A Friday night in late July with 70,000 sports fans crammed into downtown Baltimore is something to behold. I realize most of you didn’t come down to M&T Bank Stadium for Chelsea’s 2-1 victory over A.C. Milan. Honestly, I realize there’s a large contingent of “real” Baltimore sports fans who “hate” soccer.
But none of that really matters after the fact.
Here’s the truth about the big friendly soccer match at the Big Crab Cake: it was an unqualified success and was probably the coolest non-Ravens event in our city in a generation.
I began my afternoon at Mother’s with several Corona Lights and a full house of soccer fans. Sure, the crowd was mostly male but there were all sorts of jerseys from all over the world and many folks brought their children to the game in a “once in a lifetime” chance to see the likes of Gattuso, Ronaldihno and Pirlo here in Charm City.
I walked for 30 minutes through the crowd. I saw ONE Orioles jersey (a Nick Markakis 21 orange giveaway special) and TWO Ravens hats the entire evening. And if you were wondering whether it was a “real” sellout or the “fake” kind the Orioles portend on occasion rest assured that it was a TOUGH, TOUGH ticket Friday night. Every seat in the stadium was full 10 minutes into the game and the place erupted several times with enthusiasm.
They did “The Wave.” They cheered for Ronaldihno – every time he touched the ball he got a reaction, even from the Chelsea supporters who replaced the Ravens Band seats in a swath of blue jerseys and filled with song.
I really hope this is the beginning of a soccer renaissance in Baltimore over the next decade. It’s a worthwhile endeavor for everyone locally to work together to build this identity for the World Cup and beyond.
Baltimore took this game seriously. The stadium filled up. The restaurants and bars were vibrant. The event went off without a hitch.
Everyone associated with the event – from Steve Bisciotti and the Ravens to Ed Hale and the Blast to the Maryland Stadium Authority and Sports Promotion wing should be very, very proud today.
I know I am.
Here’s a full account of my evening at M&T Bank Stadium…