The Other Dark Side of American Soccer Support: A Latino Responds

_DSC9791Reading the recent article in the New York Times Magazine “The Dark Side of American Soccer Culture”, I was intrigued by the answer Jay Caspian King found and the way he got there. While he cites recent examples of racism in English soccer, most of his evidence relies on the English soccer experience of the 90s that he tries to use to justify why Latinos are not more active in the American soccer scene today. I feel Mr. King has neglected a few key factors that would more adequately explain this.

I don’t pretend to speak for all Latinos. I can only share my experiences with American soccer and opinions shared with me by other Latinos. Both would probably provide more insight into the subject than Mr. King did, as they would involve the opinions and experiences of actual Latinos who the author attempts to speak for, without demonstrating evidence that he spoke to a single one.

I was born in Costa Rica to parents who had lived in the US for a number of years, but decided they wanted their child to be born a Costa Rican. I grew up listening to how my parents supported Saprissa (my mom) or Alajuelense (my dad), a funny situation considering the teams are the two best in Costa Rica and, hence, rivals (I side with my mother). I remember the excitement of my family after the performance by Costa Rica in the 1990 World Cup. The failures of the Ticos to qualify in 1994 or 1998 were pains deeply felt by them, as well.

But that first failure presented a new option for me. Where I previously did not care about the US team, 1994 gave me the option of a new team to watch: the United States. I quickly learned the names of players I would follow for a long time: Tony Meola, Cobi Jones, Eric Wynalda, and, of course, Alexi Lalas. Their performance that year didn’t make my following a certainty, but they became my “second” team.

After years of following both Costa Rica and the US, I experienced a disconnect from my country of birth between years of absence and growing up in different US cities along the way. While I threw most of my support behind the USMNT, I found it hard to care about MLS. The quality of the league seemed very poor and while I tried to care about the Metrostars, I just couldn’t.

Umbro New York Cosmos as featuring The Borough Boys

Umbro New York Cosmos ad featuring The Borough Boys and the evil twin of Nick Laveglia

Fast forward to 2012. I didn’t have a club I cared about other than Manchester United overseas. I stumbled across a poster for the Borough Boys, learning they supported the return of the New York Cosmos. I did some research and went to some meetings, joined them and wound up supporting the team at the games. At no point did I ever feel an atmosphere of racism. It’s kind of hard to when one of the main supporter groups, La Banda del Cosmos, is a Latino barra brava style group playing songs in Spanish that the English-speaking supporters sing. My involvement with these groups, part of the 5 Points support section, led to my additional involvement with the American Outlaws. The Outlaws have several faults, for certain, but racism is not one of the ones I have ever experienced.

To go back to King’s evidence, in 1991, the 19th UK census was the first in the country to ask the question of ethnicity. The results reported that 93% of the population reported themselves as white, the remaining 7% identified as parts of various ethnic groups. The racism the author draws upon as an answer, while not excusable, makes sense.

_DSC1395In the United States, far more diverse than England, most supporters’ groups have embraced the philosophy of openness and a tough stance on racism and prejudice. I’ve both seen it in the support for the Cosmos and heard the same from friends around the country as they support their clubs. To try to apply the example that a song about “Shoot ‘em all” makes minorities feel targeted is, to say the least, a stretch.

And this is where I feel the author missed a few things.

My girlfriend is Colombian-American. She was born in the States. Her family is enormous and I can’t keep track of all her cousins. But for this post, I’ll focus on two.

“Lisa” has always rooted for Colombia. It’s hard not to when you live in Jackson Heights, Queens. Anytime Colombia plays, she, like most of the local population, has that yellow kit on and cheers for them. We once invited her out to the US v Portugal match in the 2014 World Cup. In a sea of US kits, I saw her arrive and make her way to us.

In a Portugal kit.

“Um, why are you wearing Portugal?” I asked her.

“My father is Portuguese,” she answered. “So, I had to represent.”

