Featured Image: Nicolae Stoian
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Philly Soccer Page’s series of fan posts continues now on a weekly basis. This week, we feature a missive from Lori Bilyou, who is currently serving in Afghanistan with the Delaware National Guard. Lori wrote this Saturday, before Philadelphia Union’s big win over Kansas City.
I’m not the most die hard fan. I’ll admit it. There are plenty others out there who have been rooting for Philadelphia longer than me. Still, when I reflect on my own history and introduction to the Sons of Ben via a bus trip to a US v. Mexico World Cup qualifying match in Columbus, Ohio, 2009, I just shake my head and smile. Craziness!
My husband and I have had season tickets in the River End for three years running, and until this year, I’ve only missed a handful of home games. The inaugural season, I was in Army public affairs school at Ft. Meade, Md., and drove the sometimes five-hour trek to make weekend home matches.
Season 2, when my husband was sent to Army Officer Basic Course in Georgia, he subscribed to MLS Live to catch the games, we kept our two season tickets, and I planned summer trips to visit him in Georgia around Union home games. He’s a SOB too. He understood.
In his absence, I filled his seat in the River End with either my best friend or my sister, creating two more die hard Union supporters that summer. While unofficial, I like to think I played a big part in keeping the chants going in our section and in relaying them to the next section down. Officially, I started sounding like Brigitte Nielsen by the end of the season and was put on total voice rest by my doctor, who said my overworked vocal chords needed a break.
This year has been tough. With a seat change, we now have the best season seats so far in the River End, but I’ve only gotten to visit them once. I made the 17-hour trip home during a short break in mobilization training to be at PPL Park for the home opener. I got to tailgate with the SOBs and sing happy birthday to Danny Califf. I recorded every chant that the River End sang so I could take the feel of PPL with me when I left again.
MLS on deployment
Now I’m in Afghanistan. To my dismay, I learned within 48 hours of arrival that my MLS Live subscription doesn’t work outside of the U.S., Canada and Mexico. It was the first crisis I faced in country.
Still, I had hopes that I might catch an occasional game on AFN, the Armed Forces Network, but a brief survey of the scheduled sports programming assured me that wasn’t going to happen. When I was in the chow hall and caught the tail end of ESPN’s sports wrap up showing the best plays of the week, only to see two seconds of Danny Califf in a Chivas USA uniform, I all but quit eating lunch.
It is, however, a multinational base, so with the European Cup in full swing, there have been “football” viewing opportunities. But, as they refuse to play sound on the televisions in the chow hall, I found myself watching the Croatia v Spain match accompanied by the River End season opener recordings chanting from my iPhone. Really, my friends, it was sad.
Yet hope springs eternal, and in a place of little comfort, small things matter. That is why right now, I’m wearing my Union t-shirt and my SOB scarf. I found a website that posts realtime match plays, and it’s DOOP day in Chester! Yeah, the eight and a half-hour time difference means I’m waiting for a kickoff at 3:30 a.m. but we know it’s worth it! So while all you die hard SOBs are tailgating in Chester, have one for me, and remember, at 20:10 there will be one SOB singing in South Asia, Brigitte Nielsen voice and all.