I have always been a soccer fan. I played for seven years and I can’t remember a time I didn’t watch it on TV (usually in Spanish). Before high school I entertained the thought of changing high schools so I could play soccer. I guess you could say I was being recruited, because my high school didn’t play soccer and the school district I actually lived in did.
I followed the US National Team when they were on TV and didn’t understand why we couldn’t beat Mexico. I spent the summer of 1994 in Europe while the World Cup was going on here. It was very interesting to see how the fans in Europe followed soccer. I immediately had a new appreciation for what it meant to them to root for your country.
I got my first soccer video game in 1995 and we played the hell out of that thing in my dorm room. For some reason I chose Manchester United as my team one day during a tournament and it stuck. It was a very random decision because I usually played with Ajax, but Man U all of a sudden became my team.
I very casually followed them through the years, catching a very rare Sports Center highlight every now and again. Usually it was of Beckham burying a ball in the back of the net from 45 yards out and at an impossible angle.
But with my life filled with sports I never found time for soccer outside of the World Cup and maybe some Olympics and other “big time” events that involved the US. In the 2002 World Cup I was setting my alarm to watch games at 4 in the morning. I was teaching at the time and before I took my kids to class we would watch the last few minutes of the final game of the morning.
But the transition from international soccer to club soccer for me started three years ago. I got a free ticket to go to Reliant Stadium to see FC Barcelona play against Club America. The atmosphere was amazing -- better than anything I had seen at a Texans game. The place was loud for a full 90 minutes and everyone was watching the game. There was no dance team on the sideline. No mascot running around drawing your attention from the field. I can’t even tell you if the video board was on during the game. There certainly was no music being played during the game.
Last season was the first time I really started paying attention to the Champions League. During the Southland Conference Baseball Tournament, the final between Man U and Chelsea was on ESPN360 and I was glued to my lap top. You can probably imagine the looks I was getting from people wonder how I could be watching soccer on my computer while baseball was being played right in front of me.
Three years ago I didn’t know the difference between Champions League, Premier League, FA Cup, UEFA Cup, Euro or whatever else. I didn’t get why American players would want to leave the MLS and play overseas. Now I am recording two or three matches a week. If Manchester United is on I change my schedule to watch.
I have even taken days off work to watch the Champions League and when I am at work it is on my lap top thanks to the greatness that is ESPN360. In the coming weeks there are some specific events that have led to my progression as a soccer fan that I will give their own entry.
My wife wonders when I am going to get out of this “soccer phase.” I have tried to tell here it is more than that. I think I am truly becoming a fan.