Edgar Zuniga

Edgar with Dan Calichman at a Chelsea vs Inter Milan friendly at the Rose Bowl

You see it all the time when people talk about those original MLS jerseys from 1996. With a couple of exceptions, they were loud, wild, and xxxtreme! But, when I look at my ’96 Los Angeles Galaxy jersey and some of the other ones (especially the ones by Nike), they are like time capsules of that era. I hold mine up in the light and I can see myself back at the Rose Bowl, chanting and singing along with the Galaxians Supporters Club.

A flood of nostalgia follows. I can smell the food at the tailgates outside the Rose Bowl. I can hear the buzz as everyone filed into the old, venerable stadium and went to grab some nachos and a Coke before kick-off. I still remember the saccharine feel to the game with its Americanized rules and quirks—the countdown clock, baseball-style “Charge” fanfare, and those odd shootouts.

There was Cobi Jones, Mauricio Cienfuegos, Jorge Campos and… Andrew Shue? And a bunch of other guys we had never heard of. It didn’t matter. They were our guys and many of them would go on to become club legends. For many like me, it was love at first sight. Thinking back to that first game vs. the New York/New Jersey MetroStars (they should’ve stuck with Empire F.C.), I feel a strong sense of pride to have been there. Since then, Galaxy has become an enduring element of my life.

I was fortunate to have been there at the beginning with the Galaxians and meet so many passionate and caring people. I was blessed to have been granted a Galaxy press pass in 1997, while I was still developing my skills as a journalist and then meet so many excellent players and build lasting relationships. More than anything, I realized that our Galaxy was just one small corner of a vast universe of this beautiful game that we love so much.

Somewhere in my parents’ garage, stuffed away in some box, buried under more boxes are my old copies of Freekick, the program that was handed out at games, that original ticket stub from April 13, 1996, more ticket stubs, posters of Jorge Campos and Cobi Jones, and some old Galaxy flags and bandanas that I bought from vendors outside the Rose Bowl.

Freekick magazine from ’96

One day, I’ll get a chance to raid that old garage again and see what I can find. Luckily, I still have my original ’96 Galaxy jersey. I have taken extra care to keep it in good shape all these years, so that when I throw it on, it still looks like it just came off the rack at the What a Kick store in the old Westside Pavilion in West L.A.

I can’t help but get emotional at times when I throw on that old jersey. There was a sense of investment in Major League Soccer whenever you attended a Galaxy game, especially that first year. A notion of responsibility to the sport and the team and the understanding that you were becoming part of a unique family.

Game nights at the Rose Bowl.

Long lines of cars along scenic Arroyo Boulevard. The old Galaxy Fan Fest. Tailgates with the Galaxians. Playing pickup games on the grass outside. The anticipation as you made your way through the stadium gates. A dark tunnel, voices echoing. Emerging into the vastness of the Rose Bowl. The sun setting. Long shadows creeping across the field. Soft pastels splayed across the resplendent San Gabriel Mountains. A whistle and a flurry of action on the field. Drumming and singing and chanting. The Galaxians are here! A roar from the stands. Boos and whistles. A louder roar followed by celebration.

Hugs and high-fives. “See you at the next game.” The slow exit out of the lots and into the night.

There were no camera phones, no social media, no instant gratification. Unless you brought a camera to the stadium, all these memories are slowly fading, like an old Polaroid. Golden images of halcyon days bordered by everlasting hope and devotion.

Edgar Zuniga @na_gs