I was born in Texas, raised in Virginia, and grew up on American football, baseball and basketball. The last time I played organized soccer I was 7-years old. The first soccer game I ever attended was last summer in Washington DC. So why then has soccer been elevated to being my second favorite sport (behind American football)? For me, it was a combination of five factors, and for you to become a fan of international soccer, following at least one of these factors is a key stepping stone to enjoying the “beautiful game.”
1. Find a Favorite Team
This is probably the most important step in becoming a soccer fan. Without a favorite team, caring about or following soccer is very difficult. Unlike American sports, you won’t have a regional team to cheer for, and teams don’t really have names like the London Lords, so picking a team is a little more challenging. Perhaps you pick your favorite team in the country of your ancestry (Bayern Munich if you are German, AC Milan if you are Italian for example). Maybe you have visited Europe and you have a favorite city or country from your travels. Or maybe you have a friend who loves Manchester United, so to piss him off and be different you cheer for Chelsea. Or pick a team with cool jerseys (check out Football Fashion.org or Football Shirt Culture for ideas). No matter how you decide to pick your favorite team, choose wisely and then stick to your guns.
2. Find a Favorite Player
For me, I actually used a favorite player to find my favorite team (Real Madrid). After the 2006 World Cup I became very interested in learning more about international soccer, and in addition to cheering for the USA, I also chose to root for Brazil (shocking I know) since I didn’t really know who else to root for. I came away loving the way Robinho, Ronaldo, and Roberto Carlos played the game, and it just so happened they were all members of Real Madrid. After watching Real Madrid for the past three plus years, Wesley Sneijder of the Netherlands became one of my favorite players, and was one of the main reasons why the Dutch was my favorite team at the 2010 World Cup. Even after Real Madrid sold Sneijder, I began to follow his new team Inter Milan, and they became my favorite Italian club. So pick a favorite player and follow their team. Maybe it is Diego Forlan from Uruguay, who plys his trade for Atletico Madrid. Maybe you will cheer for Argentina’s Lionel Messi or Spain’s Xavi, David Villa or Andres Iniesta (all Barcelona). Or if you are an American soccer fan, follow Tim Howard (and sometimes Landon Donovan) at English Premier League’s Everton, Oguchi Onyewu at AC Milan, or Michael Bradley at Germany’s Borussia Monchengladbach.
3. If you are into Video Games, Pick Up FIFA 11 or Pro Evolution Soccer 2011
To be honest, this may be the biggest reason why I am so into soccer right now. I hadn’t played a soccer video game since Nintendo World Cup on the regular Nintendo Entertainment System back in the mid-90′s, but my good friend (who hates soccer) made me play FIFA 04 when I visited him in college. I was hooked after one game, and I have gotten every edition of FIFA since. I barely knew who any players were in the game, but I used the game, and Wikipedia, as my research tools to learn more about the sport. After the 2006 World Cup, I researched all the players I saw play in South Korea/Japan and began to learn more and more about the different leagues and teams from across Europe. With international soccer games being tough to find on TV at school, FIFA was my best means of learning what players and teams were good, the different formations teams utilize, and other basic knowledge about international soccer. If you want a fun, easy way to learn soccer pick up FIFA 11 (my preference) or Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 this fall.
4. Visit Goal.com Daily (after you visit ProSportsBlogging of course)
One of the reasons I’m so excited to be writing about soccer for PSB is due to the lack of good, English based soccer websites. Of course ESPN, SI.com and Foxsports cover the sport, but they tend to lack opinion articles and focus more on the nuts and bolts. However, this is not at all the case with Goal.com. First, make sure when you visit you go to the International version of the site (most web browsers will redirect you to the American version, which is good but does feature European soccer nearly as much). Once you are on the site, you will probably be overwhelmed with the sheer amount of information available. Nearly every rumor, interview and possible story is covered. Opinion articles are a mainstay, and player ratings for every big game gives fans who are still learning the game the ability to see the difference between a great performance and an average display. Also, Goal.com’s match commentary is the best in the biz, while its Live Scores section monitors literally every game on the planet. For someone trying to learn the game of soccer, Goal.com does a great job of making stories easy to read (although grammar is not their strong suit), and it makes American fans begin to understand the madness that is European club soccer.
5. Watch as Many Games as Possible, Starting with your Favorite Team or Champions League
It has never been easier for soccer fans in the USA to watch international soccer. ESPN has made a conscious effort to expand their soccer coverage, adding even more EPL games to their TV lineup in addition to their handful of La Liga matches. Also, ESPN3.com has tons of matches throughout the season from across Europe, Mexico and South America. Fox Soccer Channel (FSC) covers the EPL like no other channel, with hundreds of matches per year, in addition to Sky Sports, the Fox Soccer Report, and the EPL Review Show to recap the day’s action. FSC is also the home of the UEFA Champions League, the Super Bowl of European soccer, and Italy’s Serie A, which is home to Champions League title holders Inter Milan, plus AC Milan, Juventus, Roma and the rest of Italy’s best. GolTV is the other option for soccer fans in America, as the Miami based station broadcasts the German Bundesliga as well as Spain’s La Liga, including virtually every Real Madrid and Barcelona match throughout the season. For those lucky enough to have DirecTV, both FSC and GolTV are available in HD, and if you don’t have DirecTV, these channels are either free or a part of a sports package. If you become a huge fan of soccer, Fox Soccer Plus features many EPL matches involving smaller clubs, as well as France’s Ligue 1 and the Scottish Premier League, but it costs about 15 dollars a month. To find out when your favorite team is playing, go to LiveSoccerTV.com. Also, to make things easier for us American football fans, a DVR is nearly essential since most league games take place on Saturday and Sunday.
I understand soccer isn’t for everyone, and the sport will probably never surpass baseball or basketball in this country, but with games easier to find on TV, numerous big clubs coming to the United States during the summer months, and big names migrating to the MLS, the time is now to give the “beautiful game” a chance.
About the Author
Written by Robert Bode
A sports die-hard through and through. I grew up playing almost every sport possible, and to this day I try to stay as active as possible. However, since I'm not a professional athlete, talking and writing about sports is the next best thing. A University of Florida graduate but living in my hometown of Washington D.C. (well Northern Virginia), my favorite teams are the Florida Gators, Miami Dolphins, Chicago White Sox, Washington Nationals, Real Madrid, good up-tempo NBA teams (so not the Knicks), and Washington Capitals.