It’s ultimately a broad question that has more potential answers to it than current injury concerns at Liverpool. But I believe the question sparks an interesting debate as Americans are still searching for their place in world football. When I first got this idea (by divine intervention), I realized it may only apply to a very select (but elite) group of people. For those born in the United Kingdom or thereabouts, you had it a bit easier than us across the pond. It’s likely you started supporting the Arsenal from the womb, or Chelsea by the end of your first year of life. However, could you imagine a life where you started supporting a football club at 12?, 15? 18? or even 23?
For readers of EPL Talk who share the same generation as I do, you may relate to a similar footballing background. If you’re American, it’s highly likely you’ve been supporting a football club no longer than you’ve been able to drive, don’t worry, everyone’s welcome. If you’re 25-35 years of age & are a passionate football supporter it’s possible you took the same road I did. Let me take a wild guess:
- Step 1- You were introduced to the sport of Soccer at a very young age, probably 6 or 7 playing in your local youth organization. This was the Soccer our society often perceives when they hear the very word. A world of Moms, minivans, unlimited substitutions, lawn chairs, fair play, 14 year old referees & oranges. This is where I got my “start”, this is where the seed was planted. These were my formative years.
- Step 2-World Cup ’94 and ’98. I was 13 at the time of World Cup ’94 and the yonder days of the Palm Bay Youth Soccer Association were dead and buried (enter Little League Baseball and Youth Basketball – these were the sports I was “supposed” to play -by switching-over, I was able to pick a hero and role model to emulate, I could follow his every step). The savior of the casual soccer supporter is the World Cup, we all know this, but having the tournament held in your own back yard really did make an impression on us all those years ago. Here was a new world that we kind of thought we knew about. We were that much closer to the obsessive ideas we have about football these days when World Cup ’94 and ’98 where at the forefront of our lives. The World Cup and it’s coverage on television in the 90’s was the bridge from our innocent days in youth soccer to the spoiled-every-match-at-our-fingertips landscape of the present day. But when the Cup ended, it was another few years lost in the sea of MLB, NFL & NBA.
- Step 3-The toughest and most random of the steps. You’re possibly in college by this point or a young adult. You’ve no real way of developing this passion you once had, gone are the days of Youth Soccer, the World Cup’s a few years off, and something turns your head. What was it? It’s different for everyone, but if you’ve experienced it, you know the impact that this something can have. You stumble upon this odd channel on your cable or satellite dish that’s playing this odd game featuring two teams you think you might know at an even more odd time. This something could have been a specific player, style of play, cultural reference, or even the color of the team. You remember, “hey, I like this Soccer stuff”. It’s these incredible little things that tip us over the edge. Simplistic, unique variables that reconnect us with the beautiful game. Then you think to yourself, “where was I before this?”
Once caught, it takes hold of you like a cancer spreading to various facets of your life. You spend all your time immersing yourself in tactics, history & the like. You become obsessed with it in the pursuit for one last final piece of the football supporters life,…..
The chase is over, you’ve now found your purpose in life. Few things will ever beat that stoppage time goal that was scored to secure a much needed 3 points for your club. For the events that will – well, you’ve secured those away for your wildest dreams. But in this (new to some of us) world of competitive European football, how can we really claim to be credible football supporters who are so far away from our team’s local grounds? How will our voice ever be heard stateside while so many other sports dominate our culture?
I’ll leave those last two questions for you to work out on your own, but remember, credibility is awarded to yourself, from yourself and by yourself. No football fan out there is better than the next. The bloke who bangs the cowbell at Portsmouth is no better or worse a supporter than you. If you truly have a sense of pride and passion for your club then you’ve arrived. It’s at this point you can stand up and scream I’M A FOOTBALL SUPPORTER, HEAR ME ROAR!!
Take pride in this game and enjoy your football.
(Feel free to leave a comment or two explaining how you found the club you support)