I had a sudden realization the other morning that my life has changed. While driving my 7-year-old daughter to school, I said to her “Hey, that was pretty neat that my team, the white team – Swansea, won Monday, wasn’t it?” Each weekend when she sits down and watches about five minutes of a game or has it on the background as she colors in her crayoning book, she and I will often pick teams for fun. She often picks “the red team,” while I pick the opponent. Some weeks it’s Liverpool, Arsenal or Manchester United. It doesn’t matter to a kid that age. It’s just teams playing in different colors.
Starting next season, though, I’ll be watching “the white team” more often. My weekends have revolved around watching as many Premier League matches as possible but there’s often no priority to which games I’ll watch. It all depends who’s playing when or how convenient a match time is, or not. But as a lifelong supporter of Swansea City, I’ll get to experience next season what many of you may take for granted — supporting a team in the Premier League, and prioritizing your weekend to revolve around when your team plays its matches.
For 27 years, I’ve been a neutral. From the moment I arrived in the United States in 1984 until now, I’ve supported Swansea City religiously but I haven’t had the opportunity to watch the team that much either in person or on television. I’ve supported Swansea at an arm’s length (4,437 miles, to be exact). As a result, I’ve been a neutral soccer fan, cheering on the teams in the Premier League who play the best football, hoping that the underdog succeeds and just sitting back and enjoying the sport without getting too emotionally involved.
Now that has changed — in a major way.
While watching the Championship Playoff Final on Monday between Swansea and Reading, I surprised myself by how I acted. This was the first time in 27 years when I lost my emotions during a soccer game. I couldn’t sit down for the entire game. I held my head in my hands when Reading pulled two goals back. I screamed so loudly that it sounded and felt like a primal scream. The scream was so loud that one of my child’s pet mice disappeared during the commotion of me running around the room as I celebrated a goal by the Swans. I was frightened I had accidentally stepped on the mouse while running around like a banshee celebrating, but thankfully we found the mouse a few minutes later. She must have been so terrified by the screaming and yelling that she hid inside a plastic toy Mercedes.
The last time I acted so uncontrollably was when I was on the terraces at Swansea more than 27 years ago. The club is my life, and it’s been a very long and depressing journey for the Swans since 1984 until now. Those screams and yells from me were a release of all of the pain, and suffering they’ve caused me over the years (thanks to numerous relegations, broken hearts and more). But it was also a massive sense of relief and, at the same time, a feeling of pure joy.
As a Swansea City supporter in the United States, it’s been a lonely experience. In the 27 years that I’ve lived in the States, I’ve only seen one person ever wearing a Swansea City shirt (I ran in to this stranger at a Miami Fusion match). At the same time, it’s been a very difficult experience supporting my country, Wales. They’ve never qualified for a major tournament in my lifetime, so supporting Swansea and Wales has been a trying experience. Whenever World Cups or Premier League seasons happen, I’ve gotten very used to enjoying soccer for soccer’s sake and being a neutral. I don’t get wrapped up in the games too much where it’s too difficult for me to objective. I sit back and observe, and enjoy the sport without getting too attached to the teams.
Again, this will change next season as I sit on the edge of my seat and go ballistic when Swansea get a shock result in the Premier League, or succumb to a deep depression when the team underperforms in a key match.
I’m really looking forward to experiencing a Premier League season as a supporter. I’ve lost count of how many times someone has asked me which Premier League club I support, to which I’ve replied “None of them, I’m a neutral.” That has changed. I will now get to experience what many of you do.
After having written about a whole host of Premier League clubs from 2005 (when EPL Talk was founded) until now, it feels very strange to type in the words “Swansea City” into the WordPress page I use to write these articles. It almost feels like someone will wake me up from the dream and tell me that it’s all make believe. But it is true. And Swansea deserve to be in the Premier League after playing a season of beautiful football where they accumulated the points and won the matches necessary to make it to the big time. It probably won’t feel completely real until that first match of the opening weekend when my team plays on the TV screen in front of me and my daughter and I will be cheering on “the white team.”