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An American shares his thoughts about his first 5 years of being a soccer fan

harry-cee-manchester-united

It seems I picked the right time to become a soccer fan. All it took was one overseas trip and a random Argentina kit to put me on this path.

In the five years I have been following soccer, I have seen many ups and downs in the sport. And regardless of what I have experienced, I still sometimes ask myself, “Where has this sport been all of my life?” Regardless of how much I missed before I became a soccer fan, I feel the sport came along at the right point in my life.

On supporting my favorite teams

One of the most trying parts about being a footy fan is sticking with your team. For one, it’s been amazing coming in when I did as a Manchester United supporter and watching the team in transition. In 5 years, I saw the end of Sir Alex’s reign and watched the team try to endure under the new leadership of David Moyes and then Louis van Gaal.

It feels like the game has been in transition as these years have gone by. For example, I went to my first Manchester United game in August 2011 and saw Ryan Giggs score a game winner versus Barcelona. Then in July 2014, he was the assistant coach.

I have met many fans who have been longtime supporters. Regardless of how long I have been a fan compared to others, I have always been made welcome as an addition to the “family.”

Closer to home, I have to be honest and say that it’s been a struggle with DC United. It’s not just the lack of quality of the game. It’s great to know that I live in a city that at least has an MLS team, but it’s a true test of patience waiting for DC to build a better facility for the 4 time MLS champion. Part of what’s important in being a fan is being able to enjoy yourself in their home stadium. The team’s current home, RFK Stadium, has been ill-fit home for this team for years. It’s past its prime and wasn’t ever designed to support a soccer team.

The camaraderie

In my opinion, the camaraderie has been the best part of being a soccer fan.

For as long as I have been supporting traditional American sports, if I ever wore a Baltimore Ravens or Orioles jersey, they have not been as much of a conversation starter than wearing any soccer kit anywhere in the world. This is a game that really does tend to bring people together and I have met so many people simply by striking up a conversation after they see me wearing a soccer shirt or vice-versa.

I feel like there is no greater bond in sports than there is when it comes to soccer. That really became apparent during last year’s World Cup where I was teaching my friends and co-workers the nuances of the games more than I was back in 2010. It seemed like a lot of them finally understood why I was falling so hard in love for this game and a few of them joined me.

Finding other ways to translate my passion

It’s great knowing that there are many websites including World Soccer Talk that are accessible to fans from various walks of life to talk about their experiences. Even when I look at the older articles I’ve written for this site, I am humbly amazed about how far I’ve come and still have yet to go. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed playing the series of FIFA and PES video games that have been excellent teachers in dissecting the game. Also, Football Manager has allowed me to enjoy the game in many ways that the FIFA series doesn’t allow me to.

Outside of immersing myself in video games, I’ve been collecting soccer kits as well as autographed balls and gear. Plus, I’ve met many athletes and coaches including Tim Howard and Jurgen Klinsmann, as well as attending as many games as I can. Going to the games has also helped my photography skills, which is another passion of mine.

Going to the games

No matter how many baseball and NFL games I have attended, nothing prepares you for that first time when you attend a soccer stadium full of fans. I still have yet to attend a European game and that’s next on my list, but I still remember my first game. It was Sunday June 29, 2011. I went to the double header at RFK Stadium in DC. The USA Men’s National Team defeated Jamaica 2-0 in a pretty tame affair, but it was the second match that showed me what I was missing. The entire atmosphere of the stadium transformed when El-Salvador took on Panama (Panama eventually win on penalties). The crowd gave the stadium life that I have never witnessed at any game before it. Truthfully, I was intimidated but that’s when I learned why these games require no cheerleaders. The supporters are the twelfth man. The supporters dictate the game. Seeing it on TV is one thing, but being swept up in it is quite another.

Since then, I have been fortunate enough to see many current and future stars play live and in person. I have had the chance to see a few international friendlies. For anyone that is new to the sport, I highly encourage them to do their best to catch a game in person. Try to take those who are on the fence about the sport with you because these games can be a unique experience that you don’t get anywhere else in traditional US sports.

My trip to Old Trafford

It crossed my mind that some day I would take the trip to Old Trafford, but I didn’t think I would have accomplished it this soon. In October, I made the pilgrimage to Old Trafford to do a stadium tour.

Just realizing I was standing there at Old Trafford was a jaw dropping experience. I felt like a little kid all over again and I know some of you may say, “It’s just a stadium” (and I drive past RFK Stadium and FedEx Field on a weekly basis) but I wanted to take advantage of an opportunity that not many of us get.

After walking around the inside of the stadium for 30 minutes, my wife and I went inside to see the museum, which then transitioned into a tour of the stadium facilities. I was totally satisfied with my experience. Next time, I would love to go on a match day.

In summary, these past five years have been an amazing journey. With any sport I have seen some of the ups and downs but I also got an amazing opportunity to see and do some of the things that are rarely afforded in American sports. I have come to love soccer because it has allowed me to meet people from different walks of life.

The passion of the game may seem different from American sports, but it’s intense. Even staying in the UK for a short time, you can feel that it’s an intense religion that rarely any of us ever get to see. I still feel like I am learning a lot about the game but the best part is that many who I have come across have been more than helpful and accommodating in expanding my horizons.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. iancransonsknees

    December 6, 2015 at 2:21 pm

    Great read Harry. I enjoyed meeting a bunch of Everton fans from the USA in Liverpool over for the derby match this season. It was great just to watch and listen to them and share in their excitement, even as a Stoke supporter.

    As a Manchester United fan I suggest that you track down a copy of the BBC film Marvellous. It tells a story in part about Lou Macari, a United legend in the 70s but is much more than that and expands on your comments of intensity and religion. It’s a great film which I guarantee will move you.

    • harry cee

      December 7, 2015 at 10:03 pm

      Thanks!! I will check it out!

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