Inside the Brain of a Teenage Soccer Genius

Essays, Player Reviews, Scouting Reports, Events, Match Reviews, Statistics and Things of no Importance

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Small Club, Big Heart

In Pictures: The Little Moments That Make Our Club Special

Dedicated support of a small football club is no easy task. It takes dedication, it takes commitment and it requires you to pour your heart and soul into a group of players that are practically strangers for four months and hope and pray for all of you that the season ends on a high note. Why undergo this stressful operation year in, year out? Because in those short, chaotic and emotional four months, some of the best moments the beautiful game has to offer are born.

I have always given it my all when it came to supporting my football clubs. I'm a die-hard Liverpool supporter (their 2007/2008 UEFA Champions League loss to Chelsea threw my seventh-grade self into a state of depression that lead my parents to consider medical attention), I love my Seattle club the Sounders, FC Basel game days are spent pacing the house and biting my nails, and poor results from any of my clubs set me up for disastrous afternoons and sleepless nights. Why I persevere and maintain this level of emotional involvement, I have no flipping idea. I was unable to put words to my dedication to the game or even make sense of it myself until I started supporting my local club the Kitsap Pumas in 2010. There is something to be said about having a personal connection with the people on the pitch. Not only do scrappy and poorly officiated games turn into terrifying periods of slide-tackle-roulette and injuries to players on your roster bring you to tears, but their looks of defeat after a tough match make your heart sink and stomach knot.
With that being said, let me inform you of all of the outstanding benefits of supporting a small club. The relationships you build with players are one-of-a-kind. Teammates and fans have special bonds, but the relationship between players and their fans is truly unique. It is brimming with gratitude and admiration and a dedication you can't find anywhere else. We know and understand that we need each other, and with small clubs with little money, this need is even greater. Players in the lower leagues make very little money and are often only in it for the love of the game. The benefits aren't great, the living conditions can be iffy, the schedule is intense and taxing on your body and your social life... the game can consume you. It's a sacrifice. Fans of lower league teams have it much better than the players. Tickets are less of a chunk out of our paychecks, we can easily travel to away games since the leagues are broken down into regions, we get to meet and form relationships with our heroes on the pitch and we have a bunch of guys who are totally committed to us (under contract)! Awesome. Because us fans have it so easy and our players... not so much, it is our responsibility to make them feel as appreciated as they are.
Beautiful Moment: Our Community
A picture is worth a thousand words but explanations never hurt. Here are our dedicated Kitsap Puma fans lovingly preparing some delicious food to feed not one but TWO soccer teams (anyone who has ever lived with a soccer player in his early 20s knows how many calories that requires). The community that forms around these little teams can either be comprised of the drunk buddies of someone on the team plus a few soccer moms and dads or it can be comprised of the most dedicated people in the fan culture. These people are among the second category of small-club fans. I hear it every season from the players that have lived with us and the ones who trust me as a friend- these fans are amazing. I hope they realize that. It makes my heart sing to see the love that is put into this event we have held for a few seasons now (as well as the one post-season) and it is endearing to see the players interact with the fans (especially the wee little ones).

When your games are held at small venues like a high school stadium where the only thing separating the players from the fans is a track, interaction between the two is much more open. Friends and families want to come and see their players after the games and future soccer stars love to get up close with their role models to have a photo taken, their jerseys signed or to excitedly ask them about being a pro player.
Beautiful Moment: Player-Fan Interaction
From this supportive community and rare relationship between players and fans, Kodak moments are formed for certain. There are few words to describe these moments aside from "awww". These moments can really only be absorbed in real time, so get your a$$ out to a game. 

Small children aren't the only ones who love their players. The boys are great to all of the grownup fans as well! 
With all of the collective hours we spend following our boys around from venue to venue in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, us fans develop great relationships with each other as well as with the players. I can't even begin to describe how much the bonds I have formed with fellow fans mean to me; they're like my family. 
Beautiful Moment: Fan Groups! 
Over the years I have gone near and far with these awesome groups of people. Victoria and Portland with the admirably committed Ian and Allison (pictured below at our 2010 end-of-season picnic), pre-season friendlies with friends and family members of the boys, and rushing the field during playoffs are all memories that will be stored in a very special place in my heart for the rest of my life.

Beautiful Moment: Your Victories are Our Victories
A picture is worth a thousand words, so here's four pictures...

When players and fans are not separated by security guards and concrete walls and clubs are a community, not a franchise, some of the hidden beauties of the game effortlessly occur. Being a part of one of these tight-knit communities is an experience you'll never forget, so get out there and support your local club, especially if it's the Kitsap Pumas ;) 

1 comment:

Chris23 said...

Excellent article Madi!! You totally summed up everything what is so great about small club soccer. Sure it is fun to sit with 15,000 or 38,000 fans to cheer on the nearby local major pro team, however, those players do not know who any of the fans are - personally. It's one thing to sing and chant and cheer when there is a large crowd, but even more important to do that for your local small clubs. It is such a thrill that when a player's parents come from Oregon, Montana, Arkansas or Scotland, that the player takes the time to introduce their parents to you! Thanks for sharing your photos, words and love of your team, and our team, the Kitsap Pumas. Allez Pumas and Allez Madi!