Fans journey to Tampa for preseason Rowdies romp

This past Saturday, dozens of Inter Miami fans traveled to St. Petersburg to watch the team play its second match ever.

Thirty members of The Siege, a passionate, playful and peripatetic fan club, chartered a large bus to the game. Along the way, they chanted in Spanish and English, sang songs and shared food and drink. As Celia Cruz and Pitbull blasted from the speakers, they headed to a game they would never forget. Here’s a timeline:

12:30 p.m. – As the bus pulls away from the Funky Buddha Brewery in Oakland Park, fans are already chanting for Inter Miami. “Dale, Dale, Dale, Rosado,”  the passengers shout, referring to the team’s pink jerseys. They swill brew in their black fan club T-shirts while banging on cowbells, water bottles and seat cushions as drums. One of the leaders of The Siege, a bulky, bearded 20-something named Max Ramos takes a seat and says: “Oh man, I need to stop drinking.” He says he’s been downing beer since 9 in the morning.

12:39 p.m. – “This is literally the f***ing United Nations bus!” Max calls out. Most of the fans are Colombian or Cuban, but there are Jamaicans, Peruvians and gringos too. Max continues, “and our bus driver is Ukrainian or something!”

12:56 p.m. – A Jamaican couple in the back suggests shots. Everyone takes their first gulps of “The Siege” booze. There’s more to come.

1:42 p.m. – Eric Corey, the group’s outspoken ginger leader of Irish descent, tells a story about how he accidentally trespassed in a secure government military facility while hunting. He jumped over a fence and wandered for a while before guards on ATVs stopped him. He says he was terrified.  The bus is now deep in the woods of Central Florida.

2:04 p.m. – A bearded 20-something Max lookalike sitting in the front proposes a new chant: “Score all night, Score all day, Let’s get it poppin’, INTER MIAMI B***H!”

Very classy.

2:05 p.m. – A massive “Keep America Great” Trump 2020 poster is spotted alongside the highway. The Siege members groan in unison.

2:10 p.m. – Another fan proposes a toast on behalf of Inter Miami. Eric gives a masterful speech in an iconic Irish accent. A glorious scene:

Here’s to cheating, stealing, fighting and drinking.

If you cheat, may you cheat death.
If you steal, may you steal a woman’s heart.
If you fight, may you fight for a brother.
And if you drink, may you drink with me.

2:45 p.m. – The group stops at a Burger King in Okeechobee where half use the restroom, while the others drunkenly play soccer on an empty lot nearby. Someone makes fun of the town name — which means big water in the Hitchiti language — and others scold him. There seems to be a very strict, unspoken no-tolerance rule against racist and offensive jokes about Native Americans. Respect. 

4:25 p.m. – “Should Miami become its own state?” A couple of fans debate the question on the bus. Best proposal: Puerto Rico and South Florida become the nation’s 51st and 52nd states.

5:29 p.m. – As the bus nears Tampa, chants grow in intensity once more. This is a historic moment. For some, it’s been six years in the making. 

There’s a deep sense of memory and awe. The fans had waited through doubt and uncertainty, placing their faith in David Beckham and company. Some say they sat through “years of meetings with corrupt county commissioners” and never-ending bureaucratic red tape.

This is the day they prayed for. The dream is coming to life before their eyes.

5:38 p.m. – The Siege members are united with dozens of more fans who traveled in cars, vans and buses to get here. The sounds of drums and chants fill the air. Scores of flags and banners advertise the various Inter fan groups, including Southern Legion, Vice City 1896 and more, are planted in the front lawn entering the Al Lang stadium.

6:58 p.m. – All the supporters crowd the section designated for Inter Miami. It feels like a home game. The intensity of the fans can be felt on the field, and the players react to it by waving and clapping during warmups.

Over the next few hours, Inter Miami defeats the Rowdies 1-0, with rookie forward and 1st overall pick Robbie Robinson scoring the lone goal in the 21st minute. Fans erupt during the goal and continue cheering for the rest of the match, despite the cold weather. We’d tell you more about the game, but you can get that anywhere.

8:52 p.m. – Referee blows the final whistle and the crowd goes wild for the last time. This is a historic moment: Their team’s first win in history. Players walk over to thank the crowd, who overpowered the home fans.

9:24 p.m. – Fans load the bus to return to Miami. Though one fan says he’s now “free to get as drunk as possible,” he and several others quickly fall asleep. Despite the drowsiness, there’s a sense of triumph in the air. 

11:47 p.m. – At this point, the entire bus is quiet. A couple of guys are snoring loudly in the back. Two guys in the front have been analyzing the game in detail for a half-hour, talking in-depth about the team’s tactics and how the players performed, while the rest of the bus is in the dark.  

2:30 a.m. – The bus pulls back into Funky Buddha and mostly everybody disembarks. The final bunch remains to get dropped off in Coral Gables. They estimate to get home at around 3:30 a.m. 

This 15-hour journey was everything they had dreamed of. They hope for more days like this one.

Angelo Gomez is a journalism and political science double major at Florida International University. He enjoys writing stories about politics and national issues that affect South Florida. He is currently a Hamilton Scholar for the Honors College advocating for immigration reform in Washington DC. He hopes to have a future in immigration and making a change in the country. He is a huge Marvel and Star Wars nerd, lover of all sports and a politics geek.