While soccer is growing in the United States, the fandom of an American soccer fan can still be a solitary experience. Most people I interact with on a daily basis aren’t fans of the sport, much less enthusiastic fans who will want to chat about last weekend’s action or the more recent transfer gossip. Honestly, this is what I expect from native Americans.
It is very different with immigrants to the U.S. Find a person with a funny accent and they can usually tell you what club they are a fan of and which youngsters are about to break into the national team. Whenever I travel on business, I usually have an entertaining 20 minute conversation with the cab driver about soccer and get the scoop on the Indonesian/Egyptian/Ivorian/etc. soccer scene. Further, almost all of them are also fans of an EPL club, so we can can chat about that too. It’s great fun and has taught me to reflexively ask, “What club do you support?” anytime I hear English spoken with an accent.
But one country’s emigrants and ex-patriots never live up to expectations. And surprisingly, that’s England. In my profession, I happen to interact with a fair number of Englishmen and here are some responses to my canned “what club do you support?” question (all from the last ~6 months):
Englishman No. 1: “I love football, but don’t really have a club. I just enjoy watching whoever is playing attractive football.” Oh so that means you enjoy Arsenal or Swansea? “When did Swansea get promoted?” Sigh….
Englishman No. 2: “I actually enjoy rugby more. I guess if I had to pick a club, I’d say I support QPR, but I don’t follow them very closely.” [I check] So, do you think that Harry can keep them up? “Harry who? I’m sorry….I really don’t follow them much.”
Englishman No. 3: “I guess I support Tottenham, but I really don’t follow them much. You know who you should talk to if you want to talk about soccer? You should talk to that guy over there. His son plays professional soccer somewhere or other.” And he then proceeded to introduce me to the father of a current MLS player with whom I had a lovely 45 minute conversation about soccer.
Englishman No. 4: “I never really followed soccer as a boy. I guess now that I’ve been in the U.S. for 30 years, I kinda follow Manchester United just because they’re on TV all the time.” Awesome, I support United also! Isn’t it great how well RVP and Rooney are teaming up after everyone said they wouldn’t be compatible? Blah, blah, blah…. “Um, I really don’t follow them all that closely.” Sigh….
Englishman No. 5: “I support Liverpool.” ….and he wouldn’t really say anything else. I couldn’t really tell if he had nothing to say or if he just didn’t want to share the inner culture of Liverpool with a stupid American.
Englishman No. 6: “I’m actually from Glasgow, but I’m a huge Rangers supporter” Thankfully he didn’t stab me in the neck for assuming he was from England – his accent was very slight – but we then had a fabulous 45 minute conversation about the insolvency of the club, the departure of all the American players, how those American players were perceived in the community, the travails of playing in lower tier Scottish football against teams made up of shepherds and plumbers…. Basically, it was exactly the type of conversation I wanted to have with the Englishmen.
One of my favorite sayings is, “The plural of anecdote is not fact.” I clearly don’t have a huge sample of Englishmen, but I am noticing a disturbing pattern that Englishmen in America tend to not be soccer fans – or at least not passionate soccer fans who actually follow the daily doings of their clubs. My working theory is that these guys are all 45+ and graduate educated and perhaps all that soccer hooligan behavior from the 80’s wasn’t very enticing to these guys when they were in graduate school or young professionals? Perhaps the demographics of Englishmen who come to live/work in the U.S. isn’t in sync with soccer fandom?
So, my questions to you: What’s going on with these chaps? Do I have an idealized vision of everyone in England being soccer fans? Have I managed to find the only non-soccer fans from England? Have you ever been disappointed by someone you were SURE would be a huge soccer fan?