Quick Kicks: Favorite Euro Side
With most of the clubs and leagues we follow in the off season, we decided to do something fun for this week’s Quick Kicks. We asked each of our writers to talk about their favorite Euro club. This is what we got back!
Dan has asked us all this week to write about our favorite Euro teams, but since my favorite team is in Japan, I will write about that team instead. I first visted the Big Arch to watch Sanfrecce Hiroshima grind out a 1-0 home victory over Sagan Tosu (now famous as the home of the soon-to-retire Spanish superstar Fernando Torres) on August 3, 2008. I had come seeking a taste of something familiar after arriving in Japan only weeks earlier on a one-year JET Programme teaching contract.
Sanfrecce's name (pronounced san-freh-chay) is a portmanteau of two words: san (meaning three in Japanese) and frecce (meaning arrow in Italian), a reference to a local legend of an old feudal leader who demonstrated to his three sons that individually, an arrow is weak and can be snapped easily, but in a group of three, the arrows cannot be broken. The team's main color is also shocking violet, so what is there not to like?
Traumatized by a relegation playoff defeat to Kyoto Sanga in the 2007 season which sent them through the J1 trapdoor into J2, but buoyed by their unlikely victory as a J2 side in the season-opening Japanese Super Cup against J1 champions Kashima Antlers, Sanfrecce went on to storm J2 in 2008, almost setting records for most goals and most points and finishing 22 points clear at the top of the table. 2009 was even better, as Sanfrecce finished fourth in J1 and secured a spot in the AFC Champions League for 2010, Hiroshima's first continental berth since the founding of the J League in 1992 (Mazda SC, Sanfrecce's predecessor company team, had qualified for Asian competition in the past).
In the two years I spent in Japan I missed only a handful of Sanfrecce's home games, but I have struggled at times to keep up with them in the years since, given the J League's famously poor management of overseas broadcast rights. I was able to catch only snippets of Sanfrecce's 2012, 2013, and 2015 J League titles, but still cheered them from afar. Now that the likes of Andres Iniesta, Fernando Torres, and David Villa are playing in the J League, international attention is increasing. Hopefully, that will lead to a commensurate increase in the number of games available (currently the rights holder in the U.S. is DAZN, an online broadcaster more interested in boxing and MMA that transmits a pathetic handful of games per week, and almost never Sanfrecce). I am certainly enjoying trying to catch as much game time as I can of my Purple Archers of Sanfrecce Hiroshima as they try to capture their fourth J League title after finishing 2nd in 2018.
Newcastle United Football Club
Oh! Me lads, ye shud a’ seen w’us gannin,
Passin’ the folks alang the road just as they were stannin’.
Aal the’ lads and lasses there, aal wi’ smilin’ faces,
Gannin’ alang the Scotswood Road to see the Blaydon Races.
The above lyric come from the Geordie folksong, The Blaydon Races, written by George “Geordie” Ridley, and is the anthem sung from the rafters at St James’ Park in Newcastle upon Tyne. Those Geordies, the people of Newcastle and surrounding area, have been supporting a football club since the first recorded match in the toon in 1877. The modern-day club itself, Newcastle United, is true to its name and is the result of multiple area sides having become absorbed by the club as time marched on. Despite 15 years or so of backstory, Newcastle United was officially formed in 1891 and has now nearly 130 years of legacy which cannot be done justice in this piece—suffice to say names like Jackie Milburn, Malcom “Supermac” Macdonald, Kevin Keegan, and Sir Bobby Robson are cemented as the club’s foundation. For me though, it was Sir Les Ferdinand and the incomparable Alan Shearer who caught my eyes and captured my heart.
My Newcastle story goes like this; my dad’s good friend was a windsurf designer and was on a trip to the Northeast of England in the early 1980’s, when he came back to California, he handed me a tee shirt with an anthropomorphic magpie name Monty on it wearing a bow tie, three piece suit and a striped top-hat. It was cute and I wore it a few times—hardly enough to make a kid a fan, but the seeds were sewn. Fast-forward a decade, to my senior year in High School and the first year that I was able to actually catch English soccer on television and in the Newspapers. There was a flashy competitor in the league, not wearing red or blue, but in some oddly familiar black and white stripes—it was Newcastle United’s “Entertainers” made up of Faustino Asprilla, David Ginola, Darren Peacock, Warren Barton, Peter Beardsley, Lee Clark, David Batty, the amazing Les Ferdinand and they were all managed by Kevin Keegan. They would later add my favorite player of all time, Alan Shearer, for a then world-record transfer fee of 15 million pounds.
