more than just a beautiful game

Soccer/Football/Futbol is known as “The Beautiful Game.” And it is a beautiful game (ex. Barcelona). Although sometimes it’s not (ex. Stoke City). A few weeks ago, when my co-workers were asking me why I liked soccer so much as I was booking my flight to Houston for a DC United playoff game, I got to thinking “why do I like soccer so much?” and why do I go to such great lengths for my teams?

A Brief Background

I didn’t really get into soccer until 2006. Sure, I spent time at my high school’s soccer games on Thursday evenings, mostly because a friend’s soul mate was playing on the team. (Spoiler alert, none of my high school friends are married to any of the guys on those soccer teams.) In 2005, I spent a lot of my freshman year at The University of Maryland’s Ludwig Field as the Terps marched to a NCAA National Championship. And I vaguely remember watching US Men’s National Team’s friendlies leading up to the 2006 World Cup. But it was the 2006 World Cup where I really fell in love with the game. It’s probably because I spent that summer working a desk job in front of a TV and that was all that was on. And then I met a few MLS players whose names I cannot remember now while working a check-in at the UMD Summer Soccer Camp. That same summer, I started following DC United closely (my brother was a fan from the get go) and I’ve never looked back. Living in Liverpool in 2007-2008, a footy mad city, just solidified how much soccer was the game for me!

The Obvious

I’ll start out with the obvious because that’s why most people think I like the game so much. Many soccer players are good looking dudes. Carlos Bocanegra. Iker Casillas. Steven Gerrard. Messi. Fabio Cannavaro. Chris Pontius. Becks. They’re fit, they’re fine, and they don’t seem to have any problems taking off their shirts. I like that quality in a man. But that’s just a side bonus. And I can still explain the offside rule on command. I’m especially good at explaining it with condiments.

“There are no strangers, only friends you have not met yet.” -Yeats

Two years ago, I didn’t know any of the people in the above picture. Or in the pictures below (JB excluded, I went to high school with that guy). Today, some of them are my favorite people in the world. The soccer supporting community is one of the most open and inviting communities I have had the privilege of being a part of. As weird as I find meeting people on the internet, Twitter has played a large role in this. The best thing about Twitter is it gives you the opportunity to interact with people who share the same interests as you. I met my friend G. through Twitter (and she’s one of the few people I talk to in real life every day), and everyone else through her. Now I spend most of my social my time with these guys. I love traveling with them, getting together at the bar on Saturday mornings to watch EPL matches with them, as well as go to dinner and the movies with them.

You Ain’t Accustomed To Going Through Customs, You Ain’t Been Nowhere, Huh? – Kanye

One of the best qualities about soccer is that it is truly a global game. Sure, the NFL has started playing games in London and everything, but it’s not truly global. With soccer, so many travel opportunities have presented themselves. I’ve been to such exotic locations as Montreal, Antigua, Liverpool, Boston, and Harrison, NJ. And I think we can all agree Texas is a foreign land and passports should be required to enter the state. I spent 9 days in Antigua with my friends for a 2 hour soccer match. A World Cup Qualifier, but still a soccer match. I hadn’t been to Canada since I was 10 years old before this past August when a small, but passionate group traveled to Montreal. In 2013, I’ll be going to Mexico City for a hex match, Toronto and Seattle (hopefully) for MLS matches, Kansas City for either an MLS or USMNT match, and Costa Rica or Panama (my choice) for another hex match (and mah birthday!!). That’s in addition to the regular trips to Harrison and Chester for DC United bus trip shenanigans. And let’s not forget that my deposit is in for the American Outlaws World Cup package for Brazil 2014! Soccer is a great way to see the world and I love to travel. A match made in heaven. (Ed. note: I attended all of those matches except Seattle since I originally wrote this!)

Birds of a Feather Stick Together

Obviously this picture has nothing to do with soccer, but KITTENS!!

One of the great things about the soccer supporting community is that we tend to have each other’s backs. Sure, there are times where we bitch and moan and snark at each other, talk shit when our teams play each other, but when push comes to shove, you’ve got a built in support system. Back in October, a banner Prairie made went missing after the final USMNT World Cup Qualifier in Kansas City. She tweeted a few people, who retweeted her, who contacted American Outlaws, and the next thing you know a local KC news channel is contacting her wanting to run a piece. You can read her entire story here, but the banners were found, and returned to Prairie with minimal damage.

Another extraordinary example is the Hillsborough Disaster, where 96 supporters went to a Liverpool match and never came home. While people were nasty back in 1989, with some continuing to be nasty to this day, they are the exception and not the norm. When petitions need to be signed, when memorials are held, when people need to be held responsible, supporters, players, and teams from around the world band together to send a message. It’s the one thing Liverpool and Everton can agree on. When a petition was being signed to call for a new, thorough inquest into the tragedy, the Everton fans I follow on Twitter tweeted just as incessantly about signing the petition as the Liverpool supporters. So did supporters and official team accounts until the petition reached the necessary 100,000 signatures and beyond. In a move that was pure class, Young Boys supporters that traveled to Anfield recently for a Europa League match unveiled an “In Memory of Hillsborough” banner. We may have been opponents on the night, but that did not get in the way of the important things in life.

via Telegraph Sport Twitter account

For a more personal example, this past season when DC United got to travel to Montreal for the first time for a league match. I was planning on going, but not buying a plane ticket as early as May. Flights unexpectedly went on a sale of stupid proportions, and I was not in a financial situation where I could buy a ticket. I told my friends to book so they could get the deal, and I would book when I could and would see them in Montreal! I received a response from a friend offering to front the money for the ticket. These types of situations always make me uncomfortable. It’s not my friends’ fault that I like to shop and buy ridiculous amounts of nail polish and they shouldn’t feel they have to make offers like that in the first place. In the end I took her up on her offer, and busted my ass to pay her back quickly. When I expressed concern about booking flights to Mexico City for next March and then AO possibly opening up Must Pay In Full registration for the Mexico Travel Package .3 seconds after I send $600 to an airline, she made the same offer. My Soccer Buddies are good friends. (Ed. note: I buy significantly less nail polish these days, and my travel fund is thankful for it.)

Below I’ve left some quotes about soccer. If you’ve never been to a soccer game, I urge you to get out and support your local team. Whether it’s a MLS team, an NASL team, a high school team, or rec league, get out and experience the game and everything that comes with it. I assure you, you will not regret it.

Football is all very well a good game for rough girls, but not for delicate boys. – Oscar Wilde

Football is the opera of the people. – Stafford Heginbotham

Some people believe football is a matter of life and death. I’m very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that. – Bill Shankly

**This post originally appeared on my former blog in 2012, in case you were wondering why I am referring to things that happened over two years ago in present or future tense. I wanted to share it with y’all because it’s one of my favorite things I’ve written, but have scrubbed a few of the personal details for the privacy of others. And a little for myself. Also, there were some embarrassing typos.**

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