My Most Prized Soccer Possession

With a lot of various soccer-related items, a simple Greenville FC t-shirt brings back the best memories.

If you’re anything like me, you have collected a number of trinkets during your soccer fandom. Even though I have only been a “die-hard” soccer fan since 2015, I have a curious collection. Like most fans, I’ve got an absurd scarf collection, more kits than any man would need, and I’ve got more than a few physical tickets in my possession. Did I mention the desk I’ve nearly half-covered with soccer-related stickers? Yeah, that is a thing. Some would see what I’ve got and think I should be featured on a soccer variant of the A&E television show Hoarders. Ok, it’s not that bad, but it’s teetering on the ledge of a full-blown obsession. *Narrator voice* It is.

My most prized soccer possession is none of those things. It is a simple heather gray Canvas brand t-shirt with a circle design surrounding the Greenville FC crest. To be honest, it is a pretty normal piece of soccer merch. If I recall correctly, it was one of two shirt designs the club first launched with. If I’m being completely honest, it was never about what the design looked like or how comfy the shirt is, even though it’s extremely comfy. It was about supporting the new club in my hometown.

The shirt, while simple in design, evokes a myriad of feelings and memories. It reminds me of their inaugural home match against Inter Nashville FC at Eugene Stone Stadium. A match that would have three goals scored between the 7th and 12th minutes. It was a match that, despite two of those goals being for Inter Nashville FC, I fondly look back on it. Being able to witness a bunch of mostly strangers come together and support a brand new club for the first time was truly special.

I could write endlessly about how magical that season felt from the fan’s perspective. To make a long story short, it felt like a family was being formed in the stands. The Mill Town Operatives, supporter group for Greenville FC, didn’t have the biggest flags or the most unified singing, but what we did have was a unifying passion for the city of Greenville that was manifesting in a desire to cheer on the boys in green and gold. Greenville FC would only win four of their fourteen matches that season, but, oh boy, two of those were important.

Two of those wins sealed the first trophy in the inaugural campaign for Greenville FC. Those wins came both home and away against local rival and noted beer hipsters Asheville City SC. To put the rivalry aside, those guys and gals are cool people and I’ve got nothing but respect for them. Now, on with the story…

The stage for the second and final match between Greenville and Asheville was a stellar one. Not only would it decide who would take the first-ever Carolina Clasico trophy, but it would also decide which club’s playoff hopes would still be intact.

I’d be lying if I told you I completely recall every moment during the 90 minutes of play. What I do remember very fondly was the sense of accomplishment after the match. I remember missing the beginning of the 2nd half and Asheville’s equalizing-goal in the 47th minute because I left the aforementioned shirt in my car. Last but not least, I remember the day Jesus Ibarra had for Greenville. Jesus, currently with Charleston Battery, would contribute one goal and an assist that day and forever supplant himself as a thorn in Asheville’s side. I’m pretty sure Tim Blekicki (from You’re Smarter Than Us) still has nightmares about his performance that day.

Photo credit: Blake Schultz

After the match concluded, I distinctly remember feeling both joyous and a bit sad. The possibility of still making the playoffs was still a strong one, but that night would be the last time Greenville would play a home match in 2018. It would go on to be the last time Greenville ever played at Eugene Stone Stadium. I recall walking around not knowing really what to say to fellow supporters, players, and team staff. It was one of those moments in life when a thank you and a handshake didn’t feel appropriate. I felt like an awkward kid asking for my shirt to be autographed even though I was several years older than all but a few of the players. When I stumble upon it in my closet now, I remember how much Greenville FC has meant to me as a person and as a soccer fan. When I look at that simple gray shirt with a round design, I see my most prized soccer possession.