Led by drummer Galen Riley and El Conductor on the cowbells, The Chattahooligans march into the stadium for the NPSL playoffs. Photo Credit: Stephen Prendergast
Soccer News: Chattahooligans are NPSL’s “Most Valuable Boosters”
It starts off as a thumping sound in the distance. Soon the thumping is recognized as the beat of a drum and the stomping of feet, accompanied by a chant. Then it enters the stadium. “It” is a contingent of fans known as “The Chattahooligans,” the raucous and rowdy boosters of Chattanooga FC (CFC), who recently traveled to San Diego to take part in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) Championships. While the ‘Hooligans were not able to bring their full strength, a dozen loyal members managed the 2000 mile trip to cheer their heroes on.
The NPSL presents Player of the Year and Goalkeeper of the Year honors, as well as crowning a championship team. They don’t award a “booster group of the year,” but if they did The Chattahooligans would be the hands-down winners. The group routinely brings over 100 members to home games, which have easily the highest average attendance in the NPSL. The ‘Hooligans even travel to away games, surprising the team with over 50 members waiting when they played in Mississippi earlier this year.
The unofficial leader and spokesman of the group is “El Conductor,” who attends games dressed as an old-time railroad conductor (think “Chattanooga Choo-Choo”), but wearing a mask a-la the Lone Ranger. Before CFC’s semifinal match on Friday, July 27, he and some of the other members talked about coming to San Diego to support their team.
“We’re the supporter group for Chattanooga Football Club,” said El Conductor. “We’re based in Chattanooga, Tenn., and we go to all the games and we just cheer our hearts out and support our team.
Describing how the group began, El Conductor explained, “It just sort of built up. It’s a mix of guys and girls who are just rabid soccer fans. There are also people who aren’t necessarily soccer fans but just love our area and want to support it because it’s a group that represents Chattanooga and does it well.”
“We have about a dozen [in San Diego],” El Conductor said of the group’s turnout for the NPSL Championships. “It’s a 2000 mile trip, so that cut down on our numbers some. But we’re going to cheer like we’re thousands.”
|The Chattahooligans at the NPSL Championship final. Front (L-R): Galen Riley, "Mrs. Coach Elliot," Bill Bolen, El Conductor. Middle: Sarah & Dustin Smith, Rachel Rook, Abby Gengozian. Back: The Chase Family. Not shown" Paul Rustand. Photo Credit: Stephen Prendergast
And that they did. From before the opening kickoff until the team emerged victorious over Bay Area Ambassadors, The Chattahooligans kept up a steady stream of chants and cheers, many of them made up on the spur of the moment.
When told that CFC Head Coach Bill Elliot had talked about them at the NPSL pre-match press conference, El Conductor responded, “Our reputation precedes us. We just want to show our love to the team and he hope they appreciate it because we appreciate the job they do.”
CFC midfielder Phil Beene, who scored against the Ambassadors, definitely appreciates what the group brings to games, especially the playoffs. Asked about having The Chattahooligans come out, Beene said, “I can’t say we expected it, but I’m not that shocked. They’re clearly the best fans in the NPSL. Nobody else has people travel thousands of mile to see them play. They’ve been great all year.”
Chattanooga is definitely unique in the NPSL, averaging over 2000 fans per home game. El Conductor credits the community’s spirit for the high numbers. While The Chattahooligans are a group unto themselves, the entire city has embraced the team.
Bill Bolen, another ‘Hooligan and a long-time soccer fan (“I’ve been to every World Cup since ‘94” he proudly proclaims), explained that the group began with the team’s founding four years ago because they “wanted to have the team to have that advantage.”
“We didn’t know you’re not supposed to have big crowds for an NPSL team,” Bolen kidded, “but we did it and it just keeps growing. And the community is being very supportive of the team.”
The Chattahooligans again distinguished themselves by their unflagging spirit during the championship match on Sunday, July 29, against Sonic FC. After marching into the stadium, and loudly proclaiming their desire for the championship cup, the group set up shop in the stands behind the Sonic bench.
Several times during the game the ‘Hooligans took advantage of the opponent’s sponsorship by the popular drive-through restaurant by chanting “Take our order,” followed by a long list of items regularly found on the Sonic menu.
While the team came up short in the end, losing a tightly-contested 1-0 match to Sonic FC, The Chattahooligans never gave up. After the game the ‘Hooligans joined the players to commiserate on the loss and dream about next season. Back in Chattanooga, the group put together a welcome-home event when the team returned on Monday.
|The Chattahooligans at the NPSL Championships semifinal match between Chattanooga FC and Bay Area Ambassadors chanting "Chatta"...."Nooga" to fire up their team. Photo Credit: Stephen Prendergast
Chattanooga may only have the number two team in the NPSL this season, but there is no question they have the number one fans in The Chattahooligans. Other cities could take some tips from these fantastic soccer supporters.
El Conductor probably said it best about the group: “We take pride in how much spirit we have.”
Congratulations to the members of The Chattahooligans who came out for the NPSL Championships: El Conductor, Bill Bolen, Galen Riley, “Mrs. Coach Elliot,” Rachel Rook, Abby Gengozian, Sarah and Dustin Smith, Paul Rustand and the Chase Family.
Related Article: Chattanooga FC Hold on for Trip to NPSL Finals