A Journey into Fútbol Fandom: Where to Start?

My whole life revolves around sports. But for no particular reason, it doesn’t revolve around the world’s most popular sport, fútbol, or soccer as we like to call it in America.

I know this is the case for many of you American consumers of sport. Even though soccer is popular among the youth of our nation and Major League Soccer (the MLS) is growing rapidly, following professional soccer just isn’t one of our highest priorities. And though it’s been that way for a while, I think it may finally start to change.

Now it would be slow change, if anything … but change in the right direction, nonetheless. And I myself don’t want to be caught totally off guard when that change starts to materialize. That is, if the MLS having the fourth highest attendance among professional sports in the USA isn’t enough materialization for you already.

English star David Beckham helped the LA Galaxy capture the MLS Cup this past season, ending his 6-year American career on a high note. (Photo by Regular Daddy via CC BY-SA 3.0).
English star David Beckham helped the LA Galaxy capture the MLS Cup this past season, ending his 6-year American career on a high note. (Photo by Regular Daddy via CC BY-SA 3.0).

Until now, I’ve been a very causal soccer fan since my playing days ended around the age of 9. And when I say casual, I mean casual. I’ve always liked to know the main events transpiring in the soccer world, but that’s about it.

I could tell you that Messi is the best player in the world, but not too much more. Sure, I know a good amount of players from playing the FIFA video game and watching the past couple World Cups, but I don’t consider that to be actual soccer knowledge.

So I’m now on a quest, if you will, or an attempt to broaden my understanding of the world of sports and knowledge about everything that that entails, to become a soccer fan.

I don’t know how big of a fan I’ll become, I don’t know if it’s a sport that will ultimately appeal to me as much as other sports do, and I don’t know how long this’ll last. But what I do know is that it’s time for me to give soccer the chance it deserves.

So first question I’m faced with, of course, is where to start.

The English Premier League

So for those of you who don’t know, the EPL is widely thought of as the world’s top club league (referred to in England as the Barclays Premier League). It consists of 20 clubs at a time, including – most notably – Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham, and Newcastle United among others.

The Premier League is where I chose to focus my early soccer fandom about a year and a half ago when I was still worried the NFL’s lockout would cost us a season of football. One of my buddies and I figured we should have a backup sport to follow just in case, and I followed his lead by choosing soccer, particularly Arsenal, one of England’s top clubs. But not long later, his favorite player, Samir Nasri transferred to Manchester City, so we became Man City “fans.”

Unfortunately, I didn’t really hold up my end of the bargain, paying very little attention to the Blues despite their sudden spending spree and success as they won the Premier League for the first time in quite a while in dramatic fashion (video).

I should make myself clear, you don’t have to start with the Premier League. The MLS, Serie A (Italy), La Liga (Spain – Barcelona, Real Madrid, etc.), and others are all great options as well. But my choice is the EPL … for now.

But in choosing “my team,” I hit a bit of a road block. Should I stick with Manchester City, who similar to the NBA’s LA Clippers is the up-and-coming team of their league and has the biggest bandwagon to hop aboard. I mean, just glance at their roster. Even if you’re a casual fan you’re able to spot several big-time names.

Since I’m a huge fan of Man City striker Mario Balotelli, I’ve decided I’ll remain a Man City supporter … but they aren’t going to be my team. I’ve decided to pledge my allegiance to Liverpool Football Club, one of the most historically rich clubs in England who has seen better days but is still a solid squad perennially. And they have the rich tradition I love to see … to say the least.

When making that decision, I have to give credit to the one and only Sports Guy, Bill Simmons. After a Google search or two, I came across this article: Choosing My EPL Team (make sure to check out both pages) from ESPN’s old “Page 2.” Simmons knows us too well, doesn’t he?

Anyway, I hope for you sports fans who are in the same boat as myself that this urges you to make the same effort that I am to get into soccer. Choose your team(s), select them as one of your “favorites” on your sports app on your smart phone, and follow a couple of their best Twitter accounts.

If you become a Reds fan, I’d love to embark on Liverpool fandom with you. If you choose another club or even another league, I look forward to the rivalry and competition we’ll be able to endure in the near future. Regardless, I’m glad to say that you and I will be among the early American adopters of soccer.

I’m not sure when I’ll check back with the next installment of my journey. It may be tomorrow, it may be a week from now. Make sure to follow me on Twitter @GropSports as well as MSF @ByMSF for more.

About the Author

Zach Gropper

Zach Gropper is a sports broadcasting major at Indiana University in the beautiful town of Bloomington, IN. He is from Flossmoor, IL, a small Chicago suburb. Zach was was the sports director for WHFH 88.5 FM Flossmoor his junior year of high school and Television Station Manager of Viking Television during his senior year. He runs a White Sox blog at GrabSomeBench.com and also contributes and reports for AssemblyCall.com. Last summer, Zach interned for ESPN 1000 AM Chicago, working on programming for the Waddle and Silvy Show. He is currently eager to get out into the professional world of sports media, wherever that may take him.