Man United 2-1 Barcelona: Seen Through The Eyes of a New Fan

Let me start off by admitting that I am a new fan to soccer and I think, as a new fan, if the last five months are any indication, they’ve seriously gotten me interested in the sport.  I am almost your typical American who has been deeply entrenched in one or more of our major sports (for me, the NFL) for the past 20 years and soccer never really crossed my radar much until the World Cup comes along every four years.

Fast forward to October of last year, when I was newly married and traveled to Istanbul for our honeymoon. The funniest thing about travelling abroad is that whereas here in the US I could be mistaken for a basketball star, anywhere else in the world, I could be mistaken as a soccer star (maybe it’s the dreads) which happened more than enough times while I was there.  While out and about in the Grand Bazaar, a typical conversation struck up as to whether or not I played soccer. “No, but I look like one.” “Nope, I should play,” etc. I wish I could but my knee and age says otherwise. and next thing I know, I am inquiring about soccer shirts.

As a habit, when I travel, I like to buy shirts of wherever I am. It’s very difficult to find some shirts in the United States. To make a long story short, with my limited knowledge and hopes that I wouldn’t be steered wrong, I asked the sales clerk to direct me to who he thought were some one of the best players right now. I wound up with a Lionel Messi Argentina jersey, which he swore up and down was the best player in the world.  Very rarely do I put my trust in strangers but hey, it could worse. I could have a bum player from a remote corner of the planet. Of course he was right as I learned that Messi was one of the most recognized faces in sport and it became more evident the few times I wore the kit back home in the States.

Next thing I knew I was slowly becoming hooked. Once I got home I started watching a few matches hoping to learn and gain an interest in the sport. I even grabbed FIFA 11 game and then got the ear of two of my co-workers who are both from Europe (one is a Manchester fan and the other an Arsenal fan) and just drilled them with questions.

Before I knew it, I was hooked. I would rush to get home to watch matches on TV and if there wasn’t anything on, I was playing FIFA more that I was playing Madden. I would go to work the next day and drill my friends again. And in the meantime, I was also on the Web reading all I could on the games being played. I think I got caught up on Manchester United because of the news surrounding Wayne Rooney and also with my co-worker being a supporter, it just fascinated me how much he really knew about the ins and outs of the team.

Also around this time, I started paying more attention to the local team, DC United, and the last time I checked in on them was when Freddy Adu played here. In the short time I have been educating myself about soccer, I have gotten the idea of what a state Major League Soccer is in compared to the rest of the world. The one thing I have learned is that the biggest reason why it’s hard for football to penetrate the USA is that there are four other major sports here, and it’s really hard to woo NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL fans away. Honestly for me, with the impending NFL lockout at the time, it wasn’t becoming hard as I was becoming frustrated at the bickering going on between the two sides and how they really didn’t care about the fans, but of course that’s another story.

With so much going on between all of the FIFA scandals and so on, when was I going to my first game? After all of the hype and excitement of the UEFA Champions League, I made a huge push to get tickets to the Manchester United against Barcelona game. And as hard as I tried, my friends at work who wanted to go waited until the last minute and could not get tickets.

However the Gold Cup had just started and the semifinals were in DC. I made up my mind to go and felt it would have been even better if the USMNT was in it.  My wish came true when the USMNT beat Guadalupe 1–0 in one of the ugliest wins I have seen in my short time as a fan. Ticket in hand, I set out to RFK Stadium and I could not believe the atmosphere. In short, I don’t see fans getting this excited at American football games and it made it an enjoyable experience. USMNT won the first game against Jamaica. And in the second game, the atmosphere got even rowdier between Panama and El Salvador. After that game, I could only imagine what could be ahead in July.

I also took an opportunity last week to go see Everton push around DC United. And even though the stadium wasn’t jam-packed similar to Man Utd’s match in Chicago earlier that day, there were a ton of supporters there. People I talked to came from all over the country and Europe and followed Everton on their tour. It’s just such a shame that RFK Stadium is such a sorry state of a stadium to showcase this kind of match.

That following Monday, I could tell that there was a buildup amongst fans to the Barcelona against Manchester United match. Most of the fans that work in my area were breaking out their respective kits. We all took time out during lunch to talk about the Copa America and watch the MLS All Stars v Man Utd game that was played that Wednesday.

Of course I was disappointed that Lionel Messi wouldn’t play against Manchester United even for a few minutes but it was understandable since he didn’t have any time off. By then I understood that Saturday night’s match for many was a once in a lifetime match regardless if it was a friendly. And if you were a fan and didn’t have a ticket, well there wasn’t much hope for another game like this. To equate this game for Americans, the best analogy I could come up with was watching a pre-season game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers who just played the Super Bowl back in February.

