“Come on Spartans, score a goal, it’s really very simple, put the ball into the net, and we will all go mental!”
This is one of the chants, which is set to the tune of “Yankee Doodle,” the Red Cedar Rowdies are known for belting out during the MSU men’s soccer games.
Since 2011, the Red Cedar Rowdies have brought a taste of intense soccer supporter culture to MSU. The Rowdies can be found enthusiastically cheering on the team from the left side of the stands at the DeMartin Soccer Stadium whenever there is a home game.
Spectators can hear them yelling at the top of their lungs as their famous drum bangs loudly and the sound of the horns echo. The Rowdies never fail to have over-the-top enthusiasm, no matter the number of people who show up.
Despite the popularity of the student section, the Rowdies had a fairly recent and smaller start. Journalism senior Luke Ferris started the Rowdies during his freshman year.
Ferris wasn’t always a soccer fan, but fell for the game watching the FIFA World Cup. Coming into his freshman year, Ferris looked forward to being a member of the Izzone and the football student section, but noticed the soccer team lacked a student section.
Ferris, along with a few other people, contacted the soccer coaches and expressed interest in developing a soccer supporter culture at MSU. Thus, the Red Cedar Rowdies were born.
“That first season was tough ... those were definitely the dog days when there was, like, five guys showing up,” Ferris said. “The reason why it (was able) to start was because of the support of the coaching staff and MSU athletics. They were passionate about it and they saw a need for it.”
Men’s soccer head coach Damon Rensing can’t speak highly enough of the student group and the enthusiasm they bring to the games. Rensing noted that even on a Wednesday at 4 p.m. the Rowdies give it everything they have.
“They’re awesome. I can’t say enough about those guys,” Rensing said. “They’re here no matter what. They are special and I don’t think there are too many groups like that in the country.”
It’s not just the coaches that appreciate the presence of the Rowdies. Senior midfielder Fatai Alashe has seen the group grow in his time here at MSU and feels that it’s so special for them to be at the games.
“They mean a ton to our team ... having those guys (at the games) cheering you on the whole game, it’s special,” Alashe said. “It gives you that extra bit of energy, and we’re so grateful to have them here every game. They come no matter what.”
The impact of the Rowdies
Finance senior Regan Bartha got involved with the Rowdies during their second season. Ferris and Bartha lived on the same floor in 2012 and Ferris got Bartha hooked. Bartha said he believes that the Rowdies add a different element to the soccer games.
“The Rowdies bring something special to games that you may not necessarily find at the more popular sports around campus,” said Bartha, treasurer for the Rowdies. “It’s the messages that we cohesively put in our opponents’ heads that makes us effective. Instead of a three-syllable M-S-U chant, we string together words that attack the opposition on a more personal level while maintaining a thin balance between being creative and flat-out inappropriate.”
Bartha noted that the chants from the Rowdies have occasionally created mounting frustration in opposing players, sometimes even drawing a yellow card because the players retaliate against them. This has a huge impact on the game, as a second yellow card results in an ejection.
Ferris said the songs they sing are often reworded chants thats already exist among other supporter groups. Other times they are spur-of-the-moment chants that target specific players.
“It’s before the season and it’s a group effort,” Ferris said. “Usually we pick a tune that would work with the message we’re saying. This year, we came up with ones based off of players. So we chose tunes and recreated lyrics to suit our needs.”
The number of Rowdies at games vary, with anywhere from 25 on a weekday to 50 or 100 on a weekend. Ferris noted that at last year’s game against the University of Michigan, they numbered close to 300 supporters.
A rowdy future
Ferris and Bartha want local supporter cultures to one day match the intensity of international supporter culture across the globe.
“The closest parallel to international soccer support we have in the United States would be the Timbers Army in Portland,” Bartha said. “We’re just trying to bring a bit of that enthusiasm to East Lansing to support MSU soccer.”
With Ferris and Bartha graduating soon, they will have to pass the legacy of the Red Cedar Rowdies onto the younger generation of the supporter section. Ferris does not want to see the Rowdies leave with him; he wants the Rowdies to forever remain, growing bigger and better as time goes on.
“That’s something that I’m really passionate about — continuing the legacy of the Rowdies,” Ferris said. “It’s cool, I’m really proud of the Rowdies and what it’s become, but for me, it wouldn’t be worth it if it doesn’t continue.”
Bartha said he is optimistic about the future of the Rowdies.
“With myself and Luke (Ferris) graduating after this year, the future of the Rowdies will rest in the hands of supporters below us in age,” Bartha said. “But after seeing the turnouts to games grow each year we’ve been here, I see the group going nowhere but up.”
One of those younger supporters hoping to step up and take on a leadership role next year is neuroscience junior and avid soccer fan Grant Boxey. Boxey said he hopes to see the Rowdies continue to grow and thrive in their absence.
“I expect the Rowdies to keep growing,” Boxey said. “There (are) 40,000 students. There (are) quite a few people getting hooked into soccer ... and we’re hoping to bring them out.”
English education junior Chris Symons has been involved with the Rowdies since his freshman year and said he wants to potentially make the Rowdies an official student group at MSU, which would give the Rowdies a presence at Sparticipation.
“I have this golden vision (with) all the freshman wandering between tables and there’s this one table that’s just loud as hell ... It’s just all of the Rowdies sitting there blowing horns and chanting,” Symons said. “We want loyalty that would come with becoming a registered official student group.”
Ferris wants the Rowdies to keep gaining support amongst the student body, but the biggest deterrent is the time of the soccer games.
“The hardest part that we face is game times,” Ferris said. “In that whole complex there (are) no stadium lights ... Sunday at noon, Thursday at 4 p.m., those are very challenging times to get people to games.”
But Ferris has seen the section grow through word-of-mouth, and wants the club to continue growing.
“I would say you could come to a game and not really know much about soccer or not be a huge soccer fan, but still have a lot of fun,” Ferris said. “No matter if (you’ve) been a soccer fan (your) whole life or (you) just started liking soccer, (you’re) going to enjoy it.”