Raise your hand if any of the following criteria apply to you:
- have you been a football supporter for ten years or less?
- have you “picked” a top European club to follow?
- do you currently reside in one of the 50 States that make up this fine country?
If you answered Yes to any or all of these questions, you very well may be eligible to also have a “2nd team”. (You also may be a spoiled American football supporter, don’t worry, it’s O.K.)
In an American sports landscape dominated by everything but soccer (it’s getting better, I know), Americans who have taken the plunge & leapt head first into world football have formed a close knit, underground, almost snobbish movement in the last five years. With the acquisition of soccer friendly channels, satellite & cable companies have provided just as many matches on any given Saturday morning as the same Saturday morning across the pond. The American top-European club-supporting soccer fan is not a rare breed. But what it definitely is, is a lucky breed. Foreign to (99.9% of) us American soccer snobs are the years & years of heartache, defeat, relegation, promotion, “yo-yo-ing”, administration & something many probably haven’t even heard of, the old first division.
Most of us Yanks catch the football cold from 1 of about 10 or 11 top European clubs across the continent. Don’t worry my European friends, after we pick a top club who’ve just won a league & cup double, the majority of us do a pretty good job of respecting the club & culture that we’ve adopted. We spend days, weeks, months, even years immersing ourselves in history, tactics, formations, rules & laws, & a few of us even learn a song or two. Of course the lingo sets in soon after. We just can’t contain ourselves, beers become pints, bars become pubs, soccer becomes football, the field becomes the pitch, cleats become boots, jerseys become kits, & on & on. But the reason for this article, & the one true variable that distinguishes American & European or British supporters from each other, is the bias that euro-centric football fans are born into. Now, before you send me hate mail, I do realize that not everyone has this so called bias. I’m sure there are Spurs fans born in Manchester, or City fans born in London. I do not speak in absolutes. What I am saying, for the most part, is that you’re either born Red or Blue in Merseyside. There are no other options (same goes for Manchester). I just can’t possibly imagine there are many Arsenal-friendly English lads residing right around the corner from White Heart Lane. In the States, well, you’d be surprised.
Plain & simple, (& a beautiful thing) we have to pick a team. Sure the small minority of us stick out a few years of mid table mediocrity, or season after season of just a decent League Cup or FA Cup run, but we have it pretty darn good in this country, we usually pick the best teams. There’s little to no aggro between fans, there’s rarely a problem with football-related violence & there’s plenty of footie to watch every week from all of Europe’s top clubs (without having to pay an arm & a leg for it). We have the incredible ability to swoop in on a top 4 team during a winning season & no one gives us flack for it. What more could a fickle football supporter ask for? Answer:
The lovable 2nd team.
Why you ask? Well, because we can, we love winning teams. Uncle Randy won’t slate us for rooting for two different teams in the same day. I have a mate who is a Liverpool fan, but almost always pulls for Manchester United as long as they aren’t playing Liverpool.
Why is this?
Simple, he has no built in bias for Manchester United. He wasn’t raised on a history of competition between the two cities. Unless an American visits Wikipedia on a regular basis, they’ll have no real idea of the years & years of ill feelings between the 2 sets of supporters, or more specifically, citizens of the respected cities. We know that twice a year the teams make up two of the most important games in English football & we know they don’t necessarily like each other. However, not many of us know why? Most of us know nothing of the competition between the two north-west cities during the industrial growth of the late 1800′s & early 1900′s & the subsequent competition for supremacy that followed. Of course the rivalry, like that of Celtic/Rangers & others, dates back to well before football. Some will say the root of ill feelings is bigger than football. That’ll be left to another debate. Of course the origin of the feud: The city of Liverpool & it’s shipping & exporting port v. Manchester’s knack for manufacturing. The rest is history.
To Americans, both teams share an incredibly rich & winning pedigree. To us, that pedigree equals a very appealing sports team to invest in. Why hate one or the other? Why wish bad omens to Torres or Rooney? They’re both world class athletes at the end of the day. Would an Englishman laugh at me if he knew I was friendly towards another club either from England or some other top club in Europe? Would he try to suppress my right of being a football fan? I truly believe if more so-called football fans in Europe showed a little more respect to the sport of football itself, we could kiss the dark days of hooliganism & football related violence goodbye. The events of West Ham/Millwall of a few weeks ago would only be a nightmare in our worst dreams. I realize I’m a young, somewhat naive American, but at the end of the day, I just want to spread the passion & love I have for the beautiful game,…
Enjoy your football wherever you find it & whoever you support. Never apologize to anyone for your passion, just be able to defend it.