We now think of Newcastle United as a yo-yo club; as a side always in danger of promotion but that wasn’t always the case. Once upon a time the Mags would splash the cash and were a top of the table competitor. This is difficult to accomplish in today’s premier league, with the big clubs spending more cash than makes any reasonable sense. I’ve seen Newcastle relegated twice in the past few years and then bounce back up again and every year I prepare myself for a mental battle—to enjoy the matches we manage to win and to not be discouraged by the losses to teams which spend three times as much in the transfer market. The whole process takes so much out of me emotionally, it’s no surprise that I enjoy grassroots American soccer as much as I do—its largely carefree and without relegation, there’s nothing to lose by simply enjoying a nice summer night out. However, until that time comes again, you’ll find me listening to BBC Radio broadcasts of Newcastle United and in the social media fan-groups lamenting our losses or celebrating our well-earned victories. Howay the Lads.
Watched a lot of Manchester United when I first got into soccer, mostly because in the early 2000s, that was the only club that got much TV coverage. Now you can see any match, any where, any level, but then it was Saturday morning and what was Fox showing. Mostly Manchester United. But my fandom of the Red Devils has died down pretty much, until one of the Liverpool fans on staff starts up with their bullshit. So I chose the club who got me into Bundesliga, Dortmund.
I cannot ignore the role Christian Pulisic played in bringing my attention to the club. Prior to his involvement with Dortmund, I knew very little about Bundesliga aside from Bayern. And what I knew of Bayern was all Champions League. Bundesliga seemed like three steps beyond EPL in how foreign it was, so for the most part I ignored the league. It had a near name, but beyond that, I didn’t know much about it.
Enter Christian Pulisic.
Pulisic is the great hope for USMNT fans (including myself) and getting to watch him play professionally in a world-class league and PLAY WELL was amazing. We have seen so many Americans “go to Europe” only to suck and underperform. Pulisic made defenders look stupid and, until his injury in his final season (and the rise of Jadon Sancho), he did not but impress. His leadership, his play, his ability to learn German, his connection with the crowd - he did everything they wanted and more. And even in his departure to Chelsea, he was nothing but class.
With his exit, will I continue to support the yellow and black? Hells yes. They run their club the right way a mid-level European club should. They buy up and coming players, develop them, pass them on to bigger clubs. But unlike so many other clubs that go through this process, they continue to be competitive in the Bundesliga. Sure Bayern Munich will always be the favorite, but every year Dortmund puts some fear in the European giants that this will finally be Dortmund’s year.
Being a Liverpool supporter, you’d think it would be taboo to follow a club nicknamed the Red Devils. No, I’m not talking about Manchester United. I’m talking about 1. FC Kaiserslautern of 3. Liga in Germany.
When I first got into soccer, I was a one club man. I lived and breathed anything Liverpool FC and abhorred United, Everton and all other clubs. My love of the Reds became an obsession and knew I had to make my way to Anfield one day before I died. However, I knew it was going to be costly and it wasn’t something easily attainable.
Fast forward to 2011. I was serving in the US Air Force and had recently graduated from its weather technician training school (yes, I know, it’s just a fancy title for a meteorologist). My next duty station was a dream location for me, Germany. I say that because having German heritage meant I could live in my ancestral homeland and walk the same paths they did. It never once crossed my mind that attending Bundesliga matches was an option. I had to focus on other things for the time being, as I had my family heading over with me. To say it was a hassle would be doing it a disservice.
Once I had the family settled in, I made my first trip to my squadron. On my way to base, I saw a beautiful stadium. Obviously not knowing the area and not doing any research prior, I had no clue whose stadium it was. So I asked my sponsor (helped get us into temporary lodging and whatnot and he told me it was the Fritz-Walter Stadion, the home of 1. FC Kaiserslautern of the Bundesliga.
Like I said before, Bundesliga matches weren’t even remotely on my mind. But, after being told that, I knew I had to make it to a match.
Two weeks later, I got the opportunity, with FCK playing a home match for the first time in almost a month. I found the tickets were cheap and the atmosphere outside the stadium electric. That electricity carried over into the stadium, as the supporters section (Westkurve) was bouncing and singing their heads off. I found my seat among the supporters but didn’t know what to expect. The man to my left looked at me and said something in German but I couldn’t reply. Then, he asked if I was American. I told him yes and he jammed a beer into my hand and said “Wilkommen in Westkurve!”