Amazingly Friday evening when I went to the Manchester United and Barcelona practice session, there were STILL people trying to get tickets to the game. The practice session had a stadium filled to half capacity. One of the small surprises was that even though he didn’t play, Xavi did make an appearance.  For myself, with the seat that I had, I was able to see some of the players such as Wayne Rooney and Patrice Evra up close without the need for a TV. In short, this session whet the appetite of everyone wishing that the next 24 hours would hurry along so the game could begin.

I spent Saturday morning shopping for a better camera because, although I had a good seat, my little point and shoot wasn’t going to cut it. That done and out of the way, I grabbed lunch in DC with a few friends and was just excited to see how many fans were already out and about with their perspective kits on excited about the upcoming match.

Fast forward to 5pm and I was on the Metro packed to the gills with fans on their way to the game. I haven’t seen the Metro this packed in a long while (maybe this happens for Redskins fans but since I am not a fan I couldn’t tell you). Thankfully I didn’t live far from the stadium, so I managed to get home and got changed and went back to the stadium by 6pm. By this time, there were fans as far as the eyes could see. Tailgaters were out in full force. A band was playing and yup, I even saw a Mariachi band playing too. This would be the closest this city would get in terms of a Super Bowl type atmosphere.

With my merchandise and drink in hand, I found my seat (surrounded by a ton of Barcelona fans no less). I was thankful that the weather was nice, and then settled in for the game with a sold-out stadium.

By the time the game was over, I made a ton of new friends and came home happy for this experience that I have really enjoyed all summer. Now I am looking forward to watching a full season to see where this takes me, not to mention I can take some time to support the local team. But one thing is for sure, I can only imagine what will happen next summer and in 2014.

If there was ever a time to get into world soccer, I picked the right time and appreciation for it.

Here are my collection of photographs from the Manchester United against Barcelona match, Friday night’s practice session, DC United against Everton and the 2011 Gold Cup.

38 thoughts on “Man United 2-1 Barcelona: Seen Through The Eyes of a New Fan”

        1. As long as you know the history of Manchester United and know at least the whole first team and where there located (most plastic fans dont even know were United play stadium wise) then I dont mind you are a Man U fan. Trust me people thought I was plastic when they found out I was an Arsenal FC fan even though I became a fan of them through by English father. Basically I am glad you found your team and support and watch soccer. We need more people like you who started off hating or not interested in soccer but eventually came through.

          1. well we plan on making a trip to London next year for our 2nd anniversary and somehow I am trying to make a stop thru Old Trafford during my stay…that is a question I DO have…are visitors allowed in the stadium when there is no game? Some places in the US allow it but not so much anymore…thank you 9/11.

            1. The only way to get in to see the stadium during a non-game day is via the official stadium tours they have (I would recommend booking in advance because they typically sell out fast). Otherwise, you can walk around the outside of the stadium and walk into their big megastore outside Old Trafford.

              The Gaffer

    1. Regardless of how you feel about my choice (still waiting for your answer BTW) I am enjoying myself watching them. And for the record, please don’t count me as one of those bandwagonners that hops on and off at the drop of a hat. It’s been fun even enduring the ribbings I got in NYC a few weeks ago when Barcelona beat Man Utd in the UEFA Champions League. Don’t get me wrong…I have done and still am doing my homework about the teams but Man Utd just sticks out to me as much as the New York Yankees stick out to fans of baseball. I get it. They are a team that you love to hate and hate to love and this is one of the reasons why I am starting to follow them

      1. Support the team or teams you want too. I live in Seattle and don’t support any of the teams here. I support the Dallas Cowboys, Baltimore Orioles , San Jose Sharks and Earthquakes, not a basketball fan. I went to the Univerity of Washington and Eastern Washington for undergrad and grad work so I support them in the NCAA. I have been a Spurs since the mid 1990s but I do support Reading since that is my mothers’ home town. I have been drawn to teams because of their history, the players or just that feeling you have for the team or location of the team. I think it is more important to have fun and enjoy the game and not caught up in all this other junk. I think it is great you have found a new sport to support. Enjoy Harry.

  1. I think it’s important to welcome soccer fans, no matter who they support or how they find the game. It’s hard for a new fan to fall in love with a club such as Blackburn Rovers or QPR – especially when they have little to no connection with the club. But when a club goes on a tour like Manchester United did this summer, they’re hoping they’ll attract legions of new fans. And it works.

    The Gaffer

  2. I agree with the Gaffer – it is very hard for fans in the US to pick anything other than ManU, Liverpool, and occasionally Arsenal or Chelsea (or if they invest a bit of time, Everton or Fullham because of the recent success of US players there).

    I had to actually do quite a bit of research on my own to follow the pre-Sheik Man City, though it is luckily playing out nicely now.

    But congrats to Harry on finding a club to follow – I too am from the DC area, and wished I could have been at the match!

