It’s just after 6:30am and the sun is still not up. Rain falls on the 7 or 8 of us walking out of Strummer’s—our heads hung—after watching Liverpool lose to last place Swansea City at home. The coffee we brought to this 4:30am match could no longer lift our spirits. A couple of Fresno Reds are still putting down the last drops of their 6am imbibements. This morning did not go how any of us had planned. And so we go on with the rest of our days. For some of us, that means going to work. Some, going back to bed. And for some of us, it’s about hitting the next match wherever it may be!
English Premier League Football Supporter Clubs
These 7 local supporter groups—Central Valley Blues, Fresno Cityzens, Fresno Spurs, Fresno Gooners, Fresno Reds, MUFC Fresno, and Fresno Irons (listed in what I would call the unfortunate current standings of the teams they support)—all have one thing in common: the undying love of their English Premier League team across the ocean. On nearly any given weekend, and on many weekdays as well, you will find these groups cheering and jeering at their home establishments.
Does it get tense? Yes it does! Just take a look at these faces! This match ended 1-1. No winners. No losers. At this late stage in the season, no one wants to see a loss. But even a draw means a drop in points when the leaders are still winning.
Strummer’s Is the Hub
Strummer’s in the Tower District is home to both the Liverpool FC Reds and Arsenal FC Gooners and is where GM Brandon Duenas, organizer of 559 FC and main contact for the Fresno Reds, graciously opens up for those early morning matches and serves ’em up real strong (only after 6am, of course). The other clubs are scattered throughout Fresno and Clovis. The 500 Club and Casino hosts the Manchester City Cityzens. The Hook & Ladder Lounge across the parking lot from 500 Club hosts the Chelsea Blues. Tower Sports Club hosts the Tottenham Spurs. Full Circle Brewing hosts the West Ham United Irons. And Press Box Sports Grill hosts the Man United Red Devils.
But don’t count on those teams always being at their home establishments for each match. To watch the away matches, the supporters travel to the away team’s home base (if there is one). To be sure where the match is on, you can follow each of them on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. And you can always follow 559FC on the same platforms. As mentioned above, Brandon reposts match events and meet ups through the central organization to keep everyone up to date on when and where matches will be hosted.
Brandon Duenas and 559FC
I caught up with Brandon to ask him a few questions:
TCB: What do you say the purpose of 559FC is?
BD: The purpose of the 559FC is help grow the supporters community in Fresno. Watching the Fire Squad grow last year, I met a lot of people who were fans of various clubs. I am hoping to continue to find more fans out there and help introduce them to fellow supporters.
TCB: How long have clubs been meeting together in Fresno (that you know of)?
BD: The Fresno Gooners are the oldest club [Arsenal supporters]. I believe they are a little over 3 years old. They were the first, then The Central Valley Blues [Chelsea supporters] started a little over two years ago followed by LFC Fresno [Liverpool supporters] 2 years ago.
TCB: How long have you been organizing 559FC and is it all you?
BD: I began the 559FC around October of 2016. I have help from a few people on our social medias but mostly it’s just me.
TCB: What made you decide to do it?
BD: I love sports, and the energy behind a group watching a match is amazing. Everyone wants to show NFL matches which is fine and all, but it’s nothing like a squad of friends and strangers watching a match. Any way that I can help that scene grow around Fresno and elsewhere I’m all in.
TCB: Do you consider your efforts a success? Where would you like to see it go from here?
BD: So far I think it’s been doing well. Certainly has a lot of room to grow, but I know it will in time. Everyone from the other clubs has been really supportive and seem to appreciate my vision. In the future, I would like to make it a non-profit organization that can help reach out to the local youth clubs & other soccer organizations in the valley.
TCB: That would be fantastic! There is an indoor tournament coming up for supporters to raise some cash for EOC. Are you playing? Are you involved in the organization of it?
BD: Yeah, the EOC tournament was created last year called “The Bully Cup.” I’m partially responsible for it, but it’s certainly steam-headed by Nick Duong. I’m hoping to play in it this year or at least manage our club to victory.
TCB: What other outside events take place where the supporter groups might get together?
BD: We are certainly looking to start up more events and make meets a bit more engaging for those who aren’t exactly fans of the sport or a particular club.
TCB: What do some clubs in other cities do that you would like to see done here? Anything?
BD: I have a few ideas I’m going to try and introduce to the clubs for the next EPL season. I’ve visited a few supporters clubs in other cities and states and it seems like much of the same of what we are doing here. But with my plans for next season, I think we will get a larger draw & interest from more people.
TCB: So, how long have you been a Liverpool fan?
BD: I’ve been a fan of Liverpool for over 2 years now back in January 2015. I never had a club prior to that just appreciated the sport.
TCB: Is there a team that you just hate?
BD: Being as that I’m relatively new to Liverpool, I don’t have a storied history of any team that I hate really. But there are a couple clubs that annoy me due to their style of play or players on their team. But give it another year and I’m sure I’ll have one.
What about US teams?
Fresno has an official chapter of the American Outlaws , a raucous band of US national team followers. Matches are shown at Strummer’s and large crowds always gather. It’s a good time for everyone to get together to support a single team and let go of the rivalries that are always on their minds otherwise. During the large multinational tournaments, you can find matches showing in the late hours, early hours, and overnight—whenever they may be on. You can always count on catching the match somewhere!
Oddly enough, you don’t find any large crowds gathering to watch the LA Galaxy or the Portland Timbers. Duenas believes it to be due to the level of play not being quite as tough as the Premier League. There are some toying with the idea of starting up with a couple MLS teams, maybe for next season.
One thing is for certain, though. You will find all the local football/fùtbol/soccer fans at the Fresno Fuego home matches. Fire Squad Fresno is a riotous bunch who gathers at Tioga-Sequoia Brewery before each match. The squad then marches over to the stadium, smoke bombs, drums, and all. After a pep talk the squad marches through the stadium making more noise than you can imagine. And when the Fuego score a goal? The squad goes nuts!
Still on the fence about this game? Still don’t know what to call it? Is it soccer? Football? Fùtbol? Come on out to one of the gatherings and find out. It’s guaranteed fun, one way or another. But do note, it will suck you in and you won’t want to miss even those 4:30am matches. Even when it’s raining. Even when your team loses. You will be there. Because your team and your squad are there.