By Marni McEntee | Photos courtesy Forward Madison FC
There’s a new professional sports team in town and it’s gaining steam quick. Forward Madison Football Club has an iconic mascot, Madison’s storied pink flamingo, a die-hard fan base called The Flock and a fabulous home venue at Breese Stevens Field.
Flamingo fans, some carrying the pink lawn ornaments and others wearing pink flamingo hats, gather to “Go Full Mingo” at home games, and march, drums pounding and soccer chants echoing, in joyous celebration from a local “pub partner” to the field on game days. During away games, fans flock to the partnering pubs to cheer on the team.
“It’s a ton of fun—really upbeat,” says Autumn Arrieta, who was waiting for The Flock to take off from The Avenue Club and Bubble Up Bar before a game late last month. “These guys really make the whole thing.” It was Arrieta’s second game and this night her 10-year-old son was going to lead a Forward player onto the field, a tradition among professional soccer teams.
There are plenty of ways to get involved with the team. Along with The Flock, the Independent Supporters’ Association for the club—whose motto is “Loud, Vibrant, Unwavering”—La Barra 608 is a united supporters group by and for Latino fans. The Forward Union Supporters is also an option for following the club.
April Kigeya has another fan club to add to the mix. She co-founded the Ladies Featherstone Flamingos to encourage black fans to join together to cheer on the team.
“The team is diverse,” coming from some 10 different countries, Kigeya says. “We’d like to bring that diversity to the fans of the games.” She stood with two female friends just minutes before they marched down East Washington to the stadium in full Mingo regalia.
Forward Madison FC was launched in 2018 and hosted its first home games this year at Breese Stevens Field. It’s a great venue. While some tickets are relatively pricey, others are general admission, and there’s plenty of room to roam about the sidelines or hang out at one goal line to watch the action. Kids were everywhere, running around on the green grass on the side of the pitch.
On the fan-club side of the field, members of The Flock, La Barra 608, the Forward Union and the Ladies Featherstone Flamingos never stop making noise, making for a raucous and exciting two-hour game. Even if you don’t love soccer, this is a fun way to spend an evening.
A shuttle bus is offered to keep fans off the road, and along with The Avenue Club, The Blue Agave and Coopers Tavern serve as pub partners and host fans for pre-and post-game festivities, whether the game is home or away.
Liz Stolz, manager of The Avenue Club, says they show every home game on big-screen TVs and host the tailgating parties for four home games. “I like watching soccer with people who are crazy about it,” Stolz says
It’s not too late to do the same this year. The season ends in early October, and there are still three home games to enjoy. Plus the team swag is pretty fantastic. Go Mingos!