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Is Your Family As Soccer Mad As You Are?

Watching the Midlands derby on television Saturday between Aston Villa and Wolverhampton Wanderers, a smile crept on my face when I saw an elderly woman in the crowd celebrating after Aston Villa scored a goal. To see her beaming and jumping up and down was a natural and beautiful thing to see. It filled my heart with joy even though I’m neither a Villa or Wolves supporter.

It made me immediately think of my dearly departed grandmother. Except she wasn’t a soccer fan. Neither is my father, my mother, my sister or neither was my brother, who died eight years ago. In fact, I was and am the only soccer fan in my entire family. My grandparents on my father’s side were passionate Liverpool supporters, having lived in the city. But everyone else had no interest in the sport.

When I listen to interviews or podcasts such as The Spurs Show, I constantly hear stories of how fathers pass along the love of the sport and their support of a particular team to their son. For many families, it’s a birthright to become the supporter of a specific club. And the child is raised to become a supporter. But for me, I never had that. I learned on my own and alongside my cousin Kevin who was a mad Leeds United supporter.

When I went to my first professional soccer match when I was 10, it wasn’t with my father but it was with my best friend and his father. We travelled in his car to a mid-week game during the dark of winter. And seeing the bright green pitch under those floodlights changed my life forever.

I didn’t have the luxury of my parents understanding my new found passion. It was always something they had a hard time coming to grips with and it always seemed to them that it was a distraction for me from my schoolwork and more important things in life.

I did find a way to get my parents to come with me to two soccer games, though, which was a proud but unusual experience. The first was a game during what became the final season for the Miami Fusion where the team was playing some of the most beautiful soccer I’ve seen a team play in person. The crowd of over 12,000 was into it too, and my parents really seemed to enjoy the match. The second game they went to was to celebrate by seeing me propose to my now wife during half-time of a Miami Fusion soccer game.

As a father, I’m now in the role of encouraging my children to follow the game of soccer as I do. But the three girls I have are interested in playing the game more than watching it on television. My fourth child – my son, named Christopher, is still too young (one and a half years old) to get into the game, but I’m sure I’ll encourage him when he gets older. For me, it’s an opportunity to raise my children in a family that is as soccer mad as I am and bring them up with the game, if they’re interested.

What about you? What has been your experience following soccer with your family? Are your parents or grandparents into the sport, and have they taken you to matches? Do they understand why you’re so passionate about the sport, or do they look at you as the bizarre one in the family following that strange game? Share your stories and tell us about your parents and family, and their involvement (or non-involvement) with the beautiful game.

Photo credit: Geoff Penn

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  1. Tony

    March 25, 2010 at 2:57 am

    when I was a kid, the only soccer on TV was the Major Indoor Soccer League, and a local PBS station would show occasional high school games, so in my mind, that was the “Big Leagues” and the outdoor game was just high school stuff. Fast forward to 1990, I remember hearing about the USA making the World Cup for the first time in 40 years, then checking out those games, I realized This is what the big time really was.

    1994 World Cup comes about, US does much better than they did in 1990, I become a bigger fan of the game, the MLS comes about, so I started watching some of the MLS games.

    now on to 1998. I find Italian league games on Fox Sports net (which were really just sneak peaks from Fox Sports World), and I see teams like “AC Milan”, “Juventus”, and others play, and I go “hey, those teams are on my video game! (Fifa ’98 for PC) so what do I do? start playing seasons of the Serie A on the FIFA’98 game, and got familiar with teams and players that way. Later and I got familiar with the Premier League, FA Cup, Champions’ League, and so forth. Of course there was a World Cup this year so this was the first time I would identify players by what Club they play for.

