The NY Rangers vs. Washington Capitals triple OT game was awesome. That’s what NHL Playoffs is all about! Its nice to have the best hockey league in my backyard.. Now if only we can improve on soccer. I think that’s just it though. I think Americans are spoiled by having the best of almost everything when it comes to entertainment. Fore the most part we have the best in quality and quantity in TV, Plays, Movies, as well as sports with (the ones other countries play as well as us) NBA, NHL, MLB(Thats Major League baseball to my non-american friends). I’d also like to add be ready for many parenthesis with further details or links since this piece is crossing several groups with varying degrees of knowledge in the topics of American sports and European/South American Football. You’ve been warned!
So when it comes to soccer we have a new league, the MLS, that is struggling to make a dent into the mainstream American psyche and the people that enjoy soccer tend to watch European leagues. (mostly England..but go to Spain, Germany and Italy as well) Also, many Americans of Hispanic descent (or pure fans of quality soccer) watch the more successful Clubs in the Mexican/South American leagues. (see Boca Juniors, River Plate, Santos, Palmeiras, São Paulo, Flamengo, Club América, Chivas Guadalajara, or Cruz Azul as a few examples of the more popular and successful clubs from these areas) These clubs many times have over a century of history and a few or more championships. Also, the worlds best players play for these clubs, yet, there are many European Countries where their leagues aren’t one of the Big 4 but soccer is the number 1 sport nonetheless!
Its a passion for the home club to root for whatever team is in your backyard. I find it to be a great feeling of pride to support a local kid that now plays on his hometown team. (Right now in NY we have a new goalie Ryan Mera from Yonkers, New York. He grew up watching New York and now is playing for them as staring Goalie! He is a rookie and has surprised pretty much everyone. So much so that Ireland just tried to call him up for their U-21 team, but was denied because of club “responsibilities.”) As we chant when we see a local cheering for just foreign clubs , “We Support Our Local Team!” Now before you become upset and assume anything otherwise about my opinion, remember it is simply that; My Opinion! I am not saying that you are some terrible person because you choose “quality” over hometown support or in some way myself and fellow local supporters are somehow more “hip” because we go out to support the local team. No, I support several clubs from other countries, some more incandescently than others. I am simply stating give it a chance, go to a game or two. The live games are a lot of fun and cheap. Maybe you won’t end up becoming an “Ultra“. I just think some of you may end up with a new found sense of local pride in doing so. If you need directions on how to go about it, or unsure who the hell your team even is comment or send me and email. Contact information can be found on the about tab.
I know some Lech Poznań fans (Poland) that are the most loyal and passionate soccer fans in the world and their club has never tasted European glory, but they love their team. This is the truth for a large majority of football clubs in Europe. Not everybody can be a champion yet for the fans it is more than just about that. Sure, it’d be nice if all my teams always won something but that’ll never happen. For most its a lifestyle. A place to hang out with friends and family. A common or unifying point of understanding even with different political views (Unless you are a Celtic/Rangers (The Old Firm) fan in Scotland!) Personally, for myself it is about local pride, a place to go with my family that is a lot cheaper than any other professional sport in the USA, something I can share with my sons and start a tradition. It gives my brain a break so I can immerse myself into a sport known for passion with fellow supporters that feel the same way about the team as I do. That’s what I think the MLS gives you. Sure the quality is far from a lot of leagues but, it is getting a lot better. For example look at Thierry Henry. If you asked Anybody when Henry was in London or Even Barcelona if Henry would ever play in the USA they’d have laughed at you and called you ignorant for not knowing the sport, yet here he is. You can say it was for the money, but Henry could have gotten the money in a lot of other leagues. He said it himself, he plays where he wants to play. He’s Thierry Henry. David Beckham was out of contract and could have played in France but declined to stay put in LA. Robbie Keane, Dwayne De Rosario, Arne Friedrich,Eric Hassli who won 2 Swiss Super Leagues with Zurich, and Teemu Tainio former Hotspur and Auxerre could all also play in Europe and the list goes on. Also, many younger promising European players are coming here and that will only grow as word of mouth spreads among the players and coaches.)
