As many of you might know by now I’m obsessed with football, both American and Association. For as long as I can remember I have been involved in football somehow. My father played in an all-Usulutan (a department of El Salvador) squad for most of his 20s and early-30s. He played center back, and was pretty damn good. I can’t ever remember my father getting taken for a goal. He was tenacious and would get into fights with the opposing players. Before my father became a kindly and gentle “Man of God”, he was a short-tempered and ferocious defender.
I would play in the fields with the other kids while matches were taking place in the amateur league my father played in. Eventually, I got the itch to play and joined an all-Salvadoran team when I was about 7. 1993 was the year I learned to curl a ball. It was also the year that I learned how to win headers, possess the ball, softened my touch and how to tackle hard. My father was a wonderful coach, and it was expected of me to play growing up.
As a left-footed kid I was relegated to the left side of the pitch. Unfortunately, my dream was to play in the middle, but the shortage of left-footed kids was my downfall. It was probably for the best because when I got into the middle I would just try to blast it into the net regardless of where I was.
World Cup 1994 rolled around when I was 8. I had never really taken to professional football before then. But this was in AMERICA! I had to follow it. I had to make the most of this opportunity. With the rest of the world I watched every match of World Cup 1994. I fell in love with the United States Men’s team. El Salvador hadn’t made a World Cup since 1982, and my mother said that she supported the United States because she loved the country so much for what it had given her. I agreed.
However, I couldn’t help but become enamored with Bebeto and Romario. Those two were unstoppable. I wanted to wear the number 7 in honor of Bebeto. My youth team’s jerseys were yellow and green like that of Brazil. Albeit, we probably played like Nottingham Forest. Brazil went on to win that World Cup in one of the most compelling finals ever against Italy. Di Baggio’s missed penalty and the aftermath acted as a quick lesson in the glory and heartbreak that football submits its supporters and players to.
That World Cup was also the tournament of one of the most tragic events to hit South American football. In a group match against the United States, Andres Escobar scored an own goal that kept his Colombian side from getting out of the group stages. When he returned to Colombia he was murdered in a parking lot outside of a bar by a school teacher. The shooter yelled “GOAL!” after every bullet fired at Escobar–twelve in total. I couldn’t believe the news. I couldn’t believe that they actually went through with the threats that followed that match. In a sense, it scared me, but at the same time it was intriguing. I wanted to know more.
My thirst for football never stopped after World Cup 1994. Since then, I’ve seen every match of every World Cup. Yes, I even sat through Bosnia-Herzegovina v. Argentina and Germany v. Saudi Arabia. I would wake up at 4am or so in 2002 to catch the games live in Japan/South Korea.
Unfortunately, the United States lacked a competitive and interesting league. By ten, we were given the MLS, which launched itself off of the popularity of the World Cup in America. I was unimpressed. I didn’t really want to see Alexis Lalas play every week. Carlos Valderrama was great, but a shadow of the man I saw in 1994. He also had left Europe for a reason… he wasn’t that good anymore.
I kept on watching international football for years. I couldn’t follow the leagues in Europe because we didn’t get coverage here, and it was before the onset of the Information Age. I couldn’t just stream matches like I do now. I hated the Mexican Primera because, let’s face it, it sucks and my mom told me to hate Mexico. True story. I followed the great Copa Americas and Gold Cup competitions with excitement. However, I was missing club football. I didn’t know who to support.
The 2000s rolled around, and I had fallen out of favor with my soccer team and started playing American Football. Again, against my desires, I was played out of position. I would have made a great left tackle. I had to play on the right. Ugh.
Anyway, by 2005, I was convinced that Spain had the best league in the world. Looking back on it now, I don’t believe that was really the case, but that’s where the best players from our continent went to play. Our Latino legends made names for themselves in Spain. The only greats I really knew growing up were Latino ones. I didn’t grow up admiring Bergkamp, Zidane or “Ooh Ah” Cantona. I was all about Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Bautistuta and Riquelme.
Then FIFA 2006 came along. It’s silly to think that a video game actually changed my life. I quickly found out that the best teams were European on the game. I did some research into my favorite team to play with, Chelsea FC. I fell in love with the swagger of Jose Mourinho. I grew fond of the strength of the side. Drogba, Terry and Lampard were my kind of players. They weren’t the fastest or most skilled but they won and they had grit. Despite the team being funded by a billionaire, the team had a really harsh, working-class attitude about it, even though its supporters don’t have that reputation.
Since about ’06, I’ve supported Chelsea Football Club. I know that many will say that it’s glory hunting when you start supporting a team that’s starting to win titles and making a name for itself, but I really did enjoy the club. I stuck with it through three years of league domination by United. I’ve stuck by Chelsea in constant Champions League disappointment. I have grown to love the club and its supporters. Chelsea supporters are fantastic. The club have a wonderful history that’s peppered with both glory and heartbreak, like football inevitably always is.
Anyway, I’m proud of my club for what they’ve done this season and what there is left to do in the FA Cup Final. They can pull a domestic double which will be great after pulling doubles against United, Arsenal and Liverpool this season.
The point of this rant: I think it’s wonderful what this modern age has given us. Not only has it given people with the privilege of accessing information the ability to muck up their lives and find ridiculous things to do, but it has also opened up the world to us. 100 years ago, the child of two Salvadorans would have never dreamed of going to London to watch his beloved team play a match in the historic Stamford Bridge. But, I dream. The possibility is open to me. That’s just mind-blowing.