    2001, I get digital so I could get “Fox Sports World” then I really got glued to watching soccer. (Rugby and Aussie Rules too)

    Oh, as far as my family? Except for my uncle that watches sometimes, I’m the only one that is really into it. some buzz around the family comes around during world cups but that’s pretty much it

  2. logan

    March 24, 2010 at 8:42 pm

    Coming late to this post, but I’ll add my 2 cents anyway, what the hay…

    My 3 siblings and I all played AYSO growing up in California and 1 brother played for a decent travel club team called Corinthians, we moved to Utah and my oldest bro didn’t play much more, and the other 3 of us played local rec league stuff. My sister quit after a couple more years as did my brother. I started playing on a competitive travel team called United and we kept most of the team together for a good 4 years or so until high school. We even managed to win Bronze in the Utah Summer Games. Some went on to play for the high school team, I didn’t and stopped playing at about 16.

    When I was 14 my family bought tickets off of friends for an tbd round of 16 match on July 4 in Stanford Stadium, turned out to be USA-Brazil which the US narrowly lost 1-0, an amazing game!

    Not until I had lived in Portugal and came back to the states and watched WC2006 did my passion truly take off. I still played hear and there, but I really wanted to see my adopted country take the cup by storm with the likes of Figo, Simão, Deco and a young Cristiano Ronaldo. I got my non-soccer friends into it and we watched as many games as possible, including many in Spanish. My roommate is now a HUGE ManU fan and has started playing himself.

    My obsession with West Ham was truly coming to a head. I bought a WHU jersey in London on vacation as a teenager with my family and despite my brother getting Bergkamp Arsenal jersey for me later, I couldn’t get West Ham out of my head and now I bleed Claret and Blue. My oldest bro and I flew in from different cities to see West Ham beat the Columbus Crew before the MLS All-Star game and it was a magical experience finally getting to sing “Bubbles” with hundreds of other supporters.

    That same brother has season tickets to RSL and takes my folks to games often, they all love it and are so proud of their champs.

    I started my own club team here in Boston and love getting together with other guys on the team to watch our respective EPL teams battle it out.

    My brother is a big fan, my parents love the game, but none are as crazy, passionate and obsessed as I am.

    • logan

      March 24, 2010 at 8:47 pm

      PS – sorry that was so long.

      But also forgot that my son is almost 2 and already loves to “kick a ball” and I love how excited he gets when he sees “goccer” on TV. I’ve even gotten him saying Champions League and Premier League. The Mrs. doesn’t love the sport but has been very supportive, we got her a “Who Are Ya” shirt that says “Footballer’s Mum” and she chuckles about how she’s been colonized with footie knowledge.

  3. Tyson

    March 23, 2010 at 7:55 pm

    I’m a Manchester United fan. I live pretty close to Old Trafford and I have had football in my life since I was very young.

    Manchester United used to be called Newton Heath FC. It was initially set up as a sort of distraction for rail road workers who worked long hours and had a difficult job. It was a local team with a bunch of local lads kicking a ball around. There as no ground it was a patch of grass surrounded by houses.

    At that time there were a few big clubs in the world and Newton Heath FC wasn’t one of them but the rail road workers started investing in the club. Back in those days Manchester City was a big club but City fans have always been hostile to what they feel are outsiders or non-Manchunians and those days there was an element of racism running through the club. The problem was with so many black and asian immigrants working in the UK they couldn’t exactly support Manchester City for those reasons so they invested in Newton Heath FC.

    Before long Newton Heath FC moved from Newton Heath and had to be renamed. The name Manchester “United” was born as to show we are Manchester and we are United regardless of race, religion or any other factor. The story runs a lot like the race line in American sports actually.

    MUFC grew bigger and bigger. When the industrial revolution ended a lot of Indians, Asians, Africans and the likes returned to around the world and they kept supporting Manchester United and sowed the seeds for the most popular sports entity on the planet. You see United shirts in all parts of the world like Korea, Malaysia, India, Jamaica(Usain Bolt is a big fan), East Europe, South Africa and the likes. That was the product of the industrial revolution.

