EDITORIAL – It’s been too long for me to recall if it was the first conversation or the second but I know for sure within the first 48 hours of meeting Leigh Nieves I knew two things about her. One, she was “good people” as my grandfather would say and; Two, if Louisville ever got an NWSL team she would either be running it or the supporters group for it. That was six years or so now and Leigh Nieves is the first ever president of the Lavender Legion, one of the Racing Louisville FC supporters groups.
Basking in the Light of Racing Louisville’s Lavender Legion
I was luck enough to fly out from New York to Louisville for their first match – a 0-0 draw with Kansas City – to take in the match and watch the Lavender Legion in person.
While the CDC changing the guidelines for masks and in person gathers did catch the league and the club a bit off guard – 6,622 people still managed to score a ticket – the supporters group had a strong showing with drumming loud enough for one of my colleague’s to ask via Slack if they were turning it up on the feed to make it louder. The fans, decked out in mint green and lavender, managed to make themselves heard and stay engaged for all 90. Something that I’ve found is harder than you’d expect to se when observing a match.
After the match was done, the dumb sticks packed back up and the last of the scarves passed out, I managed to ask Leigh a few questions post game as we walked in search of post game refreshment at Ten20 brewery.
The very first thing I had to know was what it felt like to walk in to the stadium for the first game. The first real name. Not a Cup match, not preseason.
“Entering the stadium for the first game was such a surreal feeling,” Leigh said. ‘It was a mix of excitement, anxiety, relief and everything in between. I feel like leading up to these first games have been a unique experience since all of our interaction between fans has been online or via email, it was like “oh shit there’s actually people here in front of me. In person. In Racing gear. Holy shit.”
I was interested in the difference between the Challenge Cup and the regular season game from her point of view. So as we crossed a pair of railroad tracks I asked.
“The energy absolutely felt more elevated. But the energy in the first two games was so awesome that it didn’t feel like there was anything lacking during the challenge cup, you know?” Leigh explained. “But you could tell everyone felt like, “okay, this is the first real game of the season. Let’s go.”
As we approached the brewery I wondered what she looked most forward to building on.
“Our team just looks stronger and stronger every game they play. Their energy is crazy. The fans can feel it too and we want that first win so bad we can taste it. I think it really helps keep the energy up. Which is hilarious to say that not winning is keeping our energy up but, this team just has such a crazy amount of support. We know it’s coming,” Leigh smiled as she spoke of the future before we headed inside.
One of the most impressive things about the NWSL is the supporters groups. They are the fans who show up to every match, who buy the gear the teams put out, who hold the league accountable for wrongs they have done. While I do have a bias here I still have enough distance to say that Louisville is in good hands with the Lavender Legion and right now the Lavender Legion is in good hands with Leigh Nieves.