A Blessing for the ‘Beautiful Game’
OpinionFrom Where I Sit

A Blessing for the ‘Beautiful Game’

Thank you, Arthur Blank, for bringing us to the day when Atlanta has its own top-flight soccer team.

Dave Schechter

Dave Schechter is a veteran journalist whose career includes writing and producing reports from Israel and elsewhere in the Middle East.

Atlanta United's home match with the Chicago Fire on March 18 was the second sellout of the 2017 season.
Atlanta United's home match with the Chicago Fire on March 18 was the second sellout of the 2017 season.

The most Jewish thing about the Atlanta United Football Club may be its owner, but the tribe is well represented among the team’s passionate supporters.

Arthur Blank has the gratitude of the Five Stripe Nation — named for the black-and-red pattern on the home jerseys — for bringing a Major League Soccer franchise to the city. Some of the fans who populate online forums refer to him as “Uncle Arthur.”

For Jewish fans of “the beautiful game,” AUFC’s inaugural season has been something of a Shehecheyanu moment.

The hard-core members of four official supporter groups — Terminus Legion, Resurgence, Footie Mob and The Faction — can be seen jumping up and down in the stands behind the north goal at Georgia Tech’s Bobby Dodd Stadium (AUFC’s home until Mercedes-Benz Stadium is ready) and heard chanting at the top of their lungs.

Atlanta United owner Arthur Blank

Jordan Suresky was among the founding members of Terminus Legion. (Terminus was the original name of the settlement that grew to become Atlanta.)

The 26-year-old grew up at Temple Kehillat Chaim in Roswell. He serves on the leadership committee for Chabad Intown’s YJP Atlanta and is active in other Jewish organizations.

Suresky played club soccer at Tucker Youth Soccer Association and in high school at the Atlanta International School but competed in tennis for Team Atlanta in the JCC Maccabi Games.

His involvement with Terminus Legion dates to 2014 and the ATL Wants MLS movement. He serves as the legion’s travel coordinator, an outgrowth of his job as a marketing representative for AAA Travel.

“The club has done a really good job of marketing to young professionals like myself and other demographics, like families who play the game in youth leagues,” Suresky said.

Jonathan Rosen, who became a bar mitzvah at The Temple and remains a member, also played at TYSA until he chose baseball at age 13. Today, the 30-year-old works as a paralegal in commercial real estate and plays soccer in a recreational league.

While watching an English Premier League game a couple of years ago at Fado Irish Pub in Buckhead, Rosen struck up a friendship that led him to join Resurgence.

He enjoys the atmosphere in the section for supporter groups.

“Everyone is standing, chanting and cheering for the entire game. It’s really a cool way to see the game. I’m a fan of a lot of different sports and have been to a lot of different venues, but it’s an atmosphere that I have not experienced before. The product being put on the field by the front office helps keep the stadium loud, but the diversity of this Southern city has helped it become a soccer city, and the fans are finally able to show their knowledge and love of the game,” Rosen said.

Dov Wilker may be less hard-core, but he is no less excited.

“While I’ve been a casual sports fan and have attended matches in Israel, I really do not know more than the basic rules of the game. I wanted to be a part of something unique within sports in Atlanta. All of the professional sports teams that I follow are from New York, but to me, becoming a supporter of Atlanta United was something that I could share with my entire family,” said Wilker, the regional director of American Jewish Committee Atlanta. “Being at the first match was an incredible, adrenaline-filled experience. The cheering, the camaraderie, was something I was not expecting.”

My wife has been heard to say (sometimes with exasperation) that soccer is “a second religion” in our household. Our 20 years as soccer parents, through our daughter and two sons, is nearing an end.

Over nearly five decades, I have attended countless soccer games, from under-6 to the World Cup. The atmosphere at AUFC’s home games has been something special. So, thank you to Arthur Blank for enabling us to reach this season, when, as my older son said, “we finally have a team for our sport.”

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