Why should you become a soccer fan today? Seriously, can I call it that? For you ultras ranting how its not the correct terminology, the problem is not how ‘association football’ is labeled ‘soccer’ in the US, but more how American football uses the term ‘football’. If that’s your grudge, so be it but I should be able to use the term ‘soccer’ to label what is collectively known around the world as ‘football’. Last time I checked, the sport uses ‘socks’ and the term stereotyped as an American invention has British origins. Blew your mind, right? Getting back on topic but intertwining the issues, why should you become a soccer fan in American society? It’s not the dominant sport in this country, so why should you care? Before I hash out reasons, let me tell you my journey:
My first exposure to the game started at age 7. When it come to athleticism and skill, I flat out sucked. I was uncoordinated and grew up more on the TV set rather than the outdoor fields. My mom wanted me to have an activity outside school and home and so she signed me up for my local youth soccer league. I spent 5 years playing in that league, mainly as a defender but what I remembered most was the coach’s kid always being the forward and being a punk to everyone. Plus, I lament on a life-scarring moment as I unconsciously picked up the ball during play and committed a ludacris handball. Joining my middle school team was worse. Even with experience, I was blown out of the pitch by better athletes and played on on the B squad. We never got a win and I quit after that season. That had to be 2001 or 2002.
Why become a soccer fan?….
The next couple of years became sporadic memories. I remember watching the 2006 World Cup final during an engineering retreat. I saw John Terry hit the post in the 2008 Champions League final in my college dorm. It wasn’t until a few weeks after that I started to watch Euro 2008. Spain vs. Germany was the story but I remember more of Russia’s prominence in that tournament as well as the catchy song of ‘Samba de Janeiro’ every time a goal was scored. As the tournament came to a close in Vienna, so too was my interest in watching. I didn’t watch again until the 2009 Confederations Cup. As the US national team defeated the European champions, Spain, in the semis and were up 2-0 in the finals against Brazil at halftime, I was hoping for a reason to continue watching. But just like the US national team giving up 3 unanswered goals to lose the final, I was pressed back to the reality that I’m just not going to get into soccer (Oh, and the Yankees won the World Series that year. YES!)
Why become a soccer fan?…
My latter college years involved the FIFA video game series It was a great activity to play with friends. Playing on an xbox, I started from only pressing ’A’ to pass and ‘B’ to shoot to… pressing ‘x’ to cross. That’s it. All the game to us was just trying to score goals. No appreciation for tactics whatsoever. Again, the US national team gave me a wave of emotions during the 2010 World Cup, from the elation of Landon Donovan’s goal against Algeria to the deflation of their exit from the knockout stage by Ghana. The next year, I got to see a friendly between Manchester United and New England Revolution in Gillette Stadium at Foxboro. When I look back now, I appreciate that I went to a game managed by the now retired Sir Alex Ferguson. At the time, all I thought about was the traffic jam that caused us to miss half of the game and the future traffic jam when we exit Patriot Place.
Why become a soccer fan?…
I regret so much of not embracing what most people outside the US call ‘football’ during my trip to Europe in September 2011. My cousins (who live near London) planned a road trip from England to Italy, with stops to France, Germany and Switzerland. I had thoughts of going to a Chelsea game (well, we’re in London and they are popular in the states) but the game didn’t schedule in our trip. I didn’t focus too much on anything soccer-related except remember seeing Inter Milan kits printed with Diego Forlan’s name in a Rome Nike store (which now I think about it, it’d be strange for the Roma and Lazio fans there). Right before heading back to the states, I ventured around London and ended up in a Sports Direct store (Their version of Modell’s and much to the chargin to Newcastle fans). I decided that I would try to root for a team this time. I decided to chose Chelsea because blue is my favorite color and I had long sympathized their loss to Manchester United in the 2008 Champions League final. I bought a cheap away kit and scarf and became a fan…. until I got back in the states, refocused for the NFL season and gone bonkers when my New York Giants beat the New England Patriots again in the Super Bowl the coming February. All in for Big Blue!!!
Why become a soccer fan?…
Don’t worry. There’s an ending to this long-suffering battle to embrace a sport that has yet to join the deep passion I hold for baseball and American football. That journey ends a couple of months after the Super Bowl with two games that impacted English Football (ok, I’ll make an exception). First was the dramatic ending to the 2012 Premier League season with ESPN’s Ian Drake’s new terminology of a goal as AGUERRRRROOOOO. Second was the 2012 Champions League final between Bayern Munich and yes, Chelsea. I had a part-time food delivery job and I was scheduled to work that day. I watched most of the final but ended up leaving in the middle of extra time. I came up to a Panera to pick up a bunch of company-ordered bagels but I was prepared with a British radio app on my phone and I knew I had to listen to the penalty shootout. Those 5 minutes in the car, listening to the end of the game was somewhat a pivotal moment in my appreciation of the game called ‘soccer’. Schweinsteiger hit the post, Drogba stepped up with the radio commentator begging “Come on , Didier!”, and the goalkeeper Neuer dived his left while the ball glided on his right.
Don’t get me wrong. I was pretty excited the team I chose in that Sports Direct store became the kings of Europe but I didn’t become enthralled with the sport overnight. It was the end of the season and surely I’d leave it alone once again. However, that day was the start of a learning experience through various mediums and aspects of the most watched sport in the world. Look out for my articles each week on various topics that made me fall in love with the game and how you can become a soccer fan today. I’ll be diving into topics such as Youtube, characters, fans, etc. Leave your comments below and if you are a soccer fan, feel free to share your journey on how you became such. Peace!