Meet the Supporters: Eric Gibbs

This is part of our weekly series where we meet some of the people who will be joining the Assembly Line this year. Keep an eye out every Wednesday for a new segment! Please reach out to Westen on Twitter if you are interested in taking part in this. 

Westen Shelton: When did you start watching soccer, and what teams do you support?

Eric Gibbs: Growing up, I was always into American Football and College Football.  Roughly 10 years ago, my niece began playing youth soccer, and eventually high school soccer, travel soccer, and now college soccer.  While I was slowly becoming interested in the sport itself through attending her matches, I never received the full experience until I moved to Minneapolis in early 2015.  At the time, Minnesota United FC was participating in the NASL, and working their way towards Major League Soccer.  During the few years that I had spent in Minneapolis before returning home, I had the opportunity to work closely with the Dark Clouds and True North Elite, MNUFC’s main two supporter groups.  Whether it was helping plan away travel, working with the tifo committee, or assisting with match day activities, I was completely sold.  My first professional soccer match in person was Minnesota United’s “snow opener”, where it was 19 degrees, snowing, and the orange ball was in play.  Although Minnesota United lost that day, spending 90 minutes in the Supporter’s Section made it feel like a win, and one of the best experiences ever.  In regards to which teams I support, I will always have a passion for Minnesota United FC, for the experiences they gave me, and of course Lansing Ignite FC!

Minnesota United FC’s Inaugural MLS Season Home Opener

WS: Obviously you were heavily involved with MNUFC’s supporter section. What did you guys have over there that you would most like to see out of the Assembly Line?

EG: When MNUFC entered Major League Soccer in 2017, the supporter’s of other clubs were not sure what to expect, especially in regards to the club’s level of support.  During that first year, those same supporter’s continuously made comments of how surprised they were with the level of support that we provided, and even consider them to be one of the best supporter group’s in the league.  That is my mission when it comes to The Assembly Line and USL League One.  During the off-season, it is all about spreading the word, so that when the season does officially begin, we are confident that we have reached as many supporters in the Lansing area as possible to help ensure an amazing match day experience. Our goal is to have our section packed, our chanting constant, and our passion never ending.  When exiting TCF Bank Stadium after a MNUFC match, a majority of us would wake up the next morning without a voice, and that is the kind of match day experience that I hope to help bring to my city I call home.

WS: What is your favorite live soccer moment ever?

EG: Aside from the “snow opener” mentioned above, it would have to be Chicago Fire vs Minnesota United on August 26th, 2017.  The end of the season was nearing, and Minnesota United had yet to win an away match throughout their inaugural season.  This was also a special match for me, as I actually was stopping in Chicago for the night in a U-Haul, as I was moving back home to Lansing.  It would essentially be my last Minnesota United match as a Minnesotan.  My best friend, Alex and his wife, Rosemary, who are also members of The Assembly Line, had made the trip from Lansing over to Chicago to join us.  It was on that night that Abu Danladi scored a brace, and Minnesota United FC had officially won their first match on the road, six months into the season.  Our away section was completely packed, chanted nonstop, and afterwards nobody wanted to go home, so we sang in the concourse until they kicked us out.  Between it being my last match as a Minnesotan, my best friend’s first match, a packed away supporter’s section, and our first win on the road, it was an amazing experience that I will never forget.

Minnesota United FC’s First Away Win of Their Inaugural MLS Season

WS: Speaking of travel, you have also mentioned to me that you will be attempting to go to almost all of our road games this year. Where are you most looking forward to traveling to this year as you cheer on Ignite?

EG: Away Match Travel is a huge favorite of mine.  In the past two years, I have traveled with fellow supporters to Audi Field (DC United), Children’s Mercy Park (Sporting Kansas City), Dick’s Sporting Goods Park (Colorado Rapids), MAPFRE Stadium (Columbus Crew), Toyota Park (Chicago Fire), Toyota Stadium (FC Dallas), Talen Energy Stadium (Philadelphia Union), and other lower division stadiums.  There is nothing like invading another club’s home, hearing your away section over theirs on a television broadcast, and walking away with 3 points.  In regards to next season with Lansing Ignite FC, while the first away match will be a special one, I am definitely most looking forward to travelling to Madison to face the Flamingos for the first time.  I believe that our supporters will be well represented at that match.

WS: What are you most looking forward to about the Ignite season coming up?

EG: The aspect that I am most looking forward is to creating a supporter family.  Many of us go to work on a daily basis, deal with the stresses of life when we return home, and constantly worry about things coming up in the future.  On match day, The Assembly Line and the Supporter’s Section will be your place to relax and let loose.  It will be an opportunity for you to let it all out and support the club that you love for 90 minutes.  It will be an opportunity to talk to your close friends before and after the match.  My hope is for every match day to be a day that all supporters circle on their calendars and count down the days for it to arrive.  In addition, I am also looking forward to Forward Madison FC finishing at the bottom of the table, and Lansing Ignite bringing home some bling for our city.

WS: What are your main hobbies outside of soccer?

EG: My career and my passion for assisting with the growth of the sport in our city definitely keep me pretty busy.  If I had to choose a few hobbies outside of those two items, I would have to say simply spending time with friends and family.  I am a very social person, and love to be around others.  During the summer, you can normally find me up north, either riding ATV’s around the woods, or out on the lake on a jet ski.

WS: Tell me something you love about the Lansing area.

EG: Having been born in Lansing, raised 15 minutes away in a nearby city, followed by living in Lansing for a majority of my life since I was 18, Lansing has always been my home.  If I had to choose one aspect of Lansing that I love the most, it has to be the people.  Unlike other places where I have lived, Lansing is a hard working, blue collar town, that puts in the hard work to get the job done and provide for their families.  Having grown up in a family where a majority of relatives worked in Lansing for General Motors, my whole family takes pride in this city, both how it was in the past, and how it continues to grow today.  The attributes that a majority of Lansing residents have doesn’t relate solely to their work on the job, but in the way that they live their lives, and that is what I love about the people in this city.

WS: What would you tell anyone who is interested in joining the Assembly Line?

EG: Just…..DO IT.  DO IT! In all seriousness, we are going to have a lot of awesome things going on throughout 2019 and beyond.  We will attend the matches at Cooley Law School Stadium, of course, but we will also be planning trips to away matches, hosting various watch parties, supporting local soccer, volunteering around our great city, and much more.  If you are passionate about Lansing Ignite, the sport itself, or the city of Lansing, this is the place for you.  All Are Welcome.

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