(three years and four teams ago)
The American Soccer Spectator Dress Code dictates that one must wear a soccer jersey to a soccer match.
Really any jersey will do, so long as its nylon and features a multinational corporation’s logo and/or a club or national crest.
Say you’re at a high school match in Essex County, NJ. You want to prove you’re not a lame dad who doesn’t know anything about soccer because your high school didn’t offer a single team sport invented outside the USofA. Au contrair, you know l’football. You watched Tony Meola for the Metrostars at Giants Stadium. You coached your kid’s U9 team. You don’t yell inane BS like “SEND IT!” at fullbacks who clearly have enough time to settle the ball with their chest and take a touch while they assess their attacking options. You’re not one of those fans. You’re hip to soccer. And now you have to demonstrate your knowledge, or at least the perception that you are knowledgeable, by pacing behind the spectators in a professional Football Club’s snug, DriFit kit.
So what if the traditional American sports fan thinks you promote the shady British bank Standard Chartered, the same shady bank that was recently tisk-tisked for laundering hundreds of billions of Iranian dollars? To the American soccer fan, you proudly display your commitment to Liverpool, one of the most popular teams among other American soccer fans.
And so what that your shiny, red Liverpool shirt has no relation to the two mediocre high school teams lobbing long ball after long ball before you? Americans will wear any soccer jersey to a soccer game no matter how unrelated that jersey is to the game they are watching.
Last Saturday, I watched my brother play goalie for his northeast-Pennsylvania, D-III college (There are roughly 76 schools that fit this description) against another, more, like, central-Pennsylvania D-III college (in this case, one of nearly 257 such schools). Both teams wore blue and white. During the first half, I noticed an older man, probably in his early-60s, standing near the spectator sideline in a scarlet shirt with telltale white sleeves. Aha! Arsenal. Spotted!
At halftime, Gunners-guy peed next to me at the urinals. When I walked away from the wall, I checked out his back and noticed he was not wearing a regular old Arsenal jersey. His old Arsenal jersey was emblazoned with “ADEBAYOR 25.” Even more disconnected from game at hand.
Emmanuel Adebayor is a shredded, surly, 6’3”, acrobatic striker from Togo who, since 2009, has played for Arsenal, Manchester City, Real Madrid and Tottenham. He scores a lot of awesome goals and sometimes taunts the opposing fans, but that’s okay because he survived a terrorist attack (Two years ago, AK-47-strapped separatists from a province in Angola shot up his Togo national team’s bus during the Africa Cup of Nations tournament). He has never been to Pennsylvania. At least not to a college soccer game in the Lehigh Valley.
But his jersey was strutting and spectating and peeing all over the place last weekend. Old white Pennsylvanians LOVE Adebayor!
Or, more likely, older white American soccer fans want to give the impression they love Adebayor. Americans don’t wear old-school Hakeem Olajuwon tank tops to small-time college basketball games. We know basketball. We have nothing to prove. But liking, paying attention to and spending money on soccer is new for us. We’re a little self conscious and we mask it by being smug.
“Excuse me, other spectators. Take me seriously when I criticize my kid’s coach because, even though I am a white baby boomer with a silver mustache, I am wearing an Emmanuel Adebayor jersey.”