Faces of Sacramento: Meet the supporters behind Republic FCMLS Soccer Staff
By MLS Soccer Staff
When Sacramento Republic FC were unveiled as Major League Soccer’s 29th club in October, for many of the club’s supporters that day represented the culmination of a long, five-year journey to bring MLS to Sacramento.
The Republic’s fervent and loyal fanbase put the team on the map when they debuted as a second-division club in United Soccer League (USL) in 2014 and they set the groundwork for a future move to MLS.
In the video and profiles below showcase the stories of some of those supporters who are sure to be on hand when Sacramento Republic FC begin play in MLS in 2022 in a brand new $300 million, 20,100-seat soccer stadium in the downtown Railyards District.
“Sacramento Republic is my community, my club, my family.”
Manny is an active and influential figure in Sacramento’s soccer community, helping organize adult leagues and tournaments. Arriving in the U.S. from Mexico City in 1973, he moved to Sacramento a decade later and now lives in the area with his wife, three children and four grandchildren. When he first heard about SRFC, Manny recruited over 60 season ticket members, most of whom sit with him in Section 116.
Izabella “Izzy” Duink
“We were determined to never give up, and that shows how indomitable our city is.”
Izzy broke boundaries by becoming the first girl in the Republic FC Youth Academy after earning a spot on the U-12 team as a goalkeeper. She recently participated in “Watch Me”, an initiative designed by SRFC to elevate women and girls through sport that includes an ongoing series of camps and clinics to develop stronger female soccer players on and off the field. Her dream is to one day become a member of the all-conquering USWNT.
“It means a lot … how this community has come together to wrap their hands around the Republic, and how the Republic acknowledges the community.”
Matthew is a three-year season ticket member who led SRFC’s Native American Heritage Night, the largest of its kind in California sports. As a member of the Ione Band of Miwok Indian community, Matt’s dedication to bringing together 21 tribes and tribal organizations in Northern California is unprecedented. He plans to take this event to even greater heights at the new stadium in the Railyards.
Don Gibson AKA “Rave Bear”
“Sacramento is a welcoming city, whether you dress like this or something else.”
One of the most recognizable, yet mysterious SRFC supporters is Don Gibson, also known as “Rave Bear”. Don is a molecular biologist by day, and furry fan at night, and can be seen on the front lines of the Tower Bridge Battalion. Don is a vocal social advocate and gave a memorable, heartfelt speech on the club’s community impact before the city council prior to a pivotal stadium vote.
Harjit Singh Gill
“As the son of two immigrants who came here in ’79 … that (indomitable) message of the club fits the message of my life and my family.”
Upon moving with his family to Sacramento from the Bay Area two years ago, Harjit, an avid Liverpool supporter, quickly found Republic FC paired his love of football with quality family time, and within two weeks he became a season ticket member. Harjit currently sits on the SRFC Fan Advisory Board and is committed to continuing a strong connection between the club and community.
“I’m looking forward to being able to watch (Republic FC) play in MLS.”
Matthew signed a one-game contract in 2018 after the Make-A-Wish recipient was granted his dream of playing for SRFC. The club held a press conference to announce his signing, and he made his debut the following game, scoring a crowd-erupting goal in the opening minute. Matthew is the embodiment of “indomitable”, undergoing a year of chemotherapy to remove tumors generated from a rare blood condition.
“Sacramento Republic FC embraced me and helped usher me back into society with open arms.”
SRFC routinely visits Folsom State Prison to play pickup soccer games with inmates as part of a joint community outreach program. Edwin was one of the inmates who participated in the program and has been a staunch fan since. Upon his release, the club invited him to attend a game during his personal transition and re-integration. He is now a regular attendee and proud member of the Republic.
Daniel “El Danna” Salas
“There are people who think soccer is just a game. I don’t think so. For me, it’s like a religion, and supporting my team is my passion.”
Daniel is a member of the supporters’ group, La Banda del Puente. He has deep ties with the Hispanic community, and his son plays for the SRFC Youth Academy. Daniel often channels “El Danna” (The Fighter), a character that represents the effort, courage and heart that fuels players as they take to the field. He and La Banda can be seen and heard singing and dancing from the stands.
Heather Sims & Melvin Stewart
“Soccer is our religion, Sac Republic is our church and TBB is our denomination.” – Heather Sims
Heather and Melvin share a special bond with Republic FC. The indomitable couple have been season ticket members since day one and were one of the early members of Tower Bridge Battalion. Melvin proposed to Heather in 2014 at an SRFC home game, and less than a year later they held their wedding ceremony on the club’s pitch, surrounded by family, friends and members of TBB.