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Fans’ view: A Son of Ben in Afghanistan

Featured Image: Nicolae Stoian

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Philly Soccer Page’s series of fan posts continues now on a weekly basis. This week, we feature a missive from Lori Bilyou, who is currently serving in Afghanistan with the Delaware National Guard.  Lori wrote this Saturday, before Philadelphia Union’s big win over Kansas City.

I’m not the most die hard fan. I’ll admit it. There are plenty others out there who have been rooting for Philadelphia longer than me. Still, when I reflect on my own history and introduction to the Sons of Ben via a bus trip to a US v. Mexico World Cup qualifying match in Columbus, Ohio, 2009, I just shake my head and smile. Craziness!

My husband and I have had season tickets in the River End for three years running, and until this year, I’ve only missed a handful of home games. The inaugural season, I was in Army public affairs school at Ft. Meade, Md., and drove the sometimes five-hour trek to make weekend home matches.

Season 2, when my husband was sent to Army Officer Basic Course in Georgia, he subscribed to MLS Live to catch the games, we kept our two season tickets, and I planned summer trips to visit him in Georgia around Union home games. He’s a SOB too. He understood.

In his absence, I filled his seat in the River End with either my best friend or my sister, creating two more die hard Union supporters that summer. While unofficial, I like to think I played a big part in keeping the chants going in our section and in relaying them to the next section down. Officially, I started sounding like Brigitte Nielsen by the end of the season and was put on total voice rest by my doctor, who said my overworked vocal chords needed a break.

This year has been tough. With a seat change, we now have the best season seats so far in the River End, but I’ve only gotten to visit them once. I made the 17-hour trip home during a short break in mobilization training to be at PPL Park for the home opener. I got to tailgate with the SOBs and sing happy birthday to Danny Califf. I recorded every chant that the River End sang so I could take the feel of PPL with me when I left again.

MLS on deployment

Sgts. Lori Bilyou (right) and Brendan Mackie of the Delaware National Guard, in Hawaii prior to their deployment to Afghanistan with a Hawaii National Guard unit. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army)

Now I’m in Afghanistan. To my dismay, I learned within 48 hours of arrival that my MLS Live subscription doesn’t work outside of the U.S., Canada and Mexico. It was the first crisis I faced in country.

Still, I had hopes that I might catch an occasional game on AFN, the Armed Forces Network, but a brief survey of the scheduled sports programming assured me that wasn’t going to happen. When I was in the chow hall and caught the tail end of ESPN’s sports wrap up showing the best plays of the week, only to see two seconds of Danny Califf in a Chivas USA uniform, I all but quit eating lunch.

It is, however, a multinational base, so with the European Cup in full swing, there have been “football” viewing opportunities. But, as they refuse to play sound on the televisions in the chow hall, I found myself watching the Croatia v Spain match accompanied by the River End season opener recordings chanting from my iPhone. Really, my friends, it was sad.

Yet hope springs eternal, and in a place of little comfort, small things matter. That is why right now, I’m wearing my Union t-shirt and my SOB scarf. I found a website that posts realtime match plays, and it’s DOOP day in Chester! Yeah, the eight and a half-hour time difference means I’m waiting for a kickoff at 3:30 a.m. but we know it’s worth it! So while all you die hard SOBs are tailgating in Chester, have one for me, and remember, at 20:10 there will be one SOB singing in South Asia, Brigitte Nielsen voice and all.


  1. the kid union says:


  2. Way to go, Lori! Great aricle and thanks for all you do down there for the US! Happy Dooping and glad you found that website. You may be able to install a movable Satellite Dish, buy yourself a ‘gold card’ and decoder and pick up games and other amazing stuff on TV…

  3. Thank you for your service!!! Your an inspiration to Union fans everywhere!!!

  4. Thanks for your service, and for sharing your story. Let us know when you’re back at PPL!

  5. Smackey the Frog says:

    Great article. Thanks SGT Bilyou, stay safe over there… we’ll hold down The River End while you’re away!

  6. Thank you for all you do

  7. ebradlee10 says:

    Stupid dust in my apt.

    Godspeed, Lori. May your memories sustain you til your return.

  8. What an awesome story & spirit for the Union! She definetly needs to recognized on the field when she comes home! Thank you for serving!

  9. Great article. Thank you for your service, Sgt Bilyou! And thank you to all our troops too, especially the ones who DOOP from afar! DOOP!

  10. Thank you for your service! Hope you can get back to the River End safe and soon!

  11. SGT Bilyou is a great asset here in Afghanistan but truly misses her family and Union Ohana. We will take care of her here and try to get her soccer “fix” fixed. The comments above are golden and I hope she gets better seats when she returns (hint, hint).

  12. I was there when Lori played River End season opener recordings from her iPhone, I enjoyed everyone. I agree with Jeff, SGT Bilyou is a great asset and continues to be. She would be an even greater asset if she were able to have MLS live here in Afghanistan. But since she’s a die hard fan, she definitely found a way!!

  13. Thanks so much for the kind words and especially the support! Just goes to show how awesome Philly fans are!

  14. Best Friend & SOB says:

    DOOP! Bilyou…You ROCK! I think you can officially call yourself a ‘die-hard’ fan:) So proud of all you do for our country & to spread the Union Fever overseas. I will have a beer & kelp (LOL) in your honor, at the Impact/Union game on July 14th.

  15. Fans’ view: A Son of Ben in Afghanistan pig

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