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Freedom fans upset over club's identity, location change

For the past three months the die-hard fans of the club formerly known as the Washington Freedom have been wondering what Dan Borislow will do now that he is the primary owner of their beloved team. It was clear from the beginning that changes were coming. However, fans were not prepared for such drastic changes.

After a lot of rumors the news was finally official on Feb. 17 when WPS unveiled its regular season schedule. The team would no longer be the Washington Freedom and its official home no longer Maryland. The team’s new name is now magicJack’s Washington Freedom. Its new home is at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Fla. There is a possibility that some games may be played in the Washington, D.C. area, but that has not yet been decided.

“I can’t believe that he didn’t communicate with the fans,” said long-time Freedom fan Jane Beech about Borislow. “It just doesn’t seem like the right way to go. I feel like he just abandoned everyone here and didn’t care at all.”

Beech became a fan of women’s soccer in 2000 when the Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA) began. In 2003, she even attended the championship game to see the Washington Freedom defeat the Atlanta Beat. In fact, her love for the game grew so much that she attended some of the women’s clinics, led by Washington Freedom players. During the 2010 season Beech and her family went to almost every home game. Beech’s favorite player is Lori Lindsey.

“It’s so hard to pick just one. There are so many,” she said.

It’s easy to see how committed fans are to the game and to their team. With Beech this wasn’t any different. “I feel like an orphan,” she said, of no longer having a hometown team.

Another fan surprised by the recent changes is Lowri Griffiths of Wales, United Kingdom. She, like many other young players, was drawn in by Mia Hamm.

“Mia Hamm was my favourite Freedom player and it’s through following her and the Washington Freedom I came to admire my current favorite player, Abby Wambach,” Griffiths said.

Even though Griffiths does not live in the Washington, D.C. area, she is very passionate about her team.

“[Dan Borislow] seems to have forgotten the fans…who have devoted their time and money to supporting their team,” Griffiths said. “What message does it send to the fans that turned out to watch [the games] in Maryland?”

Still, Griffiths will continue to support the team – for now.

“Ithink it’s ultimately because I just want to see good soccer and in particular the progress and survival of women’s soccer,” she said. “For now my loyalty remains and I will watch closely to see what happens.”

Like Beech, Griffiths’ following of the Washington Freedom also started with the WUSA. She was already a soccer fan but did not have any female role models. For Griffiths it all began when a friend called her “Mini Mia” and she is the first to admit it was not because of her talent. Regardless, there was no looking back. She chose to follow the Washington Freedom and her local connection with the team began on a visit to see her sister who resides in Richmond, VA. Normally staying up until 2 a.m. in Wales to watch game webcasts, Griffiths was excited that the 2011 visit included attending a Freedom game in Maryland. However, seeing a WPS game may not be on this year’s agenda. Not in Maryland, anyway.


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