Flint, MI—Hundreds of Bucks fans cheered in the stands of the historic Atwood Stadium as the team continued with its 8-game winning streak, defeating Toledo Villa FC 3-1 on May 15.

The late spring sun hovered over much of the game as fans, especially the River Rats, the team’s dedicated fan group, hollered, drummed, and kazooed the night away. 

Fans of the Flint City Bucks attend the first game of the season which had limited capacity due to COVID-19 restrictions on May 15, 2021 at Atwood Stadium. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)

With the Bucks refusing to take pressure off Toledo’s defense, the game saw close call after close call, causing the stands to look like a never ending wave as fans stood up in anticipation of a goal. 

The game looked like any other, but while Bucks forwards Charlie Sharp and Ids Hannema brought the Bucks to victory, something else was happening in the stands. 

The Flint City Bucks play their first game of the season against the Toledo Villa FC on May 15, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)

Many fans were experiencing a big outdoor event for the first time since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. For some, getting back into what could now be coined the ‘old normal’ wasn’t as simple as expected. 

Michael Salad, one of the Bucks’ most avid fans and proud River Rat, mentioned how for him and many of his friends, the excitement of being back was somewhat overshadowed by the unfamiliarity of the event itself. 

Flint City Bucks fans, who dub themselves “The River Rats” cheer for the Bucks first game of the season against the Toledo Villa FC on May 15, 2021 at Atwood Stadium. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)

Salad said being there felt like an exercise in re-socialization.

“It’s really nostalgic. A lot of what’s going on tonight is people are still getting comfortable from a social standpoint. A lot of people are in masks and stuff like that. I think we’re all trying to re-socialize and that comes with chants, songs and just trying to get back to following sports and rooting for our team,” Salad said. 

Despite the initial hesitancy, Salad said he saw something like attending a Bucks game as a gateway to getting back to how things were before the pandemic. 

The Flint City Bucks play their first game of the season against the Toledo Villa FC on May 15, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)

“It’s interesting because everyone is uncomfortable with it but…soccer can be like a social denominator. That’s like a medium for us all to relate and we can talk about what we want this year and hopefully as things get better we can get more people in here and get people more comfortable,” Salad said.

Other fans like Doug Saville, a mailman of 18 years in Flint, were just happy to be back and to feel like things were happening in Flint again. 

“We didn’t have a whole lot of things happening in Flint…I bought season tickets and now we just have a good time. It’s something to do in downtown Flint, it’s fun, it’s not expensive, it gives me a chance to get out and get outside and meet people and have a good time supporting the home team…It’s nice to bring up the city. 

The Bucks will return to Atwood Stadium for their second home game against the Dayton Dutch Lions on Saturday, May 29 at 7:30 p.m. General admission starts at $10. Tickets are available here.

The Flint City Bucks play their first game of the season against the Toledo Villa FC on May 15, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
The Flint City Bucks play their first game of the season against the Toledo Villa FC on May 15, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
The Flint City Bucks play their first game of the season against the Toledo Villa FC on May 15, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
A videographer films The Flint City Bucks playing their first game of the season against the Toledo Villa FC on May 15, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
The Flint City Bucks play their first game of the season against the Toledo Villa FC on May 15, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
A fan cheers after the Flint City Bucks make a goal at their first game of the season on May 15, 2021 at Atwood Stadium. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
Two young fans watch the Flint City Bucks game against the Toledo Villa FC on May 15, 2021 at Atwood Stadium. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
The Flint City Bucks play their first game of the season against the Toledo Villa FC on May 15, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
The Flint City Bucks play their first game of the season against the Toledo Villa FC on May 15, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
The Flint City Bucks play their first game of the season against the Toledo Villa FC on May 15, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
The Flint City Bucks wave to “The Rats Nest” after winning their first game of the season against the Toledo Villa FC on May 15, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
Flint City Bucks teammates after they won their first game of the season against the Toledo Villa on May 15, 2021 at Atwood Stadium.
Flint City Bucks fans, who dub themselves “The River Rats” cheer after the Bucks win their first game of the season against the Toledo Villa on May 15, 2021 at Atwood Stadium. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
The Flint City Bucks pose for a team photo after they won their first of the season against Toledo Villa on May 15, 2021 at Atwood Stadium. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)

Santiago Ochoa

Santiago Ochoa is Flint Beat's Latinx Community reporter. He is always looking to write about anything Flint or Latinx. He especially enjoys investigative reporting and human-interest stories. A communications...

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