American Outlaws US Supporters took over and organized themselves into local chapters of which there are now over 160 spread across the country. Meet AO Queens!
Interview with Brian Toto, President of the Queens chapter of the American Outlaws – AO Queens
Legendary manager Jock Stein famously stated, ‘ Football without fans is nothing’. When the USA national team awoke from its decades-long slumber in the late 1980s they were fortunate enough to pick up a small but enthusiastic group of followers to cheer them on through the sun and rain.
By the time the USA hosted the World Cup in 1994, this red-and-white-clad group of fans had expanded and even had a name – Sam’s Army. From then on these dedicated fans would follow their team around the globe and show the world that the USA really had embraced the beautiful game and taken the national team to their hearts. 8000 of them were on hand to help lift the Stars and Stripes to the top of their group in the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa where they finished above England, Slovenia, and Algeria.
Clearly, the support had outgrown the original concept of Sam’s Army. A new supporters group called The American Outlaws took over and organized themselves into local chapters, now over 160 spread across the country. We recently caught up with Brian Toto, the President of the Queens chapter of the American Outlaws (AO).
Brian, can you tell us a little about how the AO Queens got started?
I started AO Queens in the spring of 2011. I wanted to get the chapter up and running before the Gold Cup that year as to gain some momentum for membership sign-ups during the tournament. Due to the strange broadcast times that follows international soccer matches; it wasn’t always easy getting into Manhattan for a match day from the outer boroughs. I wanted to create a chapter closer to my residence. So I reached out to an Irish pub that was near the subway and I started to go through the process of becoming an official chapter.
How did you manage to get official sanctioning from AO?
The American Outlaws has official requirements to become an officially recognized chapter. Each chapter needs a minimum of 35 paid AO Members, have a “home base” bar that will show all of the matches with the sound on, and then to fill out the registration paperwork. It took a little while to become official. But soon enough, we were off and running.
How many members do you have currently?
The last time I checked, about a month ago, we had about 50 paid members, although, we have a lot more people who follow us on social media. We are active on Facebook (AO Queens), Twitter (@AO_QNZ), and Instagram (ao_queens), so the community can see all of our events and viewing parties.
Where do you meet to watch games?
Our home bar is Shillelagh Tavern in Astoria located on 30th Ave. They are a great bar with an impressive array of Irish whiskey. The food is really good too; a modern take on traditional Irish pub food. We get the back, curtained-off area with a large projection screen and its own sound different from the front of the bar.
Do you have any special events planned for upcoming matches?
We consistently have viewing parties for all of the USA matches. We are looking to have a big party on Friday, October 6th for the USA vs Panama World Cup Qualifying Match. The match time has not been announced yet, but since the match is being played in Orlando, I am assuming it will be around 7 or 7:30.
How do USA fans based in Queens get to join AO Queens?
Fans can go to theamericanoutlaws.com, click Join, and put in AO Queens as your preferred chapter. It costs $25/year plus shipping. For this, you will get an AO T-shirt and an American flag bandana. You will then be eligible for all of the AO Benefits and Discounts. See them all listed on the website. If you are not sure about joining, but just want to watch a match with fellow fans, come on down to Shillelagh Tavern in Astoria and join us. Everyone is welcome and we would love to have you.