When Rangers FC of Scotland played Republic FC in a friendly Saturday night at Bonney Field, the Briggs family of Elk Grove couldn’t lose.
Robert Briggs was born 47 years ago at a hospital two miles from Rangers FC’s famed Ibrox Stadium in Glasgow. The stadium was on his father’s postal route.
He converted his wife, Elaine, a Northern Ireland native, to Rangers fandom when they married. Their children – Lois, 20, Esther, 18, Deborah, 16, and Andrew, 14 – grew up with blue in their blood. That’s the color of Scotland’s most renowned soccer club.
But Briggs, a pastor, also is Republic FC’s chaplain and a season-ticket holder of the first-year USL Pro franchise. His daughters, all current or former soccer players, also are huge fans.
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“We’re 100 percent for both,” Deborah said before the Rangers rallied to beat Republic FC 2-1.
“We’re 200 percent behind them,” Robert said, flashing a big smile. “To have the Rangers come to Sacramento at a time when there’s all this excitement about Sac Republic, it’s just amazing for us.”
For the last nine years, Robert Briggs has coached a girls soccer team in Land Park. Not surprisingly, they are called the Rangers.
Lois and Esther were members of the team before they aged out. Deborah, who also plays soccer at Laguna Creek High School, captained last season’s Rangers team to the U-16 California Youth Soccer Association-North District VI championship. Deborah and many of her Rangers teammates served as ballgirls for Saturday’s match.
Robert and Deborah presented the Rangers FC team with one of their District VI championship banners at practice Friday at Bonney Field. They also had players autograph a Rangers youth jersey that Lois first wore as a 5-year-old and was passed down to her sisters.
“We grew up watching the Rangers because every year we knew we’d get a new jersey at Christmas,” Esther said.
The family also regularly watched Ally McCoist, the Rangers’ coach and legendary striker, when he was on the popular BBC show “A Question of Sport.”
Among their favorite Rangers players are midfielder Kris Boyd and defender Dean Shiels.
Lois and Esther played for Dean’s father, Kenny, when he ran soccer camps and coached a team they were on as little girls.
Boyd has the same last name as Elaine’s maiden name (though no family connection), and he was an entertaining and prolific scorer for the Rangers from 2006 to 2010 who has returned to the team this season.
The Briggs sisters’ favorite Republic FC player is forward Thomas Stewart because he hails from Northern Ireland, where they were born.
The girls attended a Rangers match at 50,000-seat Ibrox Stadium in 2010, an atmosphere they said was like no other they’ve experienced. While Bonney Field isn’t quite the Ibrox, the Briggs family also enjoys the festive atmosphere at the 8,000-seat stadium. It doesn’t hurt that Republic FC plays entertaining soccer.
While he’s rooting for Republic FC in its bid to move to Major League Soccer, he’s proud the Rangers appear to be overcoming a tumultuous period in their long and stellar history.
McCoist is trying to resurrect a club that was forced into receivership over a tax dispute and dropped from the Scottish Premier League, in which it won a record 54 titles. After winning two lower-division titles, the Rangers have climbed to the second-tier Scottish Championship League, in which they begin play in August.
“Ally McCoist has stuck by the club in its darkest days,” Robert Briggs said. “From a Rangers point a view and from a fan’s point of view, Ally’s loyalty is second to none. He has had to rebuild the Rangers from scratch.”
MATCH AT A GLANCE
Rangers FC 2, Republic FC 1
• Second-half comeback: The Glasgow, Scotland, team rallied for two second-half goals, including Ian Black’s 90th-minute left-footer just in front of the net, to top Republic FC (12-9-3) in the friendly. Carlos Martinez’s goal from the top of box gave Republic FC a 1-0 lead just before halftime. Rangers FC (2-1-1) tied it 1-1 in the 48th minute on Darren McGregor’s header from a Lewis McLeod corner kick. Black’s goal, off an assist from Kenny Miller, came less than one minute from the end of the match.
• Showing depth: Two days after playing Orlando City SC to a 0-0 tie at Bonney Field, Republic FC coach Preki started an entirely different 11-man lineup. Goalie Dominik Jakubek played particularly well, making six saves. Rangers FC outshot Republic FC 14-13 in the evenly played match.
• UK assist: Republic FC started three players from the United Kingdom against the Rangers – forward Thomas Stewart from Northern Ireland and midfielder Chad Bond and defender Peter Gilbert, a trialist, from Wales.
• Next up: Republic FC will play West Bromwich Albion FC of the English Premier League at 7:30 p.m. Monday at Bonney Field in another friendly.