Soccer….Family Style

Slovenia Supporters…great times in Ljubljana!
November 16, 2011, 9:31 pm
Filed under: FIFA, International Soccer, Supporter Culture, US Soccer

With one of the Slovenia Supporter organizers

USMNT vs Slovenia: My Adventures in Ljubljana!
November 16, 2011, 9:30 pm
Filed under: FIFA, International Soccer, Supporter Culture, US Soccer

Let me preface by saying that I did NOT want to come to Slovenia. There was a rumor that the US would play Germany on this date, and I was all about going to Germany: I have friends there, I speak the language, and I love watching Germany play almost as much as I enjoy watching the US. So when Slovenia was announce, I was pretty upset. I almost decided against making the trip entirely: I don’t speak Slovenian, I’d only heard of the country because they were in our group in the 2010 World Cup, and who knew how they felt about that experience. But after grumbling for a few days, and realizing that I could still see my German family friends after Slovenia, I decided to continue with my dream trip of Eurotour 2011 planning.

I arrived at 2 AM on game day, and felt lucky to find a pizza stand open who called a taxi to my hotel for me. I checked in and slept until 15 minutes before breakfast closed. I spent the mid day checking out the city of Ljubljana with two other American fans, and headed to the stadium bar around 3:30. Our first stop in the stadium neighborhood was to pick up tickets. I’ve been to enough games to know that if you haven’t seen a bunch of Americans walking around, we’re probably going to be a small crowd at the game, but I had no idea how small our contingent was until we got the the visitors ticket booth. I walked up, and as I was fishing my passport out of my back pocket to show ID to pick up will call, I said “Hi, my name’s Tanya.” And before I could get my passport out, she handed me an envelope with my name on it. When you can get tickets with a first name and no ID, it’s going to be a VERY small crowd.

We headed to the All Star Bar, and on the way, found the Slovenia Supporters selling scarves which I had to buy, and fell in love with when I saw the top read “Majhna in ponosna – little and proud.” How could I not fall in love with Slovenia? I talked with the guy selling them, who turned out to be a leader of the supporters for Slovenia. We had a good time chatting, and as I was leaving, he gave me a really nice Slovenian flag. All I can say is “you had me at “majhna in ponosna.”

We had five Americans at the All Star Bar, and several Slovenians that looked confused to find us there. The stadiums in Europe are all alcohol free (yeah…take a moment to let that sink in, AO nation) and it was unbelievably cold and damp, so I quickly switched from cold beer to Kuhalo Vino, a hot spiced wine that was going down real easy. We compared notes on travel, and came up with my favorite phrase of the night. When people speaking foreign languages without the listener understanding, the listener just nods and says, “What you say is very interesting.” It was a well used phrase for the night.

We headed to the stadium, wondering if our section would even fill a row. Would they have riot gear cops around a single row? If 7000 Slovenians got pissed, exactly what were we going to do about it? When we got to our seats, we were about 2/3 the way up the lower deck, almost in the corner.I was happy to see several serious looking riot geared up police behind our section. We got the AO Des Moines banner hung in our corner, and then went down to the front row of where the US boys were warming up. We were SO close to the field, it was really great. The intimacy of a women’s game, but with the men’s team. It reminded me of the old days, when you could run into players anywhere, before anyone knew about soccer in the US. We realized that it was minutes before the walk out, and no one had kicked us out yet. I ran up to the old seats and grabbed our stuff, updating the only other Americans (a couple from Austria) that we were permanently relocating and they were welcome to join us.

I’ve never been prouder to belt out our national anthem than I was at that game. It was so patriotic to be there, with my four new friends, cheering on our boys. And when we scored, what seemed like immediately, it took a moment to realize that, although the stadium was pin-drop silent, we had scored! We went nuts, and there was the deafening roar of five people cheering. It was completely unreal and fantastic all at once. The field was veiled in fog, so thick that we couldn’t see the far side benches from our front row vantage point. It was an amazing night, on an amazing field, with a great host. The Slovenians got some chants going, and they had a great coordinated fan group in the end zone. Their supporters got call and respond chants going with the other fans in the stadium, and created a great atmosphere. They were great sports being down or tied, and were great sports shaking hands with us post game leaving the stadium and back at the bar.

