Phoenix Rising FC emerged victorious on Saturday (June 10) with a score of 2-1 against the Whitecaps II. The first goal came about from a beautiful header by Didier Drogba at 39:50. The second goal belonged to midfielder Shaun Wright-Philips later in the game at 76:28.
Fans were in a frenzy as Didier Drogba made his Rising FC debut. The reported attendance for the match was 7,062.
The stadium was loud. One fan stated that this match was remarkably louder than other games in the past. Another fan hollered “I’M BLIND/I’M DEAF/I WANT TO BE A REF” in response to a questionable possession call. Drogba was met with screams and cult-like fanaticism following the game. The Bandidos drummed with fervor, evoking olé chants and the hook from “Runaround Sue.” The event was full of noise, beer, shouts, enthusiasm, and eventually celebration.
The recently signed defender Amadou Dia played an exceptional game, providing crucial blocks and backfield energy. The Whitecaps II were unable to score on an attack, and instead relied on a penalty kick goal at 68:05. Following the game, Dia was gracious enough to provide some comments to the AZSoccerNet community:
I’m looking forward to every game, making the playoff push, and then winning the whole thing, but one game at a time. So next game is Swope Park Rangers. We’ll be ready!
When asked how he’s faring with Phoenix’s notoriously high temperatures, Dia responded:
Well, it’s tough, but it’s good for us. We get used to it, teams come in here and they struggle.
Defender Victor Vásquez also had some words for AZSoccerNet. When asked what matches he’s looking forward to he responded:
“All of the games! Hopefully we get some wins here in Phoenix!”
A Season of Hope
The night was beautiful and a gorgeous sunset loomed in the background. This game was a marker of good things to come. Drogba played with vigor and engagement. The team, though slow to pass at times, showed promise of a developing chemistry. The team’s performance wasn’t the only source of excitement, however.
Behind the scenes, one group was hard at work to do good for the community. Rising in America was able to supply 20 tickets to young refugees in the Phoenix area. Rising in America is affiliated with the Welcome to America Project, and the group is self-described as a “fan-driven program to donate tickets to refugees in Phoenix.” The program was launched on June 4th. Rising in America will continue their work for the next home game on June 24th.
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Overall, the Drogba debut provided fans with a sense of hope, excitement, and sense of community. Children smiled, car salesmen cheered, Jamaican-Americans applauded, teens kicked soccer balls around. Many races and faces came out to support a growing franchise that’s bringing people together. Despite what John Holmberg says (and I tease), Phoenix Rising FC is making its indelible mark on the valley.
Check out the audio of the Drogba fan frenzy!
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