TULSA – Even when they’re not filling up ONEOK field on a matchday, FC Tulsa fans are always supporting their team. On Wednesday, after small-group training was finished, the players walked off the pitch to find personalized gift bags waiting for each of them.
“It was our way of letting them know that we're still here,” said Denis Lane, president of 83 United, the FC Tulsa supporters group. “No matter what, whether they're on the field or not. We know that they are still going home at night, they're living their lives just like we are. They're all going through this isolation like we are."
Each care package featured cookies, popcorn, gum, Gatorade, cliff bars, and more. Members of 83 United also put in additional treats and a note to say thanks and remind the players that they are thinking about them during this suspension of play.
“By this time this year, we’d have played a dozen games,” said Nathan Napier, an 83 United board member. “Some home games, so we’d start to build up those relationships. So, without having that there, it kind of makes it tough. We want to do everything we can to let them know that we’re thinking about them. The minute that we find that it’s safe to do so, we want to be back in the stands, scarf in hand cheering for them.”
Players were ecstatic to open their gifts after training, and defender Cyprian Hedrick said the gesture was well-received.
“It means a lot,” he said. “It’s just further proof that here we’re a big community and a big family, and there’s nothing else that shows that like action. Them doing that is a very kind gesture, and something we don’t take lightly for sure.”
FC Tulsa has been training in small groups for nearly three weeks now, obeying health officials’ and league guidelines about staying safe during training.
“It’s good for the players motivation to feel like they’re supported even though they’re not entertaining fans every weekend,” said FC Tulsa Head Coach Michael Nsien. “Just to know that despite contributions to matches, the fans still care about them and are looking to support them, make them feel comfortable in Tulsa.”
FC Tulsa players, staff, and fans can’t wait to be reunited at ONEOK field to celebrate soccer once again, and this generous action from 83 United shows the connection that’s being formed before FC Tulsa has even played a home match in 2020.
“We want them to know that we are thinking of them and that we're going to support them,” Lane said. “We're going to support them no matter what. No matter what happens this season, like I said, on or off the field.”