She’s never met her father. He passed while she was very young.

“Jack” is five years old. He was born in New York to a Colombian-born mother and a father of Puerto Rican descent. They now live in Los Angeles. I recently saw a photo of Jack in a Colombian kit. He will grow up in support of that team. It doesn’t matter that he’s an American citizen, that he was born and lives in the US, “vamos Colombia, carajo.”

Heritage is a big deal for Latinos. Were you born here? Were you born back in the old country? Doesn’t matter. La familia is getting together to root for the land they left behind. You better be there or you’re gonna catch some heat. There is no choice, you’re born into it.

There’s another possible reason that may explain the lack of Latino support, although it’s unpleasant.

American soccer sucks. The same quality issue with American soccer that turned me off years ago still turns other Latinos off today. A lack of real soccer infrastructure in America, especially competent youth systems, translates to adult soccer at a domestic level that doesn’t hold up at an international one. And I won’t even go into pro/rel here. For a country that has NEVER been able to win a CONCACAF Champions League, why should Latinos from overseas care about these clubs when they have their Emelec, their Boca Juniors, their Puebla back home?

Like the soccer, the support also turns off others. I’ve spoken with several who find the English songs to be devoid of passion, even boring. They want something more passionate, more exciting, and more in tune with how support is expressed back home. Trumpets, drums, a rhythmic beat, avalanches… many they feel English support doesn’t offer this. And without this, THEN there is no place for them. But this is because of a difference of opinion, not racism.

_DSC9795And even then, how does this explain Latino supporters who DO show up to games? La Banda del Cosmos (New York Cosmos), El Veneno (San Antonio FC), La Barra Brava (DC United), Los Templados (NYCFC)? How do you absolutely claim this separation of support, this racism that has pushed them away when they’re right there in the stands supporting their team?

Heritage. Passion. Just two reasons that Latino support is not as involved as it could be. Racism is not near the level that the author alleges. I just wish he had spoken to a few of us to find that out himself.

21 thoughts on “The Other Dark Side of American Soccer Support: A Latino Responds

  1. IMO both articles miss a very important point. There are many latinos like myself that were super exited in 1994 because we were going to have a soccer league, only to be totally turned off by something called “Single Entity”.

    I gave them the benefit of the doubt and thought “Just wait, this is just the result of the people in charge not being familiar with the open culture of our game, this can’t last for too long”. Every time a soccer radio show talked about an important news, I was exited thinking it was about the end of Single Entity……….20 years latter………….

    The impact of ignoring meritocracy in US soccer has many different implications. Some are more subtle than others The passion that the game generates is closely linked to the game’s capacity to reflect life; to the way in which fans associate teams with regional or national identities, social classes, political movements, religious believes etc.

    The system that have been shoved down our throats, does not allow the dynamic that could make latinos engaged and represented. Coming from nations with a long, rich soccer culture, we have a more sophisticated understanding of the game than our “leaders” have ever shown in their “vision”.

    It was at Robert E. Lee park in Miami, where the local “Liga Hondurena” used too play years ago, that I tried to introduce MLS to the discussion in an informal chat
    with local fans. I never forget the response I got, when a guy turned around, looked at me and said:

    “…….MLS??!…….eso es una gringada pues! ”
    which translates to something like
    “MLS??!…….that’s some gringo %#$^”

  2. People have noticed the 2 Mexican players that signed for Indy and Carolina. My father said he didn’t like mod from the beginning because of the time clock to the shootouts and the golden goal or whatever it was. Then it stayed that way. It got worse when metrostars went away and red bull took over.

  3. There are not many places where you can find such honesty. Bravo to Luis for having the courage and the confidence to reveal such a large part of who he is and Bravi to Nick and the rest of the crew for supporting him and posting the article for all of us to read. This type of serious reflection, as well as this high level of self-awareness needs to be applauded, and ideally, this article will allow others to openly discuss their experiences as well.

