So last Saturday I went to the Gold Cup Quarter Finals at Lincoln Financial Field here in Philadelphia. It was a double header, but my brother in-laws and I tailgated through the first game (Honduras v. Canada – Honduras won 1-0) and attended the second game which was the United States v. Panama.
If you don’t already know, or even care to know, Philadelphia was just awarded a Major League Soccer franchise and are in the process of building the brand new stadium in Chester, PA. The name of the team is The Philadelphia Union and their symbol is the Snake that you see on old revolutionary flags – usually accompanied by the words “Don’t Tread on Me.” There is a nice story on the Web site about the whole process if you’re interested – Philadelphia Union.
In any case, what I am getting at is the amount of pride soccer fans have, period. I don’t care what nationality they are or what home team they root for, but not only is their pride unrelenting, so is their enthusiasm. For example – The Sons of Ben, they where a group of soccer fans from the city of Philadelphia when Philadelphia didn’t have a soccer team. They just loved the sport so much they would drive all over the country (musical instruments in tow) and chant and yell and scream for the team they deemed worthy of having them as fans (usually the most “local” teams).
We sat in the Son’s of Ben or Uncle Sam’s Army (whatever you want to call it) section (behind the Goal of the opposing team for the second half) for the game. I take that back, we didn’t sit…for 120 minutes. On our feet, chanting – following the chant and song directors that stood above the others, usually with a drum and some sort of brass instrument next to them – watching the 3rd string USA soccer team play and beat Panama in overtime. WHAT AN EXPERIENCE!!! I don’t care if you don’t like soccer, if you think it’s a sissy sport…I dare you to go to one of these games and sit in that section and then tell me that these guys are nuts. Of course I mean nuts in a good way – I don’t think I will ever go to a game NOT in that section – unless I have any of my nieces or nephews with me (the expletives can fly pretty easily from those around you).
The reason I think soccer in America is flourishing is because there are these pockets of dedicated, enthusiastic, and prideful fans all over the country. With the help of an American team that’s getting better and the marketing of the MLS – these groups are growing. I think soon we will see the American public start to turn it’s back from soccer and recognize it as a legitimate professional sport here in the States. Once this happens, look out – anything America embraces and loves, just from sheer numbers, becomes successful – and once we have the numbers to draw international stars, the MLS will no longer be the laughing stock of the international soccer world.
Go out and support your local soccer club, no matter how small.