Opening Weekend of the 2021 Major League Soccer has come and gone, and the excitement for a new campaign was palpable around the league. Several clubs welcomed back fans, and while stadiums were only fractionally full, seeing some semblance of normalcy return to the game yielded even more enthusiasm for this year.
In Central Florida on Saturday, Exploria Stadium was at 50% of capacity, and the 12,000 Orlando City SC fans in attendance gave us another reminder of what we've missed in the past 13-plus months without fans in the stands: tifos. "Our chapel. Our saints. Our religion." After such a saddening, challenging year amid the coronavirus pandemic, the catharsis of fans returning to watch their favorite teams felt fitting.
Later on Saturday, LAFC supporters' group the 3252 raised an emotional tribute to their vice-president Mauricio "Mo" Fascio, who died of COVID-19 in March. Adorning the tifo are the words, "En en cielo haciendo un carnaval," which is a song Black and Gold fans sing at Banc of California Stadium, and translates to mean "In the sky having a party."
On Sunday, second-year club Inter Miami CF played just its third-ever game in front of their fans when they hosted the LA Galaxy. The club David Beckham owns fell to the team he spent six seasons playing for, but those 8,000 fans in attendance -- including Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Super Bowl MVP quarterback Tom Brady -- showed some of the fervor we can expect on South Beach in 2021.
"No hay vacuna para esta enfermedad" ("there's no vaccine for this sickness") is perhaps a little insensitive considering the world remains in the grips of a pandemic, but we can appreciate the underlying sentiment of the dedication that comes with being a soccer fan. We're all happy to be back, and appreciative of the time, energy and money these supporters' groups put into these beautiful works of art.