It’s been a year since I showed my friends a Messi shirt I had bought in Istanbul that put me on this path to something I didn’t think could be so enjoyable.
In such a short time, I have gone to at least 6 matches (which is more than I would ever gone to any NFL match in the last 3 years), checked out a bunch of FIFA based games, joined a fantasy league and even took up writing for this blog!
I have learned so much in such a little time with a lot more to learn but I think the biggest aspect of my growing love for soccer isn’t so much in watching the game but the camaraderie that really comes out of people who love this sport. I said a while back that soccer fandom in my eyes is a very different creature than how fandom is approached in other sports played in the US. When I wore a kit, jacket or a scarf, I cannot count how many times people will give a head nod or just start a conversation. By having a random conversation on the subway, I found a group of friends that gets together on game days to watch the games!
As many times as I have worn a football or basketball jersey, I could barely get a head nod unless my particular team had a big game or a matchup with the locals here. But, I am guessing the same happens in the home countries where these soccer teams are based.
But for some reason, if I run across someone with a Bayern Munich, Liverpool, Chelsea, Barcelona or any of a number of kits I have seen here in the DC area, if no conversation is struck there is an almost unseen glance and smile like we are giddy in knowing that there are other fans here that are far away from the teams we support and regardless of our side, happy that someone else is into it.
A part of me through watching this season still kind of feels like I missed so much and wondering how did I go without it before. But at this point of time, there was no better time to join in all the fun. This is a sport that can pull people from all creeds together. A sport that is not hard to learn and a sport that has more twists and turns. And so far, that is why I like it.
Of course, no sport is safe from its fair share of controversy. In this season, I read about the disaster in Egypt that marred the nation, the tragic death of Gary Speed, and Mario Balotelli’s drama that reminded me so much of Terrell Owens and Randy Moss. Plus the race issue of Patrice Evra versus Luis Suarez as well as John Terry vs Anton Ferdinand, and how one ugly aspect of human nature still lurks on and off the pitch. I was a bit shocked to learn that some punishments for some actions could be dealt with in more severe ways that I have ever seen here in the US even with fans that get out of control. Also, I have seen that soccer has not escaped being the bane of bad officiating and here is to hoping that replay technology won’t ruin the sport in ways that is has the NFL.
The only thing I have yet to do however is convert some of my friends. But it’s coming. I had a chance during the basketball strike. At least two of my friends got on board but complained about the early game times. Throughout all of this, at least those that won’t watch games support me and send me good information on news and events that I can use.
If I can point out three highlights of my first year of being into this sport, they would be:
1. Going to the CONCACAF Tournament. This is where I watched the US men’s national soccer team (USMNT) and learned first hand how rowdy and energetic a soccer crowd could be. This was also my very first match I went to.
2. Going to the Manchester United vs Barcelona game last summer. I lived near FedEx field for about 6 years and I can tell you, never was there an event at the stadium where there were more people trying to buy a ticket to get inside instead of scalping them. It was also great to see Rooney, Nani, Iniesta and Xavi up close!
3. Getting an autographed Manchester United ball on eBay for just $70. To my pleasant surprise, I found out that with all the autographs on it, I could probably sell it for ten times as much. But no, it’s staying put on the shelf! But better yet is meeting my wonderful friends Anton, Natasha and Amrith (he is also a newbie) and doing our best to hang out on game days in various pubs in DC to watch the game!
This year, my wife and I got tickets to go see the USMNT against Brazil in May. Prior to that we are hosting an end of season BBQ close to May 13 to watch the last few games and hopefully see Manchester United win their 20th title. Further out, I am eyeing the Chelsea v AC Milan game at the end of July and if that doesn’t pan out, we are hitting the road for an hour long journey to go see Liverpool against Tottenham.
Sure, some of you may think that they wouldn’t go to these games because your particular team isn’t playing, but why deny yourself a good chance to see something live that you may see only once here in the States? You can’t deny the competition and camaraderie that can be had at these games. We cheer for our favorites, jeer for the hated and talk smack to each other, but to me there is a bigger joy in watching a game that millions across the globe enjoy.
As I wrap this up, a thank you has to go out to Anton, Nastasha and the rest of the merry little band for making me have a reason to get up extra early to watch the game, Eric and David for sucking me in; not a week goes by without them teaching me something new! My wife who, although she is fighting the urge to watch, puts up with my love for the game. And, yes, The Gaffer, to you for running this site that I stumbled on last summer.
If anyone plans on coming this way for any of the summer games, let’s try to make an effort to meet! Follow me on Twitter @dreddeddeuce.