It’s almost 5.30am Pacific time as he drives hurriedly in his dark blue Chevy S-10 to his fellow Liverpool supporting friend’s house. Kick-off is nigh, and he breaks the law by checking his Twitter feed to see if the Reds have included any surprise inclusions in the lineup. Despite his lack of sleep and being behind the wheel of a car, he’s more concerned by whether his team will secure a precious three points.
His name is Connor and he is sober, just tired. He is making the trip to my house to watch our beloved Reds. We are two of the three Liverpool supporters that I know on a personal level in Chico, CA. Connor saunters up to the house through the dark and the weekly ritual is in full swing – coffee in a French Press finishing on the coffee table, two mugs out and warm, red shirts and scarves on and the TV blaring out the bright green grass of Anfield.
Such is a typical weekend morning of a Premier League fan on the West Coast of the US. We don’t get to drink a beer and watch a match unless you’re lucky enough to draw the 8pm GMT/12 noon PST slot – just hope it’s not on a Monday and you have a job.
Past the differences of coffee versus beer, early mornings versus running starts and living rooms versus pubs and stadium seating, there is a common thread that unites all continents to the sport – fervor.
For a country that until five to 10 years ago was literally teaching its children to hate soccer, America is taking to the sport like Neanderthals to fire. “It’s a communist sport” and “only sissies and girls play that” were the messages that all children and young boys especially received. It was kept totally foreign to boys and men in America, and that’s the way we wanted it.
But a clear shift has been taking place and now it has momentum. Soccer is sweeping across the country and people are paying attention. Names of players and teams are not only finding their way into schools, homes and workplaces across the country, but they are pronouncing them correctly as well. This is a major feat in the country’s progress.
Latinos have always had a love for the sport, but it never truly penetrated any of the surrounding culture. We enjoy a diverse population in California and we have ignored this beautiful and lovely game for generations. There still exists a division in which leagues to follow. English-speaking Americans tend to gravitate towards the Premier League and MLS, while the Spanish-speaking population tends to follow Liga MX and La Liga. But while those divisions are still visible, the common language of soccer is spreading throughout the country.
The questions of “What’s that team called?” and “Why are we even watching this?” are changing to “Did you see the Atletico match?” and “What will Man United do if they don’t get into the Champions League for two years in a row!?” These type of questions are slowly becoming commonplace.
People in America are asking for and craving more of this beautiful game. Bands of supporters are cropping up and inventing ways to follow soccer. There’s no stopping the flurry of passion that’s emanating from neighborhoods across the US for the game. Soccer is beginning to escape the sporting wilderness of this nation, and long may it continue.