By Alyssa Pierce
For much of America, the word ‘soccer’ evokes images of kids in shin guards, moms in mini-vans, orange slices and juice boxes. But for so many others, it’s a passion that can ignite a variety of emotions—a passion that consumes. So for those of us who find ourselves craving the sport daily, how do we cope with being so far from many of the leagues and teams that we love?
If you watch Premier League games regularly, you’ve probably seen the Barclay’s #YouAreFootball commercial about ‘long distance relationships.’ (If you haven’t, please watch it, and try not to tear up a little.) The ad is directed toward the massive EPL following outside of England, and it brings up the idea of following from afar, which American fans know can feel like a full-time job. With the popularity of American soccer increasing all the time, many new fans are also latching on to foreign clubs, thirsty for as much of the sport as they can get. Those who’ve been doing this for a while understand the level of dedication that is required when you can’t be near the action, but there are those that might need a little help and encouragement in the face of the daunting task.
The first thing the American fan has to master is simply being in front of a screen during games—because they’re not going to miss a single one. For domestic games, this most often entails waking up early on weekends and searching for the right channels or streams. If you are lucky enough to have fallen for an English club, you can usually just find the nearest bar, but other leagues are often harder to catch. Spanish and Italian games can be found on BeIn Sport, but good luck finding anyone with GolTV to catch a Bundesliga game at 9:30 on a Saturday morning. Those fans most often have to settle for a fuzzy stream on a tiny computer screen, but when it’s all there is, that’s just fine. For Champions League and other tournaments that often hold weekday games, it gets a little harder. Finding ways to get out of prior commitments in order to catch these can be a bit stressful (I know I’m not the only one listening at my desk, and here’s hoping my boss doesn’t ever read this.)
Even more problems can arise when following clubs that primarily speak and post in other languages. Many of them offer all of their social media in English, but when don’t, fans can spend a lot of time on Google translate. On a positive note, they can also become efficient in soccer-related terms in those languages. (TOOOOOR für den BVB!!)
This might all seem overwhelming to the new fan or those who haven’t quite mastered following, but in the end, it’s more than worth it. So if you’re craving more of a particular team or just more of the sport in general, but struggling to keep up with what’s going on abroad, there are some things you can add to your routine to really get the most out of it, especially in the high-tech world we find ourselves in.
Tips for Staying Connected
1. Immerse yourself in the fan base on Twitter by following those who share your interests.
2. Set up Google alerts with keywords for your favorite teams and players can be useful. These can be set to alert you by email daily of any news linked to those keywords.
3. Obviously following certain Twitter accounts is a must, but also subscribing to text notifications for those accounts can keep you updated on information as it comes up.
In addition, most clubs and leagues have apps which are kept up-to-date and often offer more in-depth information than other sources, as well as video interviews, and other media.
4. The official websites for leagues or teams often allow visitors to subscribe to the newsletter which is emailed monthly or weekly.
5. Subscribe to your league’s YouTube channel.
6. Find the nearest venue that regularly plays your team’s games instead of staying home. Being with other fans can really make a follower feel like part of family.
7. Splurge a little on merchandise. Although it’s easy to break the bank with a soccer obsession, just having a couple of things to throw on when you go out is worth the cost. It encourages other fans to approach you, and who doesn’t love good banter?!
8. Never miss a Battery game! Bonding with the people who enjoy the same thing as you while watching the local team you love can be an immensely rewarding experience.
9. Subscribe to soccer magazines like 8by8 that are printed locally, but cover the sport all over the world.
Theoretically, you are already watching all of the games and reading news at every opportunity, but adding some or all of these things to your routine will ensure that in no time you are fully immersed. (Disclaimer: You will never stop wanting more!)
Ultimately, keeping up with a team across the world is a lot like a long-distance relationship. It can be difficult at times, but when you’re stuck on that team, you know there’s nothing else you’d rather be doing than setting those early Saturday alarms.
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: Various clubs’ scarves on display at Local 616. Photo by @charsenalgooner.