As the buildup to the match continued, I found the supporters around me to be really welcoming and approachable. They kept feeding me beers and explained that even if I didn’t know the songs, I could just bounce and scream and yell the entire with them. So that’s exactly what I did. I ended up having the time of my life at the match, though I can’t remember much about it because the beer flowed so quickly.
Fast forward to today.
Sadly, I’ve not been able to experience that level of controlled pandemonium at a match since then. It really makes me miss Germany and standing in the Westkurve with all of the other FCK supporters. I have to make it a point to get back soon enough.
Supporting a club nicknamed the Red Devils should be a sin, but I’m fairly sure my fellow Liverpool supporters will forgive me for supporting these guys all the way down in 3. Liga.
As a website that caters to the lower leagues here in the United States, I feel it would be a mistake to not mention anything about the English Non-League levels.
These levels are filled with some of the hardest working players and most dedicated supporters I’ve ever met. The supporters show up early and volunteer on match days in the concession stands or the club store. They stay late to ensure everything has been properly cleaned up and count the day’s take. They also show up and help fix up the stadium when it’s needed and do damn near everything for the club, in general.
Most of these clubs have supporters’ trusts that help run the club. It keeps the community connected in a day and age where the big clubs continue to grow larger and more out of touch with the common fan. It also shows a commitment from the club to stay in the local community and work with them.
My introduction to Non-League soccer was through FC United of Manchester and Marine FC. Both clubs were very open to helping me understand the convoluted paths through the Non-League ranks (seriously, go check them out.) Obviously being a Liverpool supporter meant I would look throughout the local area. That’s when I found Marine FC and Cammell Lairds1907. Both clubs are local to Liverpool and keep the community connection very strong.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s frustrating not being able to watch their games or having to wait until after the match before I see the results. At the same time, it’s also a thrill. I’ve never had more fun interacting with all of the Non-League clubs on Twitter, but Marine and the Lairds will always hold a special place in my heart. I hope they both kick on and get promoted this season, but if they don’t, I’ll still be proud of what they accomplish.
I highly suggest people pay more attention to Non-League clubs and get involved. It would mean the world to them and would give you a renewed faith in the sport. Don’t take my word for it, seriously check the games out. They’ve already kick off their season but they’re only about 2-3 matches in, so there’s plenty of time left to check any of the lower clubs and begin following them.
The only thing I love more than watching/playing football is writing about football. The passion that once was expressed through my boots is now channeled through words. Not to often am I asked why I love the club I follow or how I became a fan. They see me wear the shirt and decide their own narrative.
For me – my club is Real Madrid, and this is my favorite story to tell. I am Spanish-American as my mother was born in Madrid, where my family still resides. The decision was made very early on that I would wear the crest of Real Madrid as I grew up in the U.S., sporting the kits of Los Blancos and listening to stories told by my nana of the Madrid she knew. She told the stories with such poetry, it was as if I was experiencing them with my own eyes.
She would sit by the radio in their tiny kitchen alongside her father as the announcer voiced each action at Chamartin, holding on to every word till the final whistle. After Chamartin, came Estadio Santiago Bernabeu where the great Alfredo Di Stefano graced the football world by becoming the best footballer of all time.
What the Santiago Bernabeu means to me is what Chamartin meant to my nana. Although I would have loved the opportunity to stand at Chamartin watching the club I love just as I have in the Bernabeu. I will never forget the very moment I was standing outside the Bernabeu just before my family joined me on a private tour of the stadium. The stillness throughout the stadium was breathtaking and the only way my body was able to process the magnitude of emotion was to fill my eyes with tears. It was the most beautiful sight my eyes had ever seen.
I have witnessed the roars inside the Bernabeu during El Clasico, I have watched the streets come to life for Champions League. I have celebrated La Cibeles after La Liga and Copa del Rey. I have listened to stories of Bernabeu the player, Di Stefano, Benito and Chus Alonso. I have watched Iker Casillas become the greatest keeper to wear this crest, seen Luis Figo, Cannavaro, Guti, and Hierro, was mesmerized by Raul and watched in heartbreak as Cristiano moved to Serie A.
One thing I know is true, players will come and go wearing this crest but the love I feel for the crest itself will never leave. I was brought up a Madridista and the passion will always outlast stadiums, kit sponsors, managers and players. Hala Madrid y nada mas