For most people who attended the 2019 Annual NFFC North America meet up in Chicago, there are probably 2 residing memories. The first being that Nottingham Forest North America was legitimate, that it had grown into something really unique and special and that now it genuinely allowed fans from all over the USA and Canada to connect and that despite the distance, unite as one.
The second being weather in the mid west in April is bonkers and that next time, we should probably aim for somewhere a bit warmer or at the very least, predictable!!!
At some point in 2018, Chicago was chosen as the host. Riding off the success of the Chicago groups engagement and relationship with The Globe, a popular sports bar just up the road from Wrigleyville and home to large supporters groups from Arsenal and Aston Villa, it was a good spot to accommodate a large group of people – so long as Arsenal weren’t at home that day, we’ll get to that!!!
An expression of interest was created and numbers looked good. A WhatsApp group started, an email chain grew into something unfathomably big. Suddenly, a few weeks before the big day, we all realized this thing had a bit of momentum.
Taking in the whole weekend, people were looking to fly in on the Friday, catch the game (vs Blackburn) on the Saturday and then do as they pleased for the rest of the time. So lets start with the Friday, because we’re here right, we should probably do something!
On a clear but bitterly cold evening, a group of just over a dozen ventured out to Bridgeview, IL to the Seat Geek Stadium to watch the Chicago Fire play the Vancouver Whitecaps.
The evening began with most of us tailgating with the Section 8 group. Plenty of time for introductions, re-introductions and a few beers prior to the game.
Once inside, we took up our spot behind the goal and watched as the Fire went a goal down early in the 2nd half only to claw back a point with an 84th Minute Penalty. If you watch the highlights and keep an eye out behind the goal to the left, you might see some glimpses of the Red and White Army!
Some didn’t make it to the end… The cold and wind was just too bad but overall it was a fun start to the weekend. Afterwards everybody went back to their hotels and straight to sleep…… right?
Saturday was an early start as it always is when watching the Saturday 3pm kick offs. Central Standard Time had the game kicking off at 9am local and of course, the desire to get there early and claim a spot, meet some more people and take in the event as it built up to kick off…. Saturday was an early start!
The game itself was typical of Forest at that stage in the season. With little to play for and a lack of confidence on the pitch, we wound up on the wrong end of a 2-1 defeat, but the overriding feeling in the pub was that today was about more than just the result. There were new friendships being created, new locations / groups being identified, competitions / raffle prize draws, shots (lots of shots), lots of singing, some great banter with the Chicago Villains (Aston Villa’s Chicago Supporters Group) including the now legendary chant “We’re only here for the cake!”
A year prior, the first annual meet up was held in Atlanta. There were 18 people – still a great number and more than enough to make that event great. On April 13th 2019, in a pub in Chicago, we had 62 people.
After that, groups splintered off and went their separate ways. Some chose to take in the city, some chose to stay and drink at The Globe, some went elsewhere and continued to drink! A small group went to Wrigley Field to watch a Cubs game, some went back to their hotel or in a few cases even, went back to the other reason they were in Chicago that weekend – we had at least one person from Nottingham in town for the Star Wars Celebration being held in Chicago that weekend! A red sun shone down on the city that day in more ways than one. It was a very very good day!
Sunday….. Now that was a different story.
You can tell very quickly when things are starting to go a bit pear shaped. A few messages on the WhatsApp group early on indicating that flights out of town were being impacted by the weather…. Wait, weather? But wasn’t it Sunny on Saturday?
Welcome to the mid west.
A few lucky ones got out early before the delays started to heavily impact flights. Others weren’t so lucky. Flights were delayed and even cancelled in some cases. People made alternative arrangements where possible. But all in all, it was a bit of a bummer and not the way anyone wanted the weekend to end.
By lunchtime on Monday, everything was resolved and the last of the stragglers announced they were home allowing the curtain to finally fall on the 2nd annual NFFC North America Meet Up.
Obviously, this is a subjective account of the weekend from someone who had a very positive experience. The weather on the Sunday did cause some issues and stress no doubt but hopefully for the majority, the overall feeling was that the weekend was a success and that we had taken huge strides forward as we continue to build a strong foundation for NFFC North America to exist on.
There have been discussions internally on where to go next and what form the meet ups should take. Some great ideas on the WhatsApp group on location and frequency. All we can say is we’re all very excited to see where we can take the annual meet up. As the signature, most visible thing we at NFFC North America do, we want these to be a success. Chicago was most definitely a success and the credit for that success belongs to everyone who attended and made it what it was.
See you all again next time. But somewhere a bit warmer right?
“Somebody call 9-1-1, Chicago Cubs are playing at the ball park, oh woaaaaaa ohhhhh”
Also, check out this video produced by Karl of NFFCNYC featuring some of the highlights of the weekend!