  4. Cousin “Lisa” sounds like a fake. While the author goes out of his way to make excuses for her the truth is much different and most of us have seen it many times. Most people of Latin or European heritage who are 1st generation Americans refuse to root for the USA, not because they feel more attached to another country but because they just want to root for a team that is better. In the rest of sports fandom that’s called being a band-wagoner, but people of different ethnicities get away with it when it comes to American soccer. “Her dad was from Portugal”…..”Her dad she never met”? What a crock. Seen it a million times, just looking for any excuse not to support the USA while “la familia” came to this country to reap the rewards.

    • AH KAKAKAKAKAKAKAKKAKAKAKKAKAKAKAKAKAKKAKAKAKAKAKAKAKAKAKAK (catching breath) AH KAKAKAKKAKAKAKAKAKAKAKAKKAKKKAAKKAKAKAKKAKA

      No, you’re not right, idiot. And someone who leaves a comment that judgmental & ignorant probably isn’t right about much in life. But you know, you think you’re the smart one and are obnoxious about it so people will just let you keep thinking that because you aren’t worth their time. Go take a nap until you’ve grown up, or just stay there.

        • And operating by the standard troll playbook you comment on my post but attempt to call me the troll. You’re a laughable moron who doesn’t have the sense God gave goats. AH KAKAKAKAKAKAKAKKKAAKAKAK Another moron on the internet.

          • Troll.
            You did not leave your name so one will be given to you. Welcome to This is Cosmos Country, Man City Jr Troll. Luis is the Don around here. Respect this place or go back to Big Sucker, Man City Jr. Troll. Unless you want me to slap your face silly in the middle of Ditmars Blvd with my Greek Loukaniko Sausage while you wear a Wondolowski jersey, size boys medium. You be a good troll, Man City Jr. Troll and put on that Wondo jersey for me right now. Im waiting.

          • Look at the keyboard courage from little nicky. What a little guy. My name is of no importance to your big nose Greek grape leave coo-coo smelly derrière. Now go back to broke and bankrupt greece where they snivel about everything and want free money from everyone. Or, get your putrid, dumb, buffoon lame ass off my comment. The fact you act like a false tough guy on a message board tells me all I need to know, you lack accomplishment in real life so you try to make up for it in the virtual world. Get a grip little fella. Go away like a mental midget is supposed to.

  5. Did you get that Wondo jersey like you were told? I will treat you like the gypsy troll that you are, Man City Jr Troll when I smear my tzatziki sauce all over your face and I hope you like the taste of garlic because this is going to be both aromatic and creamy. Coming on here to question Luis’ heritage? I will have you gargling La Banda songs in Spanish after 2 minutes and when you meet Don Luis the only thing you will say is “dame mas gasolina, papi chulo.” I know you are from Ohio, Man City Jr Troll, now put on that Wondo jersey and get into the ready position. When we are finished you can dry off with this Portuguese beach towel I have over here, troll.

    • To continue with you and your nonsense would be to justify it and you’re obviously not worth it. I compliment you by replying with anything more than wet fart. So I will not even read your foolishness and you are now blocked. A monkey dressed as a clown has more substance than you. You check every box of the stereotypical angry internet loudmouth. Your value is less than a taint stain. Take your bitterness and need to fill the void of happiness you can’t acquire in the real world elsewhere. You are the equivalent of the larvae a fly leaves behind on a pile of horse manure.

      • Man City Jr Troll, put the Wondo jersey on like you were told.
        Idiot. I know you are from Cleveland, I can spot you flag wavers from a mile away.
        Remember, when you meet Don Luis, the only thing that comes out of your mouth is “Dame mas gasolina, papi chulo.” now let me hear you say that with a mouth full of Portuguese chourico, troll.

        • Is this monkey still typing? I received a notification saying someone commented on my post but it didn’t say who since I blocked her. She can’t let go, typical. No doubt she’ll respond to this too. Sorry little clown monkey, has nothing else in life but a poor comment section of a website. Ah well, they’re a dime a dozen these days. On to real life for me where I’m not obsessed with worthless comments section.

