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World Cup Soccer in Providence: Rise of the American Outlaws

Saturday, June 21, 2014

 

The American Outlaws (https://www.facebook.com/AOProvidence)

Brendan Schimmel is an Iraq veteran and a soldier in the Rhode Island National Guard.  The 29-year-old Cumberland native is, by definition, a true Patriot.  His nationalism does not end in his service to his country, however, as he also serves as Vice President of the Providence Chapter of the American Outlaws.

The American Outlaws are a national community of passionate U.S. Soccer fans, with chapters all across the country and a membership that recently exceed 25,000 members.  Schimmel says the biggest reason to join AO is the common bond it creates amongst members.

“Every time you go to these games it’s like a family reunion,” Schimmel said.  “I see friends from other chapters all over the country, and it’s like when you go to these places you always have a place to crash.”

Finding a Home

Although the group was started in 2009, the AO Providence Chapter was unofficial until April 2010 when they eclipsed the 25 paying members threshold.  The group was official just in time for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, but the next hurdle in their quest for legitimacy was overcoming the time zone problems with watching the games.

A show of solidarity (https://www.facebook.com/AOProvidence)

“Finding a place for the 2010 World Cup was an issue because some of the games were on so early, so to get a place to open up for us, we went around to a bunch of places,” Schimmel said.  “We went to all these places [in Providence] and didn’t really get the response we wanted.”

The group finally found their place at Spats Restaurant on Angell Street, where they’ve been watching games ever since.

“We went over to Spats and talked to Theo [Spiridis, the manager at Spats] and just said, ‘here’s what we need for the World Cup, would you be willing to staff it and have someone open up at 9 a.m.?’  And he just said “I’m going to be open anyway, because I want to watch it.’  So that first hurdle was already covered, and we like the venue and the community vibe too.”

The Outlaws have been watching games at Spats since 2010, and have an agreement with Spiridis to broadcast every single U.S. national team game, from exhibitions to the World Cup.

“One thing we said to Spats is ‘We need to have every single game on. I don’t care if the Bruins or the Red Sox are in the playoffs, we’ll work with you on that, but every game has to be on at least one TV, that’s the guarantee we need.”

Memories Made

It didn’t take long for the Outlaws to make memories for a lifetime at Spats.  Landon Donovan’s game winning goal (see video below) against Algeria inspired a celebration that went viral when GoLocalProv was there to capture the moment.

Schimmel has an even better memory from the 2010 World Cup at Spats.  He met his future wife at Spats during the USA vs. England game in the group stage.

“I can count the number of babies and marriages that have happened since the last World Cup as a result of people meeting here,” Schimmel said with a laugh.

It didn’t take long for more World Cup magic in 2014.  John Brooks’ game winning goal and ensuing Spats celebration (see video below) was again captured by GoLocalProv.

Growing With the Sport

Soccer is on the rise in the United States, and Schimmel and the Outlaws are looking forward to what the future holds for their organization and U.S. Soccer as a whole.

AO members in Brazil (https://www.facebook.com/AOProvidence)

“Everyone plays with us now because they realize this thing is an avalanche, it’s not going to be stopped anytime soon,” Schimmel says, referencing the difference just 4 years has made in finding places to partner with the Outlaws.

According to Providence Chapter President Kyle Lindsay, about 5,000 new AO members have joined nationally since the start of the World Cup.

“I always used to get asked about being such a big supporter, because soccer hasn’t been that big in this country or this area especially,” Schimmel said.  “And my answer has always been, ‘I don’t need you to watch for me to like it.’”

There are a handful of AO Providence members in Brazil for the 2014 World Cup, and hundreds more here at home.  Schimmel says a goal for the group is to get the city of Providence to host an outdoor viewing party for a World Cup Game.

As the sport grows, so do the Outlaws, both nationally and locally.  But even if the mainstream isn’t covering soccer like it would one of the “major” sports, you can bet your hot dogs and apple pie that if there’s a game on, Spats will be hosting, and the American Outlaws of Providence will be there to sing, chant, and cheer on the red, white, and blue.

 

Related Slideshow: Americans in Brazil at the 2014 World Cup

Photos from Brazil and the 2014 World Cup.

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