Jersey Wars

Updated: Mar 15, 2019

With the US Women playing England this weekend in Nashville in the 2019 SheBelieves Cup, I want to say a word or two about, of all things, jerseys . . . what to wear, what not to wear. I do so not because I consider myself the fashion police and not because I’m an aesthete of any sort. I do so more because I want all of the US supporters to be on one page, as one team, with one common goal. Support.


I also do so because I want to save you from looking like “that guy.”


While the base of my concern is not unique by any means, I remember precisely the moment I realized just how important jerseys can be. In June 2014, I was attending US Soccer’s party in Nadal, Brazil, the night before the US Men squared off against Ghana in their opening game of the World Cup. The party had a great vibe when me and my buddy walked in. Flashing lights, pulsing music, tons of road weary (mostly young) people drinking beer and dancing. (Not young: me). As befitting such a night, most of the crowd were dressed in red, white and blue, predominantly in the jersey for that World Cup. About 30 minutes in, I noticed two pairs of guys—all wearing Seattle Sounders kits—see each other and happily began singing Sounders’ chants right in the middle of the rest of the party, as if they were greatly relieved to find their long lost brothers. While, as a casual Portland fan, I found it disruptive and irritating, a guy closer to me (ok, I did know him) was evidently pushed a little further over the edge, as I saw a beer can fly right in front of my face, eventually hitting one of the four Sounders’ fans. A brawl would have started if they could have found the guy who threw the can (I certainly didn’t tell when they asked me; neither did the guy who threw the can); as it was, there were simply loud accusations yelled at everyone standing near me. The one sure consequence was that the feeling of crowd unity was shot for the night.


A crowd of 47,622 watches the USMNT take on Panama at the 2017 Gold Cup. Ben Wright/Speedway Soccer.

When I reflect on this, I know that whoever threw the beer can was completely responsible for their own action. No one escapes responsibility for their own behavior. Nonetheless, I was angrier at the four Sounders fans than I was at anyone else. Even if everyone left them alone; even if no beer can was thrown and no words yelled; they had created division in that crowd. While I have absolutely no interest in making rules or in acting as if there is one uniform people need to wear, I do think there is a bit of common sense when it comes to supporting a team. More or less, it’s this: don’t create divisions when you don’t need to. If you are there to support the US Women, wear colors that indicate that you are there to do so. If you don’t have a jersey, don’t feel the need to show that you are an “authentic” soccer fan by wearing a jersey from your local USL squad, from your favorite MLS team, from your W-League favorite, from the Prem, from the Bundesliaga, etc. You’re there: we understand that you like soccer. You don’t need to show it that way.


Take this weekend: a lot of those of us supporting the US Women will go in together wearing the red, white and blue. Some will be wearing jerseys, some American Outlaw, and some just the colors. There will be a feeling of unity. The minute you see, as examples, an Arsenal jersey, a Sporting Kansas City scarf, a Perth Glory jacket, is the moment you begin to feel division. If that team is a rival of one of your favorites, your mind has moved from support to division. Don’t be that person who prompts that reaction.


Here is the simple rule: while it is ok if you are a neutral to wear whatever the hell you want (e.g., wearing a Manchester United jersey in a US friendly game between Chelsea and Liverpool), it is never ok to wear the jersey of a team from a different level of competition when you are not a neutral (e.g., it is NOT ok to wear an Arsenal jersey while supporting NSC vs. Tampa Bay). In the first case, while you may ruffle the feathers of a few Chelsea or Liverpool fans, you don’t care because don’t like either team, and you’re not there to support either team. In the latter case, you are supporting one team; your freaking need to show how “authentic” your support is for one team is creating divisions in the game you came to see.


Regardless of how much I (we) talk about this, you are always going to see “that guy” at every match. The one who just has to show that he loves West Ham or Portland or Atlanta so much that he has to wear that jersey to any soccer match (this only seems to happen in soccer fandom).


Don’t be that guy.


Several of my friends have a contest at games like the one we go to this weekend in which we count this type of jersey as a friendly contest to see which teams have the most numbskull fans. Please, don’t make me count you, and if you do, I beg you not to be wearing a Chelsea or NSC jersey. We are one team this weekend.


#USWNT #SheBelieves

NOTE

This article is an opinion piece. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Speedway Soccer as a whole.

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