South Slope Blues bring heart and soul to Asheville City Soccer Club
WLOS - The rhythmic beating of the drums sounds like a an accelerated heart beat as Asheville City Soccer Club finds itself in the middle of a grueling opening match against the Georgia Revolution. Fletcher Tove is the maestro of the measured pace, usually accompanied by chants and the sound of the Memorial Stadium bleachers creaking under the hopping throngs of blue and white clad fans. "Having noise from the stands, no matter what it is, adds energy to the field," explained Tove, who lived a couple years in soccer-crazed countries like Chile and Italy. "Especially late into the game whenever everybody's tired and breathing heavy, you hear the drums and you hear the chanting and people getting into it, that energy bleeds onto the field."
Tove is a member of the ever-growing South Slope Blues, a fan group founded in part by Greg Cooper when it was announced the semi-pro team was coming to the mountains. "We all grew up liking football and the regular American sports, but whenever you start to see teams have such a huge impact with their fan base and you watch European clubs and you see their fans react and just come out and ready to go," reflected Cooper. "We really wanted to grow the game and the only way to do that is to come ready for game day and be big, be loud."
One of the loudest voices and biggest personalities inside the stadium is Jonathon Gross. Nicknamed "Blue Beard" because of his habit of dying his facial hair in team colors, Gross is usually entrenched on the guard rail directly overlooking the playing surface. "As soon as I heard that there was a soccer team here I just lost it," Gross smiled. "I was like, 'How do I be more of a part of it?' [I] came to the first game and met all of these guys and girls, and we banded together." Gross is so well-known among the Asheville soccer community that the title sponsor of the Blue, Hi-Wire Brewing, named an IPA after him. "If you're a fan of the team, we welcome anyone and everyone," said Gross.
Each member of the South Slope Blues seems to have a role they embrace. Some paint stripes on other supporters faces, some wield canisters that release blue smoke, and a handful carry megaphones. The group also gets together away from games, both to socialize and create new material for upcoming matches. "We had a few songs last year for different coaches and the fans react to it because they're catchy," said Cooper. "So, we get around, have a few beers at Hi-Wire and then just start writing songs." The songs can be parodies of former Top 40 hits like Biz Markie's 'Just a Friend' or older tunes such as 'When the Saints Go Marching In.' "How boring would it be to just sit there on your hands for an entire game?" pondered Gross "No! You stand, you high-five, you yell, you cheer. It's just what we do."
Goal number one for the group is to support the team on the field; however, the South Slope Blues also aim to spread their love of soccer to the rest of the community. "Asheville's a soccer town, so it shouldn't be that hard," remarked Tove.
Anyone interested in joining up with the South Slope Blues can reach out via their Facebook page. The next home game for ACSC (and, in turn, the South Slope Blues) is Thursday, May 17th when the women's team hosts the Carolina Lady Dynamo. The full schedules for the men's and women's team can be found here .