It was a joke, but it’s definitely not now.
Tyler Littwin started the first-ever supporters’ group for Vermont Green FC as a bit of a joke.
He created social media pages to post memes and graphic designs with the handle “Green Mountain Bhoys”–a name inspired by the Revolutionary War militia from Vermont and a supporters’ group for Celtic FC in Scotland. It wasn’t originally meant to be anything more than a place for Littwin to share his passion and perhaps make people laugh.
When the accounts gained a following, Littwin wondered if the Green Mountain Bhoys should be a real thing. He posted that anyone interested in joining the supporters’ group should attend a meet-up at a local brewery. He was shocked when 15-20 people showed up.
Littwin remembers, “The brewery that we were at was like, ‘Did you call ahead? Did you reserve a room?’ I was like, ‘No, we’re just kind of here. Sorry.’”
The Green had already had their first home game of the season at this point, a 4-1 win over Black Rock FC. Among the 1,233 fans in attendance were members of the Montreal Ultras. They aided the atmosphere by chanting and banging drums for 90 minutes. Their performance served as inspiration for the burgeoning Vermont group.
Tyson Foster, a member of the Green Mountain Bhoys, noted that some Ultras attended multiple games in Burlington. Along the way, they provided suggestions.
“There were like four or five folks from Montreal who came down for almost every single home game and they’ve really helped us with developing chants and things like that,” Foster said. “They advised us, saying ‘Oh, you should bring drums. You should bring cowbells. You should get a megaphone.’ Things like that. We kind of learned from them, as we were building this up.”
Soon, the Green Mountain Bhoys had their game-day routine. They would meet up in the parking lot for food and beverages before heading into Virtue Field to hang up banners. They then returned to the lot for final, uh, nourishments before going in to cheer on the Green.
As games went on, the supporters’ group began to define itself more and more. They wanted to be inclusive. They wanted to help the club in its mission to create an equitable and environmentally-conscious world. They wanted to be positive.
Foster recalls an early-season moment that showcases what the Green Mountain Bhoys are all about. A player from an opposing team swore at a ball girl because she didn’t give him the ball fast enough. The Bhoys saw this and wanted to show their support for the child.
“We asked for the ball girl’s name and she told us, so we just chanted her name for a couple of minutes,” Foster said. “Her parents came over to talk to us afterward and said, ‘Thank you so much for that.’”
Vermont Green FC is common ground for soccer fans in the state. Foster noted that Ri Ra is a popular place to catch an English Premier League game, though they usually show one of the big teams as opposed to his beloved West Ham United. Foster sometimes goes to Montreal to watch an Impact game, but that’s a two-hour venture.
Soccer fans in Vermont now have a team to support in their backyard and people are embracing it.
“I had an Uncle who used to count the number of Ferraris around as a loose metric of how the economy is doing and I feel like that’s been my approach to seeing how Vermont Green are doing,” Littwin said. “[I look for] the number of people, kids, folks wearing hats and shirts and gear and, Oh my God, it’s everywhere. You’ll get lots of friendly nods and high fives if you’re wearing a shirt or hat and they see you.”
The Bhoys have their own section on the south end of the stands. The section grew throughout the season, reaching approximately 30 people by the finale. More than that, Littwin noticed that others throughout the stadium were joining in on the enthusiasm.
Some people were moving closer to the Bhoys to join in on the festivities. There were also instances where chants were being echoed from other areas or even being started by people outside of the supporters’ group. Littwin said that the line between who is and isn’t a part of the Bhoys “has become really blurry.” This is a source of pride.
“Part of this season has been us kind of leading by example but by the end, I feel like more and more of it was a full stadium, full fan effort,” Littwin said.
The season finale was played in front of a sold-out stadium of 2,500 people. The Green had to beat the Western Mass Pioneers in order to earn a spot in the playoffs.
Foster remembers watching the game intently as the blistering sun forced his beard to be matted to his face. He said everyone “really picked it up another level” to match their “feelings of excitement and anticipation.” He, along with everyone there, felt a part of it.
“I think that that’s one of the most intense sports experiences that I’ve been a part of,” Foster said. “I think that I’ll remember that in the same way as when I was in elementary school watching Drew Bledsoe and the Patriots get destroyed by the Packers and me just crying to myself into our sofa until I started getting a nosebleed. That’s the low end of the emotional spectrum, but then there’s this at the very top.”
The finale also stands out to Littwin. He remembers chanting alongside one of his son’s teachers who had joined the Bhoys in the supporters’ section. He also ran into a friend who he used to play in a band with and later celebrated the victory with a close friend who serves as the Green’s announcer.
“There are very few occasions when you can bring lots of people together who you really love from different parts of your life and it’s usually weddings and funerals,” Littwin explained. “I feel like these games are our chance to bring friends, family, coworkers, neighbors all into one place and say, ‘Hey, we’re going to have a celebration for 90 minutes and win, lose, or draw, it’s going to be awesome.’”
The Green secured a 1-0 win over the Pioneers that night to earn a playoff berth in their inaugural season. Their reward was to travel to Newport News, VA to face Lionsbridge FC, who was undefeated in the Chesapeake Division during the regular season.
Undeterred, the Green earned an underdog 2-1 win before bowing out of the playoffs two days later when they lost to the Long Island Rough Riders by the same score line.
Although they were 600 miles away, the Green Mountain Bhoys and other Vermont Green supporters were still supporting their hometown team. Some gathered at Vivid Coffee and exhibited just as much passion as they do in the stands of Virtue Field.
“When Sam McCann scored the winning goal [against Lionsbridge], I just remember people jumping out of their chairs and dancing and pumping their fists in the air,” Foster recalls. “Mike, one of the other supporters, was punching the air so hard that he punched one of the fans overhead. Everyone had to stop doing what they were doing to make sure that the fan wasn’t going to drop down on everyone.”
The Green Mountain Bhoys want to bring this type of energy during the Green’s sophomore season to show that this year’s success wasn’t lightning in the bottle. From the beginning, the Green has felt like a club that leans on its community.
Littwin remembers contacting the Green early on to see if they needed help with graphic design. His inquiry was answered by renowned designer Matt Wolff, who is part-owner of the club.
Littwin was surprised that Wolff, who designed the crest for NYCFC, LAFC, San Diego Wave FC, and more, was offering support. He compared it to working with a world-class chef in a small kitchen.
Foster also feels that the Green has created a strong sense of community where everyone is contributing to the club’s success.
“It’s really great to feel like you have that connection,” Foster said. “I think that very early on that group of players really connected with the fans in a way that was really special. They do the Virtue Leap after a goal and after every game, they go and sign autographs for the kids.”
The preparation for next season starts now. The members stay in contact, organizing EPL watch parties and brainstorming new chants.
Inspired by members of a New York Cosmos supporters’ group, the Bhoys will also participate in off-season philanthropy.
“We’re meeting in early September to figure out what are the projects we can get behind, whether it’s local food kitchens or various charities or park clean-ups or whatever it is,” Littwin remarked. “We want to figure out what we can do to keep busy, keep happy, and really connect with the local community in a good way.”
The Green Mountain Bhoys may have started as a joke, but definitely not now.