Despite these types of troll-y click-bait articles being a dime a dozen each and every World Cup cycle, Jeff Winkler’s piece in the Guardian, “‘Soccer’ is a virus invading America,” deserves special condemnation for how off the mark it is despite its boilerplate ‘ironic not ironic’ facade.
This is the kind of trope, built largely on out of date and uniformed class and race-based assumptions, which not only omits and obfuscates the narratives of millions of soccer fans in the United States, but also mischaracterizes the composition of the country more largely.
Seemingly gaining his soccer expertise from a visit to two bars in Austin, TX and a close reading of the New York Times Style Section, Winkler’s missive lambasts the “privileged, cultured followers who’d rather tweet their team’s score than cheer ’em on” in the US while pining for the violence, passion, and “bloodlust of the disenfranchised masses.”
Perhaps the most cringe-worthy element in his piece is the awkward conflation of culture with privilege and whiteness, as if all three uniformly went together.
Rather than the country’s fans having a problem, maybe Winkler just needs to get out more?
While I haven’t witnessed the fantasy “bloodlust” and violence Winkler hopes for (but would then be the first one to write an op-ed against) in the last two weeks watching matches alongside World Cup fans from a variety backgrounds all over New York City, I have seen incredible passion, support, camaraderie, and emotional ranges.
Indeed, my experiences are exactly the opposite of Winkler’s conclusions on fandom in the United States. And while New York City is unique in its diversity and amount of foreign born residents, this kind of support is not unique to the city.
Critically, Winkler also doesn’t grasp the key point that many die hard, intergenerational soccer fans in the US support other counties beyond the US National team.
Photographer Douglas Zimmerman has been traveling around the US during the World Cup shooting the diversity of the country’s fan culture and further illustrating this. He has showcased Korea and Mexico fans in LA, Bosnia fans in St. Louis, and Chile fans in Denver, among others.
For the USA-Germany match tomorrow there will be a massive viewing party in the middle of downtown Detroit at noon on a work day; in a workers’ city that is 83% black and also has substantial Arab and Mexican communities. You can bet that the faces in the crowd will reflect this, rather than being the “urban, wine-sipping bourgeoisie …of supposedly Euro-centric civility” fans that he mischaracterizes as the sport’s sole passive supporters in the United States.