The supporter culture is always growing. Since the Red Bull Arena has been built in 2010 there are now 3 full sections (maybe two and a half depending on the team we play or importance) of die hard singing and standing fans. I believe once some people get past the quality issue and just support for the love of their home team for pride’s and passions sake, people may begin to embrace the American league more so.
I use this as an example because I know a little about it but, Norway’s Tippileagen isn’t a “top” European league, however, many times I’ll choose to watch them play rather than many of the “top” European clubs. It is a pretty hard and tough version of soccer and it is played in pretty frigid weather at the being and end of the season. Many young players come out of that league and go on to get paid millions of Euros to play for a club in a “top” European league. (Valerenga’s and Rosenborg’s Jon Carew is a name that jumps to the top of that list for me.) Then again you have some lifers that stay within the league, probably could have moved to a “top” league or a “better” club within a league that has a higher FIFA Coefficient but decided to stay home. (Like Odd Iverson
, one of Norway’s greatest goalscorers. He spent most his time playing for Rosenborg and Valerenga. However, his son, Steffen Iverson took up the offers he revived from England and played for Hotspur, Wolverhampton and Crystal Palace) Right now NY has 3 former Tippileagen players starting for them. Jan Gunnar Solli, Joel Lindpere, and Roy Miler. All three players have been pretty much unchallenged for the starting role in the position since they came to New York.
Also, how can I speak of Tippileagen and not write about the awesome support. The support there for the local clubs is tremendous. Lillestrom has a small stadium, in comparison to the bigger European Teams, and aren’t known on the European stage as a top team, (not a backhanded compliment, this is in comparison to the big leagues since Norway’s UEFA Rank is 26th) but the supporters fill it up and it sounds like its double capacity. Even the more popular clubs in smaller leagues like the Jupiler league in Belgium. The best club there generally is RSC Anderlecht based out of Brussels. (They have 30 Championships total and look to be the favorites to reach 31 this season. For my American readers think of them as the Belgium version of the New York Yankees in baseball) Since the eighties Anderlecht and the Jupiler league have not done much in Europe but the home games are packed and the supporters are super loud. The same goes for the clubs that generally have more quality but aren’t seen as a powerhouse year after year in Belgium like Standard Liège and Club Brugge. So its about passion, home team pride, and just a love of the sport. If Americans can get all three combined one day in the future you may see a higher quality of play. I am delighted to see it on a steady incline, and the soccer kids that enjoy the sport when they are young should be encouraged. Now they have local pros to look up to. I played mostly in the late eighties and early nineties as a child. There was no major league for soccer. While some of the other kids were playing Baseball they could easily go to Yankee stadium with their family and see Don Mattingly play. The kids playing basketball could turn on the TV and see Micheal Jordan be amazing. The kids playing football could see the NY Giants win a Superbowl with Phil Simms. Now finally, a kid can play a game and the next day go to see his favorite pro team play. That’s a huge boost to how the sport will influence the culture and how the culture will influence the sport as well. My sons love the sport and they are only 2 and 3 years old. As of now they can trap the ball, pass the ball lightly and kick the ball hard. My older son, Ian, understands to use the inside of the foot and so on. Then we go to a game. They sing the songs with me and this sort of encouragement will ensure that the passion for the club will be passed to the next generation.
Essentially, what it all comes down to is this. Support your local American club please. The players are young Americans looking to break out and make a living. By bringing good European players here it gives them a chance to play at another level or style of play. Sometimes they might be a kid from the town over, or even from your town. Maybe one day even your own kid! You’d be helping support the influence of the sport. Cheering for a team overseas on the TV or computer won’t do any of that. Then again, maybe you might not care about the future of the sport in America. But if you do, support your local team because, WE SUPPORT OUR LOCAL TEAM!