FourFourTwo

Nashville’s own Soccer Moses

MLS has a new cult hero, who’s taken support to Biblical levels

- Si Hawkins

Think Nashville, and certain long- haired legends spring to mind: Dolly Parton, Taylor Swift, Willie Nelson. But now the home of country has a new hero – a rabble- rousing religious icon making commandmen­ts of a footy nature. And he plays a mean guitar.

Soccer Moses is the unlikely face of Nashville SC, the new MLS franchise making noise in Music City. True, their unofficial cheerleade­r does rile some folks too, but Moses has eyes on the promised land.

“We want to help grow the sport here – I’m a passionate fan of what football can do,” he tells FFT. “Although sometimes it’s just an excuse to cosplay.”

Stephen Mason is behind the wild- haired idol, who was dreamed up in a barber shop. Away from matchdays he runs a hair salon – a natural hub for music and football to collide. “In MLS, we have ‘ capos’, people who direct the songs, and I was cutting his hair,” he recalls. Mason suggested a T- shirt based on a quote from the Bible, where Moses declared ‘ let my people go’. Bizarrely, the idea was inspired by Victor Moses scoring for Nigeria at the 2018 World Cup - watching on TV, one of Mason’s pals responded by standing on a chair and exclaiming ‘ Let my people goal!’

A catchphras­e was born and a banner later created, as was the idea of Mason embodying Moses when Nashville joined MLS in 2020.

His First Coming was for their February debut, where those exuberant sermons got national TV coverage. The legend spread – lockdown offered “lots of time for memes” and even merch to raise funds for charity Kickin’ It 615.

After coronaviru­s restricted MLS crowds, Moses and his flock have been able to regularly march into matches in 2021. “Lots of families ask for photos, and drunk lads call me ‘ Soccer Jesus’,” he says. “I say that Jesus only lived to 33; this beard doesn’t happen over 33 years.”

Impersonat­ing a Bible character can be contentiou­s – “we’re in the Bible belt here” – and some have accused Moses of gimmickry, notably one video in which he tackled Nashville SC’S rocking pre- game ritual, where fans play guitar riffs. He has previous: Mason also plays guitar for Grammy- winning band Jars of Clay.

His football bug first began when the band recorded in London in the mid- 90s, and the sound guy took him to a Highbury testimonia­l. For who? “Hang on… Nigel Winterburn!” he says, digging out the programme. “At 21, that experience bordered on elation and terror.”

But he was hooked – initially on Arsenal, then the local team. Handily, Nashville are now building the biggest purpose- built stadium in MLS, right near his barber shop. “Players love to be fresh,” he says. “I’ll cut their hair, then don my robes in a phone booth for the game.”

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