The Five Billion Person Party

Notes of a wandering American soccer fan

Archive for the ‘general’ Category

“It’s like religion. There’s no why.”

Posted by steigs on July 10, 2008

Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, talked to Germany’s Der Speigel about soccer in advance of Euro 2008.  He grew up in Istanbul a fan of Fenerbahce:

SPIEGEL: Why Fenerbahçe?

Pamuk: It’s like religion. There is no “why.”

Here’s Pamuk remembering watching the games as a child.  Can you tell he’s a writer?’

The image that I remember most of all is of the Fenerbahçe players storming into the stadium before kickoff. They were called the canaries because of their yellow jerseys. It was as if they, like canaries, were fluttering into the stadium out of a hole. I loved it. It was poetry.

Pamuk is less of a fan these days, perhaps not surprising, given his difficulties with Turkish nationalists, such as nearly being prosecuted for “insulting Turkishness” for comments about the Armenian genocide.

Pamuk: My childhood proved to me that there could be no enjoyment of football without community. But it becomes difficult when this community is having problems with its identity. That’s when we experience all possible forms of nationalist exaggeration. And there are many of those in Turkey today. Our relationship with the European Union has not been resolved, nor has our relationship with the Kurds.

SPIEGEL: Has football alienated you?

Pamuk: I still support my club, but it must be through some sort of Pavlovian response I have when I see the colors of Fenerbahçe. Even though national trainer Fatih Terim is an ultra-nationalist, I will of course support the Turkish team during the European Championship, just as you will support the German team. But am I a fan? No.

I wonder what he made of the fabulous Turkish run in the tourney, the scrappy underdogs who specialized in come-from-behind victories.  That’s a team one could root for.  A final thought from Pamuk, which in its own way sums up what I mean by the “five billion person party:”

SPIEGEL: What can one learn from football?

Pamuk: A lot. For example, that there are other countries and people of different skin colors, people who are our equals and whom we should respect. Football can teach us that although a team’s individual players may be weak, it can still be successful if it uses common sense. Or that we should not attack anyone physically when we suffer a depressing defeat. And one more thing: If French President (Nicolas) Sarkozy says that Turkey is not part of Europe, we can say that Fenerbahçe, as an international club, has been part of Europe for 50 years.

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They dislike the home team

Posted by steigs on December 22, 2007

This one is for the entertaining I Dislike Your Favorite Team blog…

I live in DC and, I hereby confess, I hate the Redskins.  Sure, I didn’t grow up around here but it’s not like I root for the team of my youth, the Rams.  They left CA too, which makes it difficult to show native loyalty by cheering for them.  (Similarly abandoned, my brother adopted, of all teams, the Bengals during their dark 90’s out of pity, as best I can tell.)

Living in DC it’s hard to avoid the Redskins worship.  And it bugs me.

Their owner is an incompetent greedy Steinbrenner.  Their nickname is racist.  Their fanbase has the delusion that the team is still an elite contender when it’s been years since they’ve been a Super Bowl threat.  The new stadium is in the middle of nowhere and, by most accounts, is a machine built to suck your wallet dry while being surrounded by drunken lunkheads.  Bleah.

So I used to joke that I didn’t have a team.  I just rooted for whoever was playing the Redskins.

(After Katrina I adopted the Saints, out of solidarity with one of my favorite places.)

Now, as often happens in the five billion person party, I learn there are some soccer fans who’ve taken this idea to new heights.  Meet the Norwegian group Fanklubben Heia Bortelaget (“Supporters of the Away Team”).  The latest Four Four Two has an article on them (not available on-line, alas):

“Back in 1992, a group of psychology students from Trondheim University, who were sick and tired of Rosenborg’s dominance of the league, decided to try and disrupt the status quo.  Their scheme involved attending matches in pink, singing anti-Rosenborg chants (the catchy ‘Come on Away Team’ being a favourite), and even awarding prizes to any side that managed an away win — all in the hope that anyone, other than Rosenborg, would win the title.”

Awesome!  I’m kind of tempted to get decked out in pink and try that at Fed Ex.  Well, except for the fact some giant drunken meatheads would inevitably treat me to some English-style hooligan thrashing.

But here’s the other problem.  It didn’t work!  Rosenborg reeled off 13 straight league titles  after the fan club was formed.  I’m not going to do anything that might help get the Redskins a Super Bowl.  Nope, not me.

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Here’s to Bruce!

Posted by steigs on December 21, 2007

Ordinarily when I say something like that, my wife assumes I’m talking about Springsteen.  But in this case I’m talking about the guy who keeps us American soccer-heads up to speed, Bruce McGuire, the madman behind the daily links-fest at Du Nord

 I love to steal ten or fifteen minutes late in the day for my favorite sport, clicking the links to the newsworthy stories Bruce has collected, along with a blog or two from his roll.  If you haven’t read it, check the link to the right.  Pretty soon I’ll bet you’ll be like me, checking it most days to find out what’s going on around American soccer and around the world. 

Here’s to you, Bruce!  A cold one in honor of Du Nord.  May your Minnesota Thunder give you a title this season!

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I’ve found my retirement home!

Posted by steigs on December 4, 2007

From a Financial Times article on preparations for Euro 2008 (Emphasis added.):

Geneva, Basel and Bern had new arenas, requiring little extra work. The latter two are what he calls “new generation” stadiums, in that they include shopping centres and other non-traditional amenities. Basel even incorporates an old people’s home, with residents looking directly on to the match.

That’s the way to treat your elders!

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What is the Five Billion Person Party?

Posted by steigs on December 2, 2007

 The 2002 World Cup was a magical time for American fans, as our team made a startling run to the quarter-finals, our best showing in the tourney in decades.  It was also held in the middle of the night, American time.  Those of us on the East Coast were rising — or staying up — for 2:30 and 5 am kick-offs.  It only added to the dream-like character of what we were watching.  In the middle of the rising joy, one morning I opened my paper to find the following full page ad from our friends at Nike:

Maybe it’s time
to get up in the middle
of the night
Maybe it’s time
to paint our faces and
join the five billion
person party.
Maybe it’s time to watch history.
Maybe it’s time
to get behind the kids
from New Jersey
and Ohio and California.
Maybe it’s time
to get behind our boys.
Maybe it’s time
to start caring.

The “Just Do It” marketing geniuses had captured something with their poem.  I love the sport of soccer as a fan.  But I also love the global aspect of it, the way I’m participating in a global fan culture. That’s what this blog will be about.  Some tales from the road.  Some observations from the couch.  Some musings about the game…

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Kick-off

Posted by steigs on November 30, 2007

As Eduardo Galeano put it, in Soccer in Sun and Shadow:

“Years have gone by and I’ve finally learned to accept myself for who I am: A beggar for good soccer. I go around the world, hand out-stretched, and in the stadiums I plead: ‘A pretty move, for the love of God.'”

Like Galeano, I’m a beggar for good soccer and I’ve been lucky enough to do a bit of traveling in search of a pretty move.  I’ve got some stories to tell, of pilgrimages to fields near and far, as well as some observation’s from my seat (and my couch).

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