Of course I’m glad that the US is playing better, and happy that the Klinsman plan seems to be coming together (I told you all to stop worrying). I was glad to catch Boca’s 100th cap… I remember when he was a new guy on the team… they grow up so fast! But there’s something really special about going to the “rare” games. I like being part of the tiny little group of supporters, cheering against all odds. I love all US Soccer matches, but I will always have a special (WARM, finally) place in my heart for Slovenia.

What to do when the French Mock Your 1-0 Loss #USMNT #AOinParis
November 12, 2011, 4:33 am
Filed under: International Soccer, Supporter Culture, Uncategorized, US Soccer | Tags: , ,

My trip in Paris has been really lovely, but I’m typically pretty incognito as an American in Europe. Most Europeans assume that all Americans have long hair, and I speak enough French and plenty of German, which is not typical, so I was surprised to see how my interaction with Parisians took a nose dive once I was in my USA gear for the game. Then after the game, on the Metro back to my hotel, still face-painted and decked out, but in good spirits, the drunk French boys were a little ridiculous.

Four of us Americans stopped for food next to the stadium to let the Metro traffic die down, and around the stadium, the French were pretty nice. People shook hands, took photos with us, it was relatively friendly. Jason, a supporter from New York, and I took the Metro most of the way home together. When I left him, I had a transfer and one stop til I was back at my stop, “La Fouche” (my new favorite word to say in French). I beat the gate closed for the second time (is there anything as exhilarating as making the last train with only minutes to spare?) But then I was trapped on the platform, waiting for the last train, with a bunch of drunk French kids who hadn’t bothered to go to the game, but felt they knew enough to be obnoxious with me.

Here’s a lesson kids, even in a foreign language, it’s tough to out insult me. So here’s my guide for dealing with drunken, obnoxious French fans:
1, Be friendly. I think it was Jason that initially said “When we travel, we let the away team have one goal, to be a good guest.” Most people laughed and shook our hands. But a few were determined to changed my mind back to the belief that French people are really just a bunch of d bags.
2. When the comeback is “Yeah, but you still lost.” My next comeback was “You didn’t even go to the game, and I had a great night there. It was a good game.” Which they’re supposed to see as, dude, it’s just a friendly, lighten up.
3. But some didn’t, and to those, you must start speaking English very quickly, although still with a nice tone “Look, you won by one point in a friendly, big effin deal. I’m an American, you think I’ve never been to a loss before, get over yourself.” You can rattle on here as long as you want, but as you walk away, slow down your English a little and say “Hey, in the 2010 Coupe du Monde (World Cup in French…and you must use French just there), where were you guys in the 2nd round? (You can hold up 2 fingers, just to make sure they get it). Granted, I didn’t have a huge sample set, but that wiped the smile off 100% of drunk French boy faces. Except the one guy, who was particularly amused watching me fend off one particularly drunk fan. As the drunk fan stumbled away with his sad face on, I caught him smirking, and asked if he spoke English. He said yes, and we just smiled and laughed about the whole “drunk guy getting hauled off by his girlfriend” scene. All in all, it was a great night in Paris.

One more day here, then it’s the night train to Florence for 2 days there. I speak zero Italian. Should be interesting….

Off Hiatus…in Paris for USMNT Friendly
November 10, 2011, 9:42 pm
Filed under: International Soccer, Supporter Culture, US Soccer | Tags: , ,

It’s been a busy summer at our house. I closed my store, moved our house, and it was generally chaos around every corner. So I took some time off from this blog, (except for that stadium policy thing…that needed to be said.) but I’ve decided to make a comeback in style.

I’m in Paris for the USMNT friendly vs France, and then headed to Slovenia for that game. These are my first two away friendlies, and I’m very excited to be here…too excited…plus the jet lag is not helping my sleep situation. All I can say so far is every French person I’ve talked to is surprised that Americans are here, (and 1500 strong, according to US Soccer). My favorite response so far to the why are you here answer: “But you’re a woman.” I thought of making a joke that I was aware of that, but let it slide because it was delivered with such a great French accent. French accents make just about everything sound better. Have a French person say “Kentucky”. It’s almost sophisticated.

But I digress. Paris has been great today, although there seems to be a low level of game promotion going on. If you’re here in Paris with me, please join me at the American Outlaws meetup before the game. Details can be found here:

See you all tomorrow, or later today Europe time!

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