For the past two months, I have been attending and cheering on, to the best of my ability, the Atlanta Silverbacks. They were formed as a somewhat last-minute addition to the fledgling second division soccer league in the US, which lurches from controversy and drama, one week to the next. The Silverbacks have had an extremely short time in which to devise a squad list, let alone play, gel together and become a team.
For the past two months I have attended each home game with excitement, yet also trepidation as the incubatory, yet growing, team tried to work out opposition sides almost as quickly as they tried to learn their own players and tendencies.
For the past two months, this team has been winless, has only earned two points and scored only three goals; in fact before tonight they hadn’t scored for almost five matches, stretching back to April. They are bottom of the league and the butt of all the jokes.
And then tonight, they won.
Now, I admit I’m fairly new to the region and am very new to following this team. Each week a hardcore cadre of fans sits in front of me, who have witnessed many more years of football on, and off, this field and have a much deeper and richer appreciation for what soccer means in this community. They have seen the highs and numerous lows that come with supporting a lower league team in a marginalized sport. But, I hope I am not considered a glory-hunter by celebrating this – the most magnificent breaking of a duck I have witnessed.
To date the team has not been a terrible team, but rather suffered some poor fate. A collection of unlucky breaks and chances missed by seconds, or inches; like a photographer clicking at the inopportune moment. The perfect picture, and result, seemed tantalizingly close, yet out of reach.
And then they won.
Suddenly, all those ‘almosts’ become irrelevant. The losses are swept under the carpet; the only currency is a win. The click and whir of a success, notches one in the win column and provides that illusive coin – pride.
To win is to master the Universe. We rise above the petty bickering about our slipshod defending, instead answering the accusation with a delightful shot from Raphael Cox. 1-0. Counting the minutes since we last scored? Well take this Cox-assisted Matt Horth tap-in and cheer on for eternity. 2-0. Even in ascendancy we show mercy – we granted a goal of unspeakable defending to Montreal, because we are nothing if not gracious. 2-1.
In a game delayed by lightning, the Gods eventually decreed that nothing else should stand in our way to victory. This is a new experience to this collection of team-mates – taking the lead and winning together. It could mark a turning point in the team’s progression. We may go on to win more, or we may retreat and never repeat. For now the sweetness of victory is intoxicating, there is no substitute. It would be prudent to freeze-frame this moment, so as not to forget this giddiness. Football doesn’t allow you to linger long over the victories, but this is one to savour until Sunday.