When you sign up to start blogging on your favorite football club, you don't ever think about moments like these. Sitting down to write a tribute for a fallen friend is just simply heartbreaking. I thought all week about what I wanted to say; whatever comes out won't do a man, a life, and his many friendships with the Orlando City community justice. This isn't an obituary, but just a remembrance for a friend and fellow Orlando City SC supporter, Daniel Britt.
I couldn't tell you the exact game when I met Daniel. I know I met him through mutual friends because that's pretty much how our de facto supporters group all met one another. What was a loose confederation of friends and friends of friends during Orlando City SC's first season became a tight-knit unofficial supporters group going into this, our first year in MLS.
Daniel was crucial to our game-day experience, from the tailgate, to the post-game meet-up. He was a founding member of our unofficial supporters group.
We are the Olde South End, reflective of our connections to the Citrus Bowl's old Section 125, on the south side of the stadium. With our section moving for this season, and the uncertainty of where we will be in the new one, we wanted to remind ourselves where we met and where it all began.
Daniel was just always there, no matter what game, rain or shine, weekend or weekday, friendly or league final. I counted on that when I knew I'd be heading up to the stadium by myself. He and I were the only ones of our group to make the U.S. Open Cup game, when we upset the Colorado Rapids, 3-1, in 2013. For last season's games at Disney, where seating was harder to come by, Daniel made it a habit to go early and grab a section, so we could all still sit together. He was just that kind of guy.
He was quick to have the pregame tailgate plan and bring along whatever was needed. With burgers and Portobello mushrooms on the grill, he always caught me up on the most recent Orlando City and English Premier League gossip. Before MLS was a certainty, we would love to compare notes on Phil Rawlins' press conferences in an effort to glean just how much he knew, when he was so confident in MLS coming to Orlando.
Come game time, he was the best person to sit with. We compared notes on tactics and players. More than one article on this blog has its roots in those conversations. No matter where he was sitting in our group, every goal got a high-five, no matter how far away we were sitting.
The day I heard of Daniel's passing, I came home early and took a long walk with my girlfriend. She asked me about some of the finer points of Daniel's life. I told her, honestly, that I didn't know that much. On game days we weren't those things. For 90 minutes, we weren't students, employees, or professionals. We were just supporters. That is kind of the beauty of it.
The one thing Daniel always was, no matter what, was a father. His daughter, Alina, became a fixture of our group, along with her dad. Our group features a number of young Lions -- Alina and the other kids loved celebrating goals with the confetti and streamers he would bring. Daniel was an active parent with the Orlando City Youth teams, where his daughter plays. Truth be told, she was always his favorite soccer player.
If Daniel had an inside scoop or track, he shared it with all of us. Thanks to him, our whole group became some of the earliest to secure our season tickets for 2014 and get high priority for future seasons. He was also the first to befriend our ticket sales rep, Brian Paul, somebody we now all consider a friend and honorary member of the Olde South End.
We talk a lot about the 'Orlando,' the 'City,' and the 'Soccer' parts of our team's name. We forget that last one, 'Club.' While other sports feature Vikings, Tigers, or vicious birds in their names, the tradition of the club survives into the modern era of soccer. The last week has reminded us just how strong that tradition is with OCSC.
Within hours of knowing about Daniel's passing, I had been contacted by the club directly, only to find out others in our group were in contact with other people at the club. Club Founder and President Phil Rawlins tweeted his condolences, a message that was passed along by fellow supporters, players, our supporter's groups, other MLS supporter's groups, the MLS official account, and national soccer media members.
I'm just going to say, I think he probably would have thought that was pretty cool.
His impact on the Orlando City community extended past our supporters group. Daniel was active online through his fan blog, Penalty Kick Orlando, and his exceptionally active Twitter and Facebook accounts. Like many of you, I knew I could count on a comment from Daniel on any of my soccer rants. He was always quick to repost my articles, usually with a direct message to discuss points I'd made or just to encourage.
I reached out to this extended community for remembrances of Daniel. The response was staggering.
They spoke of a man who loved his friends, his family, and his sports teams. Besides Orlando City, he was a devoted Liverpool and New England Patriots fan. We all remember his obsession with Mexican Coca-Cola. Comments all echoed his humor, his generosity, and his insight into soccer, music, and life.
It seems like we all went to him for advice on something. I was reminded of a time he promised to bring cookies to one of our cookie-and-beer tailgates last season at Disney. Daniel and Alina didn't bother finding any old cookie recipe. They found the scientifically proven "perfect" cookie recipe. That was our experience with Daniel -- if it is worth doing, get the most out of it and enjoy it totally.
Talking about all the good memories and great things Daniel was is the easy part. Thinking about the future without our friend is the hard one. None of us can imagine going to a game without Daniel being there, not to mention Orlando City's first MLS game.
The tailgate, the game, meeting up after the game, and the post-game banter with the Orlando City community on Twitter will all feel a little emptier without Daniel around. He's a founding member, a stalwart, and forever a friend for all of us from the Olde South End, as well as a blogger, a pundit, a fan, and a friend to anybody willing to strike up a conversation in the Orlando City family.
Daniel you'll forever be a Lion. Don't worry, we will save you a seat this time, my friend.
A fund has been set up in Daniel Britt's honor to help support his young daughter, Alina. If you are able, please consider donating through PayPal (Click the "send" tab and send donations to TheAlinaFund@gmail.com).