There aren’t many coaches in professional sports that would serve their one-game suspension mingling with supporters in the tailgate lot ahead of their team’s match. But Real Salt Lake Head Coach Mike Petke gladly did on Saturday.
Ahead of RSL’s matchup against Columbus Crew SC, Petke paid a visit to a few RSL supporters to show his gratitude and to urge the fans to keep supporting the club.
“I wanted to say thank you to you guys the fans, because you’re what drives the team,” Petke told those gathered three hours before kickoff. “Your support means everything to us and I appreciate each-and-every one of you.”
For supporters who have been loyal fans since RSL’s inception in 2005, they could not remember a time when a head coach took time out of his day to make sure the fans knew how much he and the club appreciated their support. A member of Section 35 at Rio Tinto Stadium, supporter Jake Simons spoke highly of Petke as a person and what the visit meant to him and his fellow supporters.
“It’s amazing. We’ve been having the tailgate here now for four or five years and I can think of zero times that the head coach has come down before or after a game to say hi to everybody,” Simons said. “We’ve tried to get people down here before and everybody’s so busy, even though he’s suspended today it means a lot to the people who are here supporting every single week.”
With flags flying high in the north parking lot of the stadium, The Rogue Cavalier Brigade supporters and member Steven Hirning elaborated on the ties between the club’s supporters and the club itself.
“To have a coach come down and shake our hands and thank us for our support directly, it means a lot,” Hirning said.
RCB member Nick Bailey echoed Hirning’s point saying that “It shows he cares not just about the team, but the community as a whole as far as the RSL family goes.”
With Petke’s spirited press conference after a 1-1 draw with Sporting Kansas City in hindsight, an eventful meeting with Salt City United members ensued before the game against Columbus with the SCU group bringing Petke a printer and a sledge hammer to show support for their coach. Although Petke didn’t smash the printer, he considered the gesture to be a positive one and thanked the fans for their support.
SCU member George Dolle laughed as a fan smashed the printer with Petke looking on and recalled what the goal of the supporters group is every week at Rio Tinto Stadium.
“We’re just here to support the team and grow the soccer culture,” Dolle explained. “To have Petke come out here it means a lot. It shows that he’s a person that really cares about the team and the supporters.”