‘We’re back’: 1,500 fans fill Breese Stevens for Forward Madison FC opener

MADISON, Wis. – Nearly 1,500 filled Breese Stevens Stadium in Madison for Forward Madison’s home opener against North Carolina FC.

For the fans in attendance, Saturday evening’s game was a win – even before the game was played.

We’re just really happy to be able to be back, and this is awesome,” said supporter Kieth Poniewaz. “It feels like a family reunion where you like all of your family members.”

COVID-19 restrictions in Dane County led to the club playing home matches in Wauwatosa for the 2020 season. While the club makes its return home for the 2021 season, not everything is back to the 2019 standards.

One noticeable change is the presence of vaccinated sections for fans who have gotten the Coronavirus vaccine, and socially distanced sections, for fans who haven’t or are not able to.

In the vaccinated sections, fans are able to remove masks and do not have to socially distance from one another.

“Part of the fun is singing and cheering for 90 minutes,” Poneiwaz said. “Having that opportunity again, last year, everything was masked up and there wasn’t that opportunity to sing and cheer and go crazy for the team for 90 minutes, so I’m really excited to do that.”

For us, being able to do this and have this, this is like us coming back to a sense of normalcy,” said Grant Pieters, who joined in the vaccinated supporter section Saturday.  “Us coming back to the good times that we know and that we’ve experienced and had in 2019.”

While the CDC issued guidance last week that vaccinated people would no longer need to wear masks in most settings, Public Health Madison Dane County has not yet made a decision on whether it would drop its mask requirement.

Regardless, supporters of Forward Madison FC say they were happy to be back.

The world told us for 600 days, you need to take a pause,” Pieters said. “Now we’re back. So it’s really great to be able to say that we’re back, and we can have fun, and we can experience this.”