Inter Miami supporters’ group Southern Legion says it had about 200 black T-shirts made to commemorate Inter Miami’s home opener and Major League Soccer’s first regular-season game in South Florida in 18 years. The tees included a drawing of Inter Miami CF Stadium in Fort Lauderdale and the date of the historic occasion.
The plan was for members of Southern Legion to proudly wear the garb during Saturday’s home opener against the LA Galaxy and sing their hearts out with fellow fan groups the Siege — which had made its own T-shirts bearing the club’s regular-season schedule — and Vice City 1896.
But then the shit hit the fan — or should we say the players?
The NBA announced last Wednesday that it was suspending the season until further notice after the Utah Jazz’s Rudy Gobert tested positive for the fast-spreading COVID-19. Major League Soccer inevitably followed suit Thursday by announcing it was suspending its season for 30 days — postponing Inter Miami’s long-awaited home opener in the process.
This wasn't the first time Inter Miami has dealt with delays. Co-owner David Beckham announced in 2014 his intention to bring a Major League Soccer (MLS) club to Miami, but the club wouldn't play its first game until the 2020 season because the organization was searching for a downtown home for its stadium.
“It was heartbreaking,” Southern Legion vice president Ed Serrano, AKA Uncle Ed, says of the home opener's postponement. “We’ve waited almost 19 years for our team to come back. To wait a little longer is torture. We were hoping to at least get the first game in, but we’re not that lucky. But it’s for a good reason. We've just got to suck it up, and hopefully, this bug will go away.”
The Siege president Max Ramos says his supporters’ group had planned to tailgate Saturday at the nearby Xtreme Action Park and then march to the stadium with flags and drums in tow. Along with Southern Legion and Vice City 1896, the Siege would unfurl the massive tifo banner the members had collaborated on for weeks.
“Obviously we’re disappointed, but we’re not mad,” Ramos says. “If every other league is closing down, [MLS] has to do it too. We took it in stride.”
Instead of hosting a boisterous sold-out crowd of around 18,000, Inter Miami CF Stadium saw a quiet visit from co-owner David Beckham, his wife Victoria, their children, and friends. Becks posted photos and videos from the private walkthrough on Instagram and told followers, "We must all listen to expert advice and do the right thing." Never mind that the "expert advice" and "right thing" to do right now is to stay home.
Serrano and other Southern Legion leaders spent their Saturday at M.I.A. Beer Company in Doral discussing the group’s plans, including memberships and sponsorships. He described the prevailing mood of the day as "depressing."
“We were supposed to be at the stadium, so we were all sad,” Serrano says. “But we also realized this might work out for the best because now we have more time to prepare. We were a little disorganized.”
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They’re not the only ones who could use the extra time. Inter Miami CF Stadium — as snazzy as the black and pink seats look — appeared to be a work in progress during a season ticketholder event last Wednesday. To be fair, the organization broke ground in May on what is said to be a temporary stadium until a downtown Miami venue is built.
There's still no word on when the home opener in Fort Lauderdale will happen. ESPN reports that NBA owners believe their league might not resume gameplay until mid-to-late June at the earliest. One would think MLS would again follow the NBA's lead, but that remains to be seen. Unlike NBA players, who are free to leave their respective markets during the break, MLS announced Sunday that its players are expected to remain in their cities and that a team-training moratorium is in effect through Friday.
Next up for Inter Miami's supporters' groups: Ramos says the Siege members plan to get together this Tuesday night at a brewery — that is, unless the place will shut down before then. Southern Legion members typically get together Saturdays to play soccer, sing, chant, and bang their drums at Urban Soccer Five. For the time being, Serrano says, they plan to meet only through group chats.
“We have a chat with like 300 people where we talk soccer,” Serrano says. “But now everyone talks about the coronavirus more than soccer.”