Americans hang out with beloved local German soccer team as players tour air base
Stars and Stripes March 24, 2023
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — Mnason Strowbridge got his first dose of die-hard soccer fandom in this area as a U.S. soldier in the late 1990s, when 1. FC Kaiserslautern became the first team in German history to win the federal league title a year after being promoted.
With his second stint in the area winding down, this time in a civilian capacity, the 24-year Army veteran didn’t want to miss the chance to meet the team.
“It’s an opportunity by chance,” Strowbridge said. “I just happened to hear over AFN that they were going to be at the community club. (I was) riding down the autobahn, heading to work, thinking … ‘Oh, I got to be there.’”
Strowbridge was among hundreds of people on hand as the Red Devils signed autographs, posed for photos and talked with the military community, followed by what team officials said was the club’s first ever tour of Ramstein Air Base.
Terrence Boyd, who has appeared in 14 matches for the United States at the international level, was among the most popular players.
Boyd was born to a U.S. service member and a German mother in Bremen. He lived briefly in New York as an infant before moving back to Germany with his mother.
The striker joined FCK in January 2022 after moving on from Halle, and he helped the team earn promotion to the Bundesliga’s second division.
Boyd said he’s noticed an increase in American turnout during his short time with the team.
“I think it even could improve a lot more,” Boyd said. “Stints like today are a great way to improve the relationship in terms of generating more fans, getting more people hooked on the FCK atmosphere.”
FCK is a founding member and four-time champion of the Bundesliga. While relegation to the third division and the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in an attendance drop, fans since have returned in droves. In 12 second division home matches this season, an average of 38,778 people have packed Fritz Walter Stadium.
George Brown, president of the American 1. FC Kaiserslautern fan club, sees the relationship as a two-way street and says the club has made strides in the past few years.
FCK now has an English website, and concessions stands allow credit card and phone purchases instead of requiring a special card, Brown said.
Brown then pointed to the players on the flight line checking out C-130 and C-17 cargo planes.
“This is them reaching out to the fans, but we’re reaching out to them as well,” Brown said.
The FCK players also went to Northside Gym, where a couple of them competed against airmen in a fitness challenge of 1-minute pushups, a flexed-arm hang and 1-minute chinups.
The Red Devils ended the day at Ramstein High School, where they played with members of the boys and girls soccer teams. A trio, including Boyd, donned pads and switched balls with members of the high school football team.
Boyd showed off his skill by nailing a 40-yard field goal that would have been good from at least 50 yards.
The experience left a big impression on the high school athletes on the field.
“It was really good to see them play because even if they didn’t really tell us ‘play smooth’ or anything like that, we get to see the differences,” Ramstein soccer player Maxim Speed said. “I would consider myself a really good player, but seeing them play is really cool because I get to imitate that and get better by doing that.”