple and red prepared and your chants fine-tuned. I gotta tell you, it’s a heck of a lot of fun, and I’m proud to be called a Hooligan.

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Chris Forrer/Sports columnist
Chris Forrer can be reached at linfieldreviewsports@gmail.com.

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