Pictured above: AOSTL President Malia Dunbar meets fellow St. Louis native Josh Sargent at a September 2019 St. Louis FC match, which took place the day prior to the USMNT’s friendly versus Uruguay at Busch Stadium.
This March, we’re honoring the incredible women who keep AO running – in the stands, in our chapters, and behind the scenes.
Malia took the reins of AOSTL in 2018. Also active in the St. Louligans – the largest club supporters’ group in the city – she’s helped grow not only support for her favorite teams, but her community as well.
Let’s start from the top – how did you get into soccer?
My dad was my soccer coach when I was about 6, and I played every year until high school. I remember going to a lot of St. Louis Steamers and St. Louis Storm (both of the now-defunct Major Indoor Soccer League) games when I was young.
What’s your earliest memory as a U.S. soccer fan?
I know I watched the national team before this, but I have to say the ’99ers in the World Cup. There was something about that team that made me just want to watch all the time.
Fast-forward a few years – how did you get involved with AO?
My friend took me to the Chelsea-Manchester City match at Busch Stadium in 2013. That’s where I meet some of the AOSTL folks, including Ryan Smith and Andi Gebhart – the president and VP at the time. Everyone was super-welcoming, and the more I went to events, the more I wanted to help.
AOSTL and the St. Louligans do a lot of charity work – tell us about it!
Our supporters’ group culture extends to supporting our community, too. Both groups usually hold a charity soccer match each January to collect donations for the St. Louis Area Foodbank, which benefits our community. AOSTL has also hosted holiday toy drives to collect gifts for a local charity – in conjunction with our holiday party with the St. Louligans – and we’ve collected school supplies for an area school.
What else are you proud of accomplishing as an AO chapter leader?
Being able to put together a game experience in a short amount of time. With COVID, we all took a step back in 2020 to focus on family life, but this year, hopefully we’ll celebrate with all of our members in a safe manner.
What does soccer – all of it – mean to you?
Soccer is a happy place for me – being with people I like, watching the beautiful game. In recent years, it’s helped me balance work and life. I can unplug and enjoy my time on gamedays.