It was the summer of 1990. I was a mere 9 years old. I didn’t know it at the time, but this would be the summer when I would fall in love with and become an LA Galaxy fan. Yes, I became a fan 6 years before the Galaxy’s existence!
Italia ’90 was my introduction to soccer. However, like most Americans, I rejected it for all the same reasons; it was boring, there was no action, and I didn’t know any of the players. My short attention span didn’t help either. I couldn’t sit through 5 minutes of a game without wanting to get up and do something else. As the tournament went by I started to notice that my father was highly interested in it and had a good knowledge about the sport. This was strange considering that my father had virtually no knowledge of sports to begin with. Yet, there he was, watching every game with a passion unlike I had ever seen from him. Even when his home country of Colombia wasn’t playing, he was glued to the television set. How could the most boring sport be the one sport that piqued my dad’s interest so much? At first I thought it was just my father, but I soon learned that my entire family had the same affection for the sport. My grandfather and uncles were also fixated on the television watching this tournament that I was completely oblivious to. At 9 years old I already had considered myself a sports fan and had already watched the Dodgers and the Lakers win a championship. How could I have not heard of the World Cup before? What made this tournament and sport so special? I felt like the odd person out for not knowing. In fact, I felt outright foolish. At that moment, I decided to learn about the sport of soccer, so that when World Cup 1994 comes around, I’d be ready.
At the time, there was no soccer anywhere on television and the internet was not available to me. Any knowledge I would inherit would come directly from my father. From him I would learn that there were other tournaments besides the World Cup. This is where I would find out about the Copa America, the Copa Libertadores, and World Cup Qualifying. My lessons in the sport would come from watching these games. Having no soccer available on television meant that we would have to go to a local bar or restaurant and watch the games on closed circuit television for $10-$15 a person. Those times were by far the best memories I have watching soccer, and I have to admit, I miss them. The sport was so obscure at the time, yet I felt like I was part of something much bigger. The few people who filled that small bar or deli had more passion than any bar that was packed to watch a Superbowl. For those couple of hours we were brothers rather than strangers. They welcomed me as one of their own and would also come to teach me about players and the sport. For the first time I felt a part of that invisible circle everyone talks about.
As my knowledge of the sport expanded into more than just national teams, I started to wonder why the US did not have a soccer league. It was discouraging that I could not watch the sport live at a stadium and instead had to watch every game on TV. I also didn’t have a local team that I could call my own. However, when my father told me that a league would start in 1996 I felt like I had hit the lottery. I couldn’t wait to attend a game. I couldn’t wait to feel what I felt in a bar of dozens inside a stadium filled with thousands. I couldn’t wait to find out what team would be awarded to my city and what name would be given to them. Well, that team would come to be the LA Galaxy and I became an instant fan. Actually, to reiterate, I was a fan 6 years before their existence.
I’m very proud to say that I have been a fan since the very beginning, and I’m even prouder to say that my motives for becoming a fan were not superficial. They were based on an emotion that stemmed from this beautiful game. I didn’t choose the Galaxy because of their success, which would make me a bandwagon fan. It wasn’t my father’s team that he passed on to me. I didn’t become a fan because it was the hip fad to do at the time. No, I became a fan because I yearned to call a soccer team my own. I was just lucky that it happened to be the Galaxy.
This article is a part one of a two article series
Part two coming soon