My name is Morgan Green and I am an American who has been a fan of soccer for the last 7 years. Throughout that time I’ve seen and heard a lot about my love of soccer and about the teams that I choose to follow. It’s a unique situation being a hardcore soccer fan in America, mainly because you get criticism from both opponents of soccer and actual soccer fans. I’ve been called stupid, told that I don’t understand the game, and that I only root for winners. Essentially my fandom has been reduced to the status of “Bandwagoner.”
Nothing gets my blood pumping more than being called a Bandwagon fan, mainly because nothing could be further from the truth. A bandwagon fan is someone who jumps from team to team based upon their success. I personally despise bandwagon fans, which is why it really gets under my skin to be called one. I’m not writing this just to gripe and complain, “Oh I don’t get a fair shake, life is so unfair, I’m such a tortured soul.” No, that’s not my style. I’m not sure that this situation is unique to myself, but if it is then so be it.
“You’re a supporter of (insert successful team name)? Well that’s only because they win, you bandwagoner!”
This is also somewhat of a false statement. It comes down to TV scheduling. If you don’t have or cannot afford Fox Soccer or GolTV, then you’re pretty much only able to watch whatever matches are deemed “high quality” by the heads of the major networks who actually show the games. This usually includes one of the Top 4 teams in the EPL, games, in the waning stages of the Champions League, and the Champions League Final. When you’re inundated with these teams and they’re the only ones who you’re able to watch on a consistent basis, then clearly you’re going to develop some level of fandom for them. It’s not like you’re going to watch one match between Man United and Arsenal and say “Hey, I like the EPL maybe I’ll become a fan of Stoke City.”
Manchester United has worked very hard to get such a large fan base. The club has done well to market themselves all around the world. The same way that Barcelona, Real Madrid and many other European giants have done for years, they’ve dominated the market because they win and because they can. If that’s all a person sees then you can’t blame them for supporting them. It’d be like me chastising an English fan of the NBA for supporting the Lakers or the Celtics instead of the Wizards or the Pacers. They’re the successful teams that everyone knows. But sports need these popular teams to help grow their own brands. The more interest there is in Manchester United, the more money that comes into the league from fans who want to watch that team. The strategy is to hook a fan with a popular team to get them interested in watching the rest of the league. If everything goes well then fans will want to watch other matches and develop a love for other teams. That’s how a league builds its popularity. It’s just good business.
This brings up the biggest factor of the “Bandwagoner” argument. I’ve never been to England, I’ve never lived in north London or Manchester nor Newcastle. Therefore, as a fan, I’m in a unique position of where I can choose who I want to root for. Unlike American sports where I support all my local Baltimore area teams, I have a cornucopia of literally hundreds of teams to choose from in Europe. When you’re just getting into a sport, you’re naturally going to be drawn to the successful teams.
When I started watching soccer, Chelsea, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Inter Milan were all dominating their respective leagues. So naturally I was going to watch them because they had the best players and were playing better than any of the teams around them. Since then, as my soccer addiction grew, I began to watch other teams on a regular basis, mainly in the EPL since a lot of the other leagues were not available to watch on a consistent basis. I developed a passion for Newcastle United since their club and fans reminded me a bit of my own hometown. But even if I were to watch every game from every league and find other teams that I like for various reasons, my support of the teams that originally got me enamored with soccer will never waiver.
I didn’t jump ship from Chelsea after Jose Mourinho left and Manchester United regained their top spot in the league. I didn’t start supporting Real Madrid after they beat out Barcelona for the title. THAT would be something a bandwagon fan would do. I’m someone who believes that when you finally make that jump as a fan to support a team, you need to support that team through thick and thin. It seems as though the definition of what a bandwagon fan is has been lost.
If you want to criticize me for liking a rival team then by all means go ahead and do so, it comes with the territory. But don’t attack someone for the reasons that they like a team, especially if they have no ties to that area. Maybe take a step back and get to know their story before you start throwing the Bandwagon tag around. But if you see that person rooting for Manchester United one day, then Manchester City the next, then by all means go ahead and give them the business. Pick a team and stick with them, bandwagoner.