    All in all the point I am trying to make is I was always bought up and taught that Manchester United were nobody and the money the community poured into them to make them into what they are now is what bought them here. Manchester United is a community project created by the people it isn’t a club owned by some fancy Arab Sheikh or rich Oligarch its roots were a lot more humble than that and thats why I feel the affinity I do with the club not to mention the economic incentives they have bought to our city.

  4. Hammerin' Man

    March 23, 2010 at 6:26 pm

    I think there’s only ever been one deviation from West Ham down my lines. And, it was cousin who married in that supported Arsenal because she was from Enfield. So, I suppose that doesn’t count. We’ve been claret and blue since birth.

  5. Perry

    March 23, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    Well over 50, American, and grew up in a small town in the midwest, so no, no soccer in my background at all. It was something you might see once a year on ABC’s “Wide World of Sports.” Family were typical Americans, big fans of baseball, American football, and basketball. I myself am still passionate about baseball and fairly interested in basketball, less so in Amer. football.

    I fell for soccer in a big way during the 2006 World Cup. Sorry I missed it all these years, trying to make up for it now. My kids are in their 20s, no interest in any sport, really. I have hope for my current partner’s 8-year-old son, he seems interested now but who knows if it will last. My partner herself has no interest, even though she’s English. She’s been to two Rapids games but it hasn’t exactly taken. She likes Cesc Fabregas, but I don’t think it has much to do with his soccer abilities.

    • Eric T

      March 23, 2010 at 6:36 pm

      “She likes Cesc Fabregas, but I don’t think it has much to do with his soccer abilities.” 😉

  6. SeminoleGunner

    March 23, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    I watch the occasional match with my Dad. He is a big sports fan and gets as crazy as anyone over American college football, but soccer doesn’t appeal to him much. He does ask the occasional question about the game, and he likes Andrei Arshavin’s goal celebrations. We watched the Chelsea/United CL Final together and he admitted it was an entertaining game. So maybe one day he will catch the fever.

    My Mom’s side of the family is from Costa Rica, so one of my first exposures to top level soccer was watching international matches with my Grandmother. Recently I found out that some of my relatives back in Costa Rica are, gasp, Chelsea supporters! Still not feeling good about that.

  7. jason

    March 23, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    I am a loner when it comes to soccer for sure. My wife does not really watch it much. My Dad..well lets say he gives me a VERY hard time about it. He always says about me watching soccer “Where did I go wrong, how did my boy start watching this Euro trash.” He is your typical NFL football nut by the way. It is kinda made though for the fact that I am a big hockey fan with the rest of my family. My favorite sports to watch in no particular order is soccer, ice hockey, and any form of motor racing other than nascrap.

  8. Justin

    March 23, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    My brother is a massive fan…and an extremely perspicacious writer of all things soccer. With 5 kids, I watch most Champions League matches with him. I have a 3 year old boy and am looking forward to the days spent at the pitch with him. He has already taken a liking to it. Here’s to many years of cheering him on! I’m sure his uncle will be right there too…

  9. Dave C

    March 23, 2010 at 12:30 pm


    As far as getting family to games: I’ve only taken my father to one game. It was the US – Mexico World Cup qualifier in 2005 which is the best game this continent has to offer in my opinion. To this day I’ve never heard what he thought of all the mayhem that ensued in the stadium or the fact that my voice was totally gone after the game but it was a great moment for me to share my passion with him and I really look forward to reading his journal entry on the experience someday.

  10. M Emanuel

    March 23, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    I also am a loner in my family when it comes to soccer. My fiancee tolerates and at times encourages my passion and she can get into it a bit, but she’s not overly passionate about it. Interestingly, my Dad is a (American) football coach and I was raised on football. This past weekend I was visiting family and attempting to watch Man United/Liverpool on I think my parents realized how deeply I’m attached to the game when I brought my laptop along with me to breakfast. Fortunately, they understand and other than a bit of good natured ribbing about my newfound global perspective, they have been supportive of my interest in the game.

