By Alyssa Pierce
Summer in the life of a soccer fan is a bittersweet time—a spring of new hope for a new season, but at times teetering on the verge of a waking nightmare.
As followers of The Beautiful Game, we enjoy the advantage of a long, sweet season—several months of competition during which a team can compete in multiple tournaments, with games even at Christmas for some leagues, and while the season itself is filled with its own share of utter ecstasy and burning disappointment, it’s the transfer window, that agonizing institution, that can really tear us apart.
For most of the big leagues, the transfer window means a four-week mid-season break from competitive games during the winter and a 12-week pre-season break during the summer (there are variations in several leagues, where the windows accommodate the unique season and climate.) During this break, international transfer is allowed between clubs and every follower’s emotions are at the mercy of the ‘powers that be.’
This summer, The World Cup offered a merciful halt to the chaos for a month of incredibly exciting soccer, but now we’re back in full swing, getting prepared for a new season, new faces, and new challenges. Many of us find ourselves obsessively checking up on the latest gossip surrounding our favorite teams and players, no doubt hearing contradicting rumors, even within minutes of each other, and trying to sort out what we can believe and what we can’t. (Sites like Soccernews.com can keep fans up to date on moves that have been finalized, and Twitter accounts, such as @deadlinedaylive offer mostly-credible gossip across all leagues.)
Most followers know how a single transfer can effectively alter a season when a player finds his perfect fit with a new team, and most have also experienced the heart-wrenching blow of a beloved and critical player leaving for greener pastures. There are countless instances of shocking, inexplicable, and ‘historic’ moves occurring during this window when it seems, anything can happen. Many fans were shocked to the core in the summer of 2009 when Cristiano Ronaldo left Manchester United for Real Madrid for a fee of £80 million and again in 2011 when Fernando Torres left Liverpool to join Chelsea during the winter window for £50 million. Over the years we’ve seen betrayals and heartbreak, and conversely, happy reunions or perfect new matches. Some of the sport’s dirtiest business is conducted in these weeks and the bitterness that remains from some of those deals sticks with the fans for years to come.
This transfer window is shaping up to be as eventful as any. This summer more than ever we are seeing some big names from Europe commit to MLS teams, players with enough spark left in them to do some serious work.
To the surprise of many, Brazilian international Kaka activated a release clause to end his contract with AC Milan a year early and join Orlando City (with a brief stop in Sao Paulo where he is on loan until January 2015). Midfielder Frank Lampard said goodbye to Chelsea and will play with the league’s newest club, New York City FC, who kick off their first-ever season in 2015. These transfers and several others that have taken place over the last year or two have contributed to an ongoing expansion and growth in popularity of the American league and we can count on seeing more of that in the near future.
Several key transfers are also going on within Europe, with some of the sport’s biggest names making major moves.
Atletico Madrid accepted a £32 million bid for 25-year old striker and Spain international Diego Costa, who joins Chelsea on a five-year deal. Chile international striker Alexis Sanchez signed for Arsenal from Barcelona for a similar fee.
Cesc Fabregas left Barcelona for Chelsea (£30m) and Chelsea let go of David Luiz. who joins Paris St-Germain after a £40 million agreement between the clubs. Some clubs seem to be rebuilding their entire squads. The busiest Premier League clubs this summer so far have been Burnley, Hull, Liverpool, Newcastle, West Brom and West Ham, who have signed six players each. (BBC Sport)
With so many players on the move, the window has many a fan’s head spinning, but there is no doubt this transfer window still has more surprises to throw at us. As it comes to a close and the daunting September 1st ‘Deadline Day’ approaches, teams will scramble to fill the remaining holes in their squad.
Liverpool looks for that one striker to fill the void left by the ever-hungry Luis Suarez, and we still have a month until it’s all said and done—until we can relax again and let go of our fears of losing whatever stars we might have left.
In the meantime, while we wait for our new players to integrate into our style of play, we learn (hopefully) to overcome the losses that we’ve endured at the hands of other clubs. We give our national players time to wind down after the World Cup, we allow injuries to mend, and we dream (often far too much) of the silverware that most of us see in our team’s future (We also do a fair bit of griping. As Nick Hornby so accurately puts it, “the natural state of a football fan is bitter disappointment, no matter what the score”).
To get a fix of footy action, some lucky Americans get the chance to catch their favorite teams’ international friendlies on US tours or in small tournaments like the Guinness ICC. Others have to stream their teams playing third-league, domestic clubs from sketchy, blurry websites.
Supporting our sport in a country that doesn’t always appreciate it has its downsides, of course, but here in the Holy City, we have the happy consolation of exciting soccer in our back yard. We’ve watched our beloved Battery come out victorious in their previous two fixtures. The excitement doesn’t seem to be dying down anytime soon, and our passion for them carried us through any summertime blues we might have been dealt overseas.
So while we anxiously await the return of our other teams abroad, we indulge in the bliss that is supporting our local club. We play soccer under the scorching Lowcountry sun. And on the beaches and while we sit at our desks, we dream of early Saturdays at the pub and new hope.
Alyssa Pierce is a commissioning editor for a book publishing company in downtown Charleston, with degrees and English and history. She is a passionate soccer fan and a follower of Borussia Dortmund. You can usually spot her at home Battery games or at various venues around town during the season. Find her on Twitter @UrBabyKate.
TOP IMAGE: Players on the move this summer include (clockwise from left) Kaka (Orlando), Mattias Ginter (Dortmund), Romalu Lukaku (Everton), and David Villa and Frank Lampard (NYCFC). Oh, and that’s your author at the top right, flying her flag. Dan Conover photo illustration.