July 14, 2009

Passion in the stands

How do you measure a fan?

If they stand for 90 minutes, do they care more about the team? If they sing for the whole match, are they more hardcore? If they coordinate banner displays and tifo, does that make them the best?

I personally saw the best fans I've ever come across at a live event last month at the Georgia Dome. The Mexico-Venezuela match showed me how far American soccer has to go.

There wasn't a coordinated supporters' section, the whole stadium was like a Mexican supporters' section. People didn't stand or sing for the whole match, but reacted to the game with more fervor and volume than almost anything I've ever heard in that stadium (the Falcons' playoff game on a Saturday night a few years ago topped it, barely).

What stood out to me more than anything were the families, specifically the fathers and sons. For the overwhelming majority of the kids, this was the first time they had seen El Tri in person. Their excitement was incredible to see. It reminded me of when my dad first took me to a baseball game when I was a kid.

Soccer is a part of the family for their culture in a way it might not ever be here. Baseball used to be like that, I don't know if it still is. Is anything like that?

Will we ever see soccer create that type of sustained passion in the US? I think it's come a very long way since I fell in love with soccer, but I don't know if it will ever be like it is for young Mexicans.

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