    While I learned and developed my love for soccer mostly on my own, I was fortunate to have a few friends and co-workers that were there with me. They were at varying stages of their interest in the game so it was a process of exploration together. It’s also helped that I’ve been able to join supporters groups here in the States and banter with like minded individuals on websites like EPL Talk. My web interactions have become a de facto family of sorts.

    I hope one day, if I’m fortunate to have little ones, I can start their appreciation of the beautiful game from a very early age…any tips in this regard?

    • Dave C

      March 23, 2010 at 12:35 pm

      That’s funny you mention bringing the laptop in the kitchen. My wife tolerates a lot but the laptop has pretty much been banned from the kitchen during meals!!!

      • M Emanuel

        March 23, 2010 at 12:47 pm

        Dave C-I typically face a similar laptop restriction, however in framing for my folks how big this match is on the rivalry scale, I invoked Eagles/Cowboys, Yankees/Red Sox, and Lakers/Celtics all in the same sentence. For what it was worth, I think it helped me get my message across…

  11. Mosian

    March 23, 2010 at 11:09 am

    I am in the family looks at me bizarrly catagory sadly. The idea of getting up at 6 am on a Saturday for the early EPL game, or heading down to the pub for the 8 am game, is completely bonkers to them. My love of the beautiful game was sparked by the 1994 World Cup Final. I was 11 at the time and it is my first real memory of football. I never played growing up and still never have so my parents don’t understand the obsession. My first taste of the EPL came via FSN replays at noon on Tuesdays. I am now a season ticket holder to the Rapids in order to satiate my need for live footy. I am hoping to drag mom, dad, sister, and niece to at least one game this year. Either way I will continue to text them when the Red Devils win in a vain effort to convert them.

  12. ovalball

    March 23, 2010 at 9:22 am

    No family background whatsoever (and well over 40, Jesse). There was no such thing as soccer when I was growing up.

    As an adult my wife and I became friends with a couple and the husband happened to be a high school soccer ref. He asked if I would be interested as they were desperate for more refs. I said, “Yes,” and that started me on a long path of reffing and coaching. I learned to love the game from the inside out, you might say.

    As a dad I was happy my son took a liking to the game. When he was in middle school a group of us got together and sent his club team to Germany on a two week tour playing other teams. What a fantastic experience they had.

    Now my son is an adult and works for Eurosport ( It doesn’t get much better than that. You walk down the halls where he works and the walls are plastered with signed jerseys of some of the greatest players ever. It gives you chills.

    I love the game. He loves the game. My wife tolerates it. Life is good.

    • nitin gera

      March 23, 2010 at 9:29 am

      hey ovallball,
      great story. any chance you can get us some kind of “epl talk readers” discount on merchandise from eurosport?

      • ovalball

        March 23, 2010 at 1:44 pm

        haha, great idea. Don’t know how they’d keep it exclusive, though. Needless to say, a “gift for Dad” is never too tough to figure out. 🙂

  13. Dave C

    March 23, 2010 at 9:21 am

    I’m definitely with the Gaffer here. I grew up here and really didn’t know about soccer until I was 10 when one of my friends invited me to play in a youth league and I fell in love with it. Somehow when I was around 15, I found out about Man Utd. My parents went to England for their 25th anniversary and got me a t-shirt as well recorded some highlights (with their camcorder off the TV) of Man Utd’s run in the 94 FA Cup and then 5-10 minutes of the 94 Cup Winner’s Cup final of Arsenal v Parma. Of course that summer was the World Cup in the US and I think I managed to record every game (with the help of my grandparents who had cable). In the fall, I found out about the Champion’s League in US Today and then found it was on ESPN and would have my grandparents record the games (which I would watch over and over). I also during these years became good friends my high school librarian and she would let me record games off the school’s satellite. The system had espn2 which had Dutch and a couple of EPL games (I remember a Liverpool v Tottenham game) plus Gaelic games and Aussie Rules so it was really fun to be exposed to all of that. Somehow we also managed to get a hold of the number for the Man Utd store and ordered a shirt during this time which I marvel at now how we did this without the internet.

