The Dark Side of American Soccer Culture

New York Times:

The spread of Europhilic American soccer culture excludes much of the population of American soccer fans, a healthy portion of whom are Latin American immigrants. When the Mexican national team toured the United States last year, it drew in an average of 59,000 fans, roughly two-thirds more than the crowds that watch the United States men’s national team. Broadcasts of Liga MX, the top club league in Mexico, regularly dwarf the ratings of Major League Soccer and the English Premier League. And yet, for the most part, M.L.S., the United States Soccer Federation and even the apparel and sports-drink companies that market to American soccer youth have drawn a line between whose attention is worth pursuing and whose is not.

There are now two separate American soccer cultures: one white, the other Latino. And while some of the Europhilia can be attributed to the relative newness of American soccer fandom (traditions, I suppose, have to start somewhere), it’s worth asking why soccer fans in a country with millions of immigrants from soccer-crazed countries in Central and South America would look so longingly toward Western Europe, or why the American media’s coverage of soccer culture, however scant, focuses on soccer bars in gentrified Brooklyn and fan organizations in majority-white cities like Portland, Ore., and Seattle.

This divide has limited the appeal and growth of the sport in the States. In the broadcast before the quarterfinal match in the Copa América soccer tournament between Mexico and Chile in June, Alexi Lalas, the former U.S.M.N.T. defender who turned shaggy red hair and a thick goatee into a personal branding moment in the 1994 World Cup, talked disapprovingly about the crowds of Mexican-American fans who had shown up at sites across the country to root for El Tri, Mexico’s men’s national team. Lalas explained that while his ancestry was Greek, if the United States played Greece in anything, there would be no question that his allegiance would lie with the red, white and blue. “There’s only one national team,” Lalas said.

If Alexi Lalas wants to know why so many Mexican-Americans choose not to root for the United States, he doesn’t need to look much farther than the crowds who gather in M.L.S. stadiums and bars and sing songs inspired by groups who shove black men off subway trains and travel to foreign cities to taunt Muslim immigrants. There is nothing wrong about borrowing what you love, but it should be called what it is — a dream of an ultimately monochromatic gathering in which thousands of white men can brawl (but safely and without guns!) in the streets and drunkenly sing Phil Collins melodies in pubs, lending a hooligan snarl to a white, suburban culture.

COMMENTS AT STEVE SAILER:

* So with this article, it looks like the anti-White Eye of Sauros has officially cast its gaze on the rapidly gentrifying Pacific Northwest.

As rents double or quadruple here in Portland every year, government officials are desperate to stop or reverse the city’s despicable Whitening by seeking to set aside sections of housing specifically for non-White people — they have openly called for this! But, much to their horror, this is ILLEGAL, so the handwringing continues unabated as Portland gets Whiter literally by the hour and blacks are forced to the hinterlands of shamefully unfashionable Gresham, Beaverton, Tigard, Milwaukie, and Salem.

I heart Portland!

* Don’t millions of soccer fans in Latin America also look “longingly” to Western Europe? Does the name Real Madrid ring a bell for this author?

With soccer’s roots in Europe and elite professional teams there drawing players from around the world, it’d be very strange if American soccer fans didn’t emulate European soccer customs before those of say, the Guatemalan farm leagues. And even Guatemalans, are likely to esteem FC Barcelona more highly than local teams; prestige brings influence. For example, do European basketball fans care at all about the culture of the NBA beyond just learning the official rules of the game? Or, are American Taekwondo enthusiasts interested in any aspects of Korean martial arts beyond the dojang?

When I was in Mexico a few years ago, there was a soccer match between the US and Mexican teams in the regional city I was visiting –Mexico won. After the game, I was out walking and saw several cars and pickup trucks driving around with groups of young men and women hanging out of them, blasting horns, and chanting songs and slogans. As they’d pass me, they’d honk several times, pointing and shouting ¡Gringo! ¡Gringo! It wasn’t my favorite experience there and such behavior could be seen as rude and a little threatening: but then again it was only some people and it wasn’t like they were physically attacking anyone, unlike truly authentic E̶u̶r̶o̶p̶e̶a̶n̶ ̶ English hooligans. Apparently, what I experienced is a fairly common part of Mexican soccer culture –OK, but why would the NYT really think that that sort of thing is much better than what they’re now doing in Seattle?

* If you’re old enough, you’ve been told that soccer is the “next big thing” for 50 years, beginning when the NY Cosmos brought in Pele, Giorgio Chinaglia, Carlos Alberto and Franz Beckenbauer in the mid-Seventies.

* About Kang, I truly think he is a malignant creep, and yes, dangerous. He is interested in a fellow Korean who became a maniacal mass murderer, and wrote in his vicious troll baseball column (published in the NY Times, not some online rag) “As I grew older, and started feeling alienated from my white classmates…” When I first read that sentence, it chilled me to my guts. He wrote it *after* a racial confederate committed a mass murder, arising from racial alienation. Could a white man write the same? The question answers itself.

* Far be it from me to defend any Seattle hipsters, but if the Texas MLS teams are any indication, there really isn’t much of a Mexican soccer culture to emulate.

A fat guy banging endlessly on a drum while a handful of people drone on and on isn’t all that inspiring. And throwing bags of urine on opponents is frowned upon in MLS stadia.

It’s no surprise that the most successful (in attendance) MLS teams reside in primarily white enclaves like Seattle, Portland, Toronto, Vancouver, etc. It’s a struggle to attract both Hispanic and white suburban fans, because catering to one freezes out the other. Just another benefit of diversity!

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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