One question that I get asked from time to time is “why did you start liking soccer?” Well more honestly it’s usually more like “what’s with you and soccer?” or “I’m tired of the soccer posts on your Facebook” or “you used to hate soccer, didn’t you?”
As I sit here watching Manchester United vs West Ham on a Saturday morning, I thought it’d be a good time to reflect on the answer to those questions. Yes, I did used to “hate” soccer. At least I mocked it, without really watching it.
It was around Christmas of 2010, I believe, when my daughter Ally came home from MSU and I noticed her watching soccer on TV. Of course I made fun. But then I did something different – I actually watched it a bit with her. And I heard why she was interested, she was working with people at Boyne Mountain who loved it.
And I heard about her team, Chelsea. You see, to really enjoy soccer, you need to adopt a team. So I was intrigued. It was a way to bond on some level with Ally, during her college years. I didn’t spend much time thinking more about it until the summer of 2011.
That summer I was going through a difficult time and Manchester United became a sort of crutch for me. Like I said you have to pick a side in soccer and when I realized that, I went with Man U. First of all, it was the only team I’d ever heard much about. I’d heard them described as the New York Yankees of soccer, which isn’t a big plus, but I knew they were successful. I also knew their star, or talisman, as they’re sometimes called – Wayne Rooney.
So I had a project, to learn all I could about Manchester United. And I did. I learned about Busby’s Boys, Beckham, George Best, Sir Alex and whatever else I could find out from this side of the pond.
And I learned another interesting fact about English soccer, it’s on in the mornings here in the US. I got up at 7:30 am on weekends to watch games and was disappointed when my boys lost out to the hated rivals, Manchester City.
But I was hooked. My team gave me something to root for, something to spend time learning about and of course, I could still rib Ally about how my guys were better than her Chelsea boys. And the game. It reminds me of baseball in that it can seem slow, if you want to look at it that way. But it can also be “the beautiful game” if you really watch. No both are not exciting every single second. But both will reward the viewer if you watch.
I used to mock how few goals there were. Now I realize that because of that, goals are so exciting and is the buildup and even the missed chances.
So that’s mostly why I have grown to love soccer and especially Manchester United. It helps that the timing usually doesn’t conflict with MSU football or the Lions. I love the length of the season, much like baseball.
I’m still learning the game after just these few years. I like the fact that Man U is a popular club so now most all of their games are on TV here. With the boom in soccer with the World Cup, it’s so easy to get soccer news here.
Of course, the absolute best video game in the world is FIFA and I am hooked on it as well. I played over 500 games of it last year, as my record shows me each time I log in. I try to play a game every day. It helps me unwind and I really enjoy playing online against people from all over the world.
FIFA helps me seem not quite so old to my kids, maybe, and to my baseball team. A big highlight last year was beating Christian Matye, a real soccer player, at FIFA at the baseball team party at my house.
And this summer soccer helped give me one of the best sports experiences of my life. I went to see my beloved Reds in the Big House against Real Madrid with Ally. I had nevrer seen an American football game in Ann Arbor but I had to put my green and white loyalties aside to watch my te.am come to America.
Ally and I not only went to the game but also to the workouts the day before. I stood and whooped and hollered as my team came in from the bus. I felt like I was seeing the Beatles in 1964. These guys were truly rockstars to me. Not just Rooney, But the manager, Van Gaal. The Spanish keeper, DeGea. The 21 year old whose jersey I wear, Phil Jones. Carrick, the grizzled veteran. Fletcher, the midfielder who overcame serious illness to return this season. I could go on and on (and have). Hopefully you get the idea.
It was so great to see these guys and so great to see them with Ally. Not to mention that from our row 5 seats, we also were able to see the great Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale. A truly incredible experience – and the good guys won.
Anyway, that’s why I love soccer and I love my team. I don’t pretend to be a lifelong fan of either. I am a latecomer and to me, that makes it even better. I have a lot to learn. But these guys have given me a lot of pleasure over the past few years – though a lot of heartache last year as they had one of their worst seasons in many years – and I look forward to many more. And even a pilgrammage one day to Old Trafford.