  3. Glad to see another American converted. I’m a long-time United fan and was at the game, actually quite close to where you were sitting by the looks of it.

  4. It’s always good to see more fans coming to the sport… I just wish you didn’t choose Manchester United 😛

    I hope you have a great life as a soccer fan, but as a Manchester City fan myself, I hope it’s not too good.

  5. I know I give people crap from picking a top 4 club, or worse Tottenham. And I’ve read stories how people pick a team. I choose West Ham from my time living in London. Fact is I was first drawn to Arsenal when I visited as a kid. Why? it was 1988 QPR was the top team from London, Chelsea played in the 2nd division… but When you walked past all the tourist traps on Oxford St it was Arsenal red that was everywhere. Arsenal would go on the next season to win the title. But, I went to matches, saw the various teams in London, including my local, QPR. But it was West Ham that invited to its truly unique story of eastenders and sucked me in.

    I wonder how many new Everton fans there are after their tour. Everton is truly a big club. They have been in the PL since its inception, and carry a nice silverware case. or are we asking the wrong question.

    I feel that many Americans pick a club based on a star player. And thus why so many pick teams in the top 4.

    1. Exactly!! And that is why I didn’t go with Barcelona!! One would have thought that just because I got a Messi jersey, I would have gotten behind Barcelona. But Barcelona just didn’t ‘feel right’ for me…and that is one thing I have liked about Man Utd. is I like THE TEAM and not just one player. It’s going to be awhile before I get a kit with a player’s name on the back because I LIKE THE CLUB. And the mention of Everton…again with the DC UNited game, I was shocked at how many people came out for that one and really wondered had DC United had a better facility in a better part of town how much more could have been done to get people to come to the game

      1. I had an Adams kit in 1988. It was a cheap knock off… Adidas red with white sleeve, a big gun on the front with JVC and Adams and #6 on the back. I learned later at school that it was a knock off cause of the name and the lack of detail.

        This was well before you could even follow a team week to week. And I never bonded with Le Arse.

        To put this all in context, check out the video of Team USA for the 1990 World Cup.

        many may have seen the England effort by New Order. that’s all I’m saying on that.

        1. Hard to believe that “World In Motion” was New Order’s only #1 single. However, it did inspire me to watch my first World Cup and I immediately took to the England national team and in particular Bryan Robson, which led me to United, though I was also inspired by many of the Manc bands of the time and by George Best’s brief earlier stint at my hometown San Jose Earthquakes.

          As they say, your club chooses you.

  6. Good to hear Americans discovering the sport the rest of the world loves, there is a reason for such love! If you want to invest a little time in looking up some EPL clubs, take a look at Bolton Wanderers. Been in the EPL for ten years, a 15 minute drive away from Man U and Man City and local rivals to Blackburn Rovers. Also, our star player and fans player of the season last year is non other than Stuart Holden, USA international. Our entire fan base has taken to Stu, and its not abnormal to hear chants of “USA USA” in our stadium, the Reebok.

    1. Bolton’s a good shout – they played some excellent football last season.

      It’s a pity about this season’s kit, though.

    1. Kbowa, you should edit to something like this: Nice to see Man U winning a Barcelona side that was missing about 1/2 of its 1st team players 😉

  7. AM coming from Uganda . I felt bad when peeps players disciplined us. but now we have shown them that despite not letting us take the trophy . we’ve now defeated them and now i can move on the streets of Kampala ,my home area bragging . Viva man united and log live sir Alex Chapman Ferguson .

  8. If you can get to Old Trafford for a Prem match day (typically a Saturday) I would strongly urge you to try and get hold of a ticket. Man U are impressive at home and the atmosphere is amazing. The scale and shape of the stadium and number/passion of the fans gives you goosebumps when they all start chanting/singing in tandem (and that’s coming from a lifelong BFC supporter!). It shouldn’t be too hard to get hold of a ticket at Old Trafford if you get there early enough after they go on sale, some matches often don’t sell out, although the big matches do (even with about 75’000 capacity). Worth the effort for the experience though!

    1. You need to be a member of OneUnited to be able to buy a ticket or you need to buy through their official travel agency.
      Ticket scalping is illegal in the UK.

      1. I’d say more frowned upon. Although I’ve never paid for a ticket, seen Utd a few times home and away, but only with tickets I’ve been given for free 😀

  9. Hi Harry,
    Sorry you didn’t pick Chelsea, but I can truly feel your enthusiasm coming through in your article. Better another “E”PL fan than one focused solely on USA sports!

  10. Well done. Arsenal fan here. A little worried at the present but we will see. Glad you enjoyed the game, I promise (from experience) the game itself will become your favorite within a year. Good book to read (even with the Arsenal slant) “Rebels For the Cause”. Good history in general. Cheer to you-even thought you picked the Yankees of soccer to be your squad.

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