How Texas SGs Honored Uvalde
Bigger than the game
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It’s been less than a month since the tragic events at Uvalde unfolded, leaving a nation reeling. During that time, several supporters groups in Texas took action, raising money, showing solidarity and uniting as one.
Immediately after news about the tragedy broke, members of Austin FC supporter group Los Verdes launched a GoFundMe to benefit the families of the victims.
“As the events unfolded, we discussed it in our Slack Group, and we presented the idea of starting a GoFundMe for the families,” said Rico Hernandez, one of the brains behind the fundraiser. “Uvalde is a small community with a mix of different backgrounds from marginalized communities. Emotionally and financially we know this can be tough for anyone losing a child, specifically for a community like Uvalde. The SG was on board with the idea, so that same day we created the GoFundme.”
The original goal was modest, just $5,000. But that was surpassed in a few hours, as word spread throughout Texas and the wider supporter community. After just 10 days, the GoFundMe raised more than $268,000, all of which would be going directly to the victims’ families.
“It's bigger than soccer and supporters because the city of Uvalde is our Comunidad, and we will do what we can to help,” said Hernandez. “Our fellow Texans were hurting, and we weren't just going to sit back and not take action. Futbol y Comunidad is ingrained in who we are as an SG, and we will continue giving back to the Comunidad!”
Four days later, Rio Grande Valley FC were scheduled to host San Antonio FC in a USL Championship regular season game, normally a charged event between supporter groups.
“Supporters groups in Texas don’t always get along,” said James Hope of the Crocketteers, a San Antonio FC supporters group.
“In the past we have had our fair share of confrontations with San Antonio supporters,” said Nick Villescas of the Stampede, an RVG supporters group.
But in the wake of Uvalde, both sets of supporters put aside their squabbles.
“Before reaching out to the Crocketteers we knew as the home team something had to be done to honor the victims,” said Villescas. “We and the San Antonio supporters group took it a step further by reaching out to one another and collaborating.
About 50 people made the three and a half hour bus trip from San Antonio to Edinburg and upon arriving, were greeted by members of the Stampede.
“We invited the Crocketteers to join our tailgate where we welcomed them with open arms, food, and beer,” said Villescas. “That is where we created the banner that you can see displayed during the 21st minute “United 4 Uvalde”
The clubs had already planned to pause the match during the 21st minute, when the names of the 21 victims of the shooting would be read.
In anticipation of that moment, the Stampede and Crocketteers approached RGV’s security team about allowing the supporters groups to join together during that time. This is a rare occurrence, as the groups are purposely separated by the length of the stadium, the home side supporters on the north end, while the visiting supporters sit on the south side, in order to avoid confrontations.
“Both front offices know that we have a huge rivalry between each other, so, when this idea of bringing both supporter groups together during the match was put forward, of course it raised some red flags,” said Villescas. “However, we reassured the front offices and each other as supporter groups that, for this moment, all soccer would be set aside.”
“So at the 15th minute, we left our section, walked over to the other section, stood arm in arm with our brothers from RVG Stampede, held our banner up and listened to the 21 names being named,” said Hope.
The moment was powerful for all involved.
“My real job is a district safety coordinator for a public school,” said Hope. “Just to hear the names was pretty hard for all of us, both the supporters and players on the field. It hurt. But it was an opportunity for the supporters groups to show that some things are bigger. This game is wonderful but some things are bigger than that.”
“The whole experience was amazing,” said Villescas. “To show the fans in the stands, the front offices, and those watching at home, that in this time of tragedy these two passionate groups put aside their differences towards one another and stand as one sends a message that this is bigger than soccer, that this is bigger than us. This is about 21 lives that were lost.”
The gesture was emblematic of the values that both supporters groups represent.
“The Stampede is a group of the most passionate supporters of RGVFC. Our job is to bring the noise, provide an atmosphere of music and chants that the players can feed off of, and lead them to victory,” said Villescas. “We truly love this club, we're a family and invite anybody to come and be a part of it. All it takes is one game and you’re hooked.”
According to Hope, the Crocketteers, a charter member of the Independent Supporters Council, are focused on growing themselves, while also helping to improve other groups.
“We feel that it’s important to get together and improve each other,” he said. “We still want to be the best in the section, but it’s important that we show our best practices so we can all be better. It’s important that we’re all successful so that supporters culture can continue to grow.”