When The United States Mens Soccer team faced Mexico in a World Cup qualifier match in Columbus on Sept. 10, team members walked down a hall covered with quotes from soccer fans across the country.
Jordan Sampson of Beverly wrote and submitted a quote that was chosen to be displayed on the wall.
According to Allison Ward, a columnist for The Columbus Dispatch, who notified Sampson of his selection, U.S. Soccer asked fans to send personal messages to the team through Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Ward said more than 3,800 replies were sent by fans with just 165 being chosen for display on the wall covering the players' tunnel to the field.
Ward's Sept. 10 column said the wall was visible to only the United States team members and coaches, the last thing the team saw between the locker room and the sell-out crowd inside Crew Stadium. The quote from Sampson said, "Now is the time. Columbus is the place, Mexico is the team. Show the world that the USA is a team to be feared. One nation, one team."
Ward said the idea for the fan wall came from U.S. Soccer's senior manager of communication Neil Buethe. Buehte said, "The tunnel is only accessed by the team, coaches, and a few personnel. When discussing what messaging to put there, we thought, 'Who better to speak to the players than the fans themselves?'" The wall was constructed by graphics company Larger than Life. Vice president of sales for the company, Shane Curran, feels the tunnel represented a unique take on stadium graphics the players couldn't possibly miss.
Sampson was in attendance at the World Cup qualifying game, and discovered his quote was prominently displayed where the players would exit the tunnel onto the field. A post game interview with USA soccer player Clint Dempsey, televised on ESPN, took place right in front of Sampson's quote. And Sampson's opinion of the game itself? "It was the best experience of my life! Freakin' amazing!"
* * *
Sue Sampson is a longtime columnist for The Parkersburg News & Sentinel.