    Champion’s League and World Cup’s (with a little bit of European Championships) were all I was able to watch through 2002 when I got cable with a roommate in college and we got FSC which was glorious. Before that time, all I was able to do for Man Utd league games was to follow on internet and then get the season review VHS/DVD (I have from 92/93 season to the present–thanks to Eurosport for those early years). Setanta was a dream when it came out and I’ve been following with Setanta and now ever since. In all of the years, I’ve had friends and family be interested in soccer but have only one friend who is as crazy as me and he’s from Scotland and doesn’t live close to me (we met a college–he was a teaching assistant and wore a Man U jersey to class–we were instant buddies).

    Although I would love to have someone to watch it with I don’t see being a lone tv watcher changing anytime soon (I have 2 small daughters) so I’m really just grateful my wife tolerates it all.

  14. Bishopville Red

    March 23, 2010 at 8:49 am

    My daughters soon will be…


  15. CTBlues

    March 23, 2010 at 8:38 am

    I’m alone in my house when it comes to soccer. My mom loves the Yankees and the Steelers and my dad more of an outdoorsman and only really likes the Vikings. I grew up hating soccer until I started to watch La Liga on World Sport HD after the NFL season was over a few years ago and started to root for Sevilla in La Liga. This wet my appitite for soccer and started to watch the EPL along side La Liga. Since I don’t have the sports package La Liga was impossible to watch after World Sport HD went down, so I started to watch EPL more than La Liga and became a Chelsea fan. Beside liking they way they played and players I chose Chelsea because I didn’t want to be every other American that saw Euro Trip and became a ManU fan.

  16. Jesse

    March 23, 2010 at 7:22 am

    Other than my brother, I’m mostly alone. And like man99utd, my wife proclaims to love the game, but rarely watches. Although she gives me ample time to pursue however much football I want, it would be nice for her to show some more interest.

    The rest of my immeadite family are casual sports fans that have no interest in soccer.

    It’ll be interesting to read the rest of the comments throughout the day. Americans of a certain age, I would expect, would have had a hard time finding the game in the 60’s, 70’s, or 80’s due to total lack of coverage in this country.

    I’d be interested to hear how American soccer fans over the age of 40 found the game and develpoed a passion for it.

  17. man99utd

    March 23, 2010 at 7:06 am

    Mom and Dad were somewhat like your parents. They encouraged my love of football, but never quite grasped it themselves. My wife likes football, but not “all the time” like I do. My boys are as mad for the sport as I am, but only one has developed the rabid love and devotion for Manchester United. My oldest son has even developed a (good natured) hatred for all things scouse and Mancs. In true American fasion my youngest son has gone over to the dark side. He’s a Chelsea supporter. My daughter, like yours, enjoys playing more than watching. However, when visiting her nan she will call and get the scores.

    Football is usually the first thing we see when we awake and the last thing we see before we go to bed. It’s the normal topic of discussion at the dinner table and just about everywhere else. My wife sometimes has to out us in football “timeout”.

  18. Richard the Red (Devil)

    March 23, 2010 at 6:55 am

    Great article Gaff. My mum is approaching 70 and she goes to the pub with me whenever she can to watch United play. We are from Manchester and have deep family roots with the Reds. My uncle took me to my first match at Old trafford when I was a wee lad. I can barely remember it. The game has always been in my blood though. Now that I have two daughters who play in our local leagues I am trying to pass down my passion to them. Being only 9 and 11, I can mold them into future United supporters. It’s not very democratic but I will not have a City or Liverpool fan in my house. Nevertheless, they love doing whatever I do. So when this past Saturday when they were asked if they wanted to attend an extra training session, they said no. They were going with me to watch Man United v Liverpool. I am going to take them to Old Trafford next season. I can’t wait.

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