Tag Archives: Pretoria

American soccer fandom alive and kicking

24 Jun

I'm not sure I want to know where those feathers are from ...

Let it never be said that Americans do not take their sports seriously. Even soccer! The fans supporting the U.S. team in Pretoria on June 23 were passionate, intense, involved throughout the game and incredibly excited about the win. Sadly, some were also rude, drunk, fond of cursing and eager to spray beer over the crowd when the U.S. scored a goal in the 91st minute.

It was fantastic to be at the game but I had mixed feelings about the crowd. I’m not a fan of crowds to begin with, and even less of a fan of people using a sporting event as an excuse to get rowdy and forget all the rules of civilized behavior. But this is the World Cup, and of course people are going to get insanely excited during games, so it’s tough to criticize. Prior to the game I went with an American journo to check out a gathering of U.S. fans at a local restaurant in Pretoria. It was quite early in the afternoon and the crowd was drinking quite a bit and hanging their arms around each other, singing golden-oldies with the lyrics changed for the occasion – as one tends to do before games. However some of the fans seemed to have lost their sense of personal space – I got slightly knocked about in the crowd – and they seemed very fond of inserting expletives into their songs, ruining the effects in my mind!

My friend explained to me that a small portion of the fan base likes to use the matches as an excuse to get a bit out of control, and often support for the U.S. team provides a good reason to express extreme patriotism and national pride in a way that Americans haven’t really been able to in the last ten years overseas. But the majority of the fan base are proud, polite and ardent supporters of the team, while a minority are an American version of British soccer hooligans!

All that being said, U.S. v. Algeria was the only game I attended when I was actually in the crowd, with the fans, so this post could probably apply to almost any team.

I really hope the U.S.  improves its game and advances – and that their nicer fan base is there to support them all the way.

And in other news, happily, another post for The New York Times Goal blog! South Africans Vow to Continue Celebration