          • Man City Jr Troll, you stumble across this website, attempt to insult Don Luis and think that is going to fly? You may be talking now and that is fine. Trust me, after you are dressed up in a 2014 Red White and Blue Wondo jersey, size boys medium, Hulkamania headband, and USA speedo you will get hog tied and thrown in a wheelbarrow so the proud people who live and work along Roosevelt Avenue can beat your candy white ass like a pinata while you mutter “ay si papi dame mas duro” with an American Flag shoved down your throat. You will get the Latino rage you always desired in the form of repeated open handed slaps to your floppy meat patty titties. Man City Jr Troll, you are not ready for this Greek Sheik, and when the Spicy Gyro is being thrusted down your throat you will learn how to say galaktoboureko properly. Idiot.

          • Can one of you decent folks let here know that I can not see what she writes or if it’s even her commenting, I mean, I’m sure it is because she has nothing better to do. But she’s been blocked and the notifications don’t tell me who has commented and when I click the link I can’t even see the post….or any of her other posts. So please, I understand it’s like a moth to a flame and she can’t help herself but ask her to let go and try to find something important in life to grasp onto instead of this disturbing obsession with my posts. I’m happy to pay for her therapist sessions or send her on a retreat so she can experience something other than an internet comments section . Just let me know who to send the check to.

  6. Man City Jr. Troll, you are already mumbling before the USA flag has been wedged into your mouth? I like that you are getting ready for your trip down Roosevelt Ave so soon. I hope you are ready for some Arroz Chaufa con Pollo a la Brasa from La Casa del Pollo Peruano in Jackson Heights. The truth might be hidden, but your bare ass will not when it is being paraded around our neighborhoods. Idiot. We will have you dancing to Ricky Martin’s greatest hits soon enough.

    • Forget it. I’ll just send a check to the Cosmos to start a fund for her. Hopefully others in the Cosmos community will contribute. Disturbed people like this need our help and shame on us if we don’t help them. I’m happy to help her and help lift the community for good causes like this. She’ll reply to this again, knowing I can’t read it since she’s been blocked but, it’s obvious she can’t resist but to have the last word even though none of her words have any value. I’m busy in the working world contributing to society to go on this way with a disturbed individual. But this is the kind of person who turns to violence next so we must help her. Please contribute to the “Troubled Little Nicky Cosmo Fund” and help her establish something of real meaning in her life. Poor lil nicky, I feel bad for her. Raised without a solid foundation and doesn’t know substance when she sees it. We all need to help this little girl find her way. And it’s too bad people like her ruin decent websites like this. Goodbye lil nicky, go have a purple popsicle.

  7. quitate la ropa, ahora, Man City Jr. Troll and put on the boys medium Wondo jersey like you were told. Get ready for your trip down Roosevelt Ave hog tied and when we are finished I have just decided that I am also taking you on a stroll down Metropolitan Ave so we can hopefully bump into Don Luis himself. Get into the powder blue Man City Jr wheelbarrow right now, you flag waving Idiot. I recommend that you once again prepare yourself for the best souvlaki this side of Thessaloniki.

    • Sad news everyone, the Cosmos will not allow a fund to support little nicky and her pathetic disturbing behavior. the front office is well aware of little nicky and her unsavory attitude towards people she doesn’t even know, calling them names online and insulting anyone at the drop of a hat. In fact, the Community Relations department had nothing but horrible things to say about little nicky. Dee Kundra went so far as to say- “A pathetic little dweeb with no respect for others or for himself”. Another mentioned- “He is the perfect example of someone who doesn’t know how to function in real life so takes all of his frustrations out on the web.” Looks like even the team doesn’t like this particular supporter. Ah well, I suppose the little moolie will have to continue to live in grandma’s basement and furiously typing away on comments sections for the rest of her life. Sad but not surprising.

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