We, the “amateurs” from SNST’s Amateur Hour, took a road trip to the heart of South Carolina this weekend to watch S.C. United open their brand new Monticello Road Soccer Complex with a game between the Bantams and the Tri-City Otters.
The Bantams have been competing in the PDL since 2012, and have been developing South Carolina’s youth for even longer, so this was a special, special night.
S.C. United opened the new facility to unite Columbia with a centrally located, soccer-specific facility to host their games. This situation is far more ideal than playing in high school stadiums with awkward football lines, and with stands so massive that they swallow what atmosphere the fans create.
This year, the team is introducing fans to the new stadium with a season long theme, “Around the World in Seven Games.” The first night (Saturday) was British Night, and seeing as how Bantams Head Coach Lee Morris and Rob Strickland, Director of Competitive Soccer, grew up in England playing soccer together, that seemed like a good place to start. The stadium featured British music including Beatles classics, a very tasty British porter, and some delicious fish and chips from the British Bulldog Pub, where the local American Outlaws chapter watches U.S. Soccer matches.
Off the field, the event was an enormous success! Strickland told us last season that the team averaged just 30 fans a game. We weren’t sure if he was exaggerating or not (he likely was), but the game we went to last year didn’t have a whole lot more than that.
But on Saturday, the team set an all-time Bantams record for attendance with just under 1,200 fans cheering on the Bantams! The place was packed! People were loud, and roughly a third were wearing “Bantam Brigade” shirts that were given away as fans entered the stadium.
So what’s the Brigade? There weren’t songs, smoke, or pool noodles (this time at least) with this supporters group, but there was a giant Brigade flag, and every kid that walked out with the players was wearing the shirt. The man leading the players out was wearing one as well, along with a kilt, while playing bagpipes.
Of course, we had to talk to this guy after the match. His name is Jody McArthur and he has been working at S.C. United for 16 years. He told us he’s worked with S.C. United at all kinds of different levels over the years. One teenager we spoke with was waving the giant flag at half time, and he told us Jody had been his coach “for forever.”
We sat down with Jody for Episode 008 of SNST’s Amateur Hour to get more details on what Bantams Brigade is, why he’s spearheading it, and a bit of how the club runs from his perspective. He was a lot of fun to chat with… a lot of fun (I had to Google how to insert “bleeps” in my editing software).
To be fair, he has a lot to be excited about, not only with the record crowd, but the team’s success off the field was matched with an awesome performance on the field as well.
The Bantams dominated the Otters, defeating them 4–1! Three of their goals came in the first 15 minutes, and to be honest, they could have scored more.
This game had everything! Skillful passing, ankle-breaking dribble moves, beautiful goals, and even a penalty save! The crowd was into it for the full 90 minutes too, cheering on players who were from all over the world, as well as from just down the street.
But they all had two things in common: They wore the S.C. United Bantams badge, and they did their club proud.
S.C. United has a record of two wins and one loss so far this season. Their next match is on Tuesday as they host rivals South Georgia Tormenta for “Football Fiesta Latino Night.” I can’t recommend checking out a Bantams match enough, and they have six remaining home games this season. If you can’t make it to a game, most matches will be streamed on Local Sports Productions’ YouTube page, and the team are working on making the remaining games available online soon after they are played.