My parents never allowed me and my brother to have gaming systems, but they were early adopters of personal computers. Why there was a distinction between playing a video game on a Sega and playing a video game on a PC, I’ll never know. Naturally, when my brother and I got FIFA ’98, we spent hours playing it. It was a fantastic introduction to the wider world of soccer (and to Blur).
My favorite team to play with was Chelsea. The forward pairing of Gianfranco Zola and Gianluca Vialli sounded so exotic coming from John Motson. It also helped that, at that time, Chelsea was a team that was good, but not too good. I loved teams that were capable of brilliance, but could have heroic defeats. For example, I loved the Laudrup brothers and Denmark at France ’98, especially their glorious defeat by Brazil in the quarter finals. With Michael Laudrup retiring, and Brian Laudrup moving to Chelsea that summer, I was even more intrigued by this team that played 5,000 miles away.
The 1998-1999 EPL season was the first I was able to follow as my best friend and I watched the English Premier League Show hosted by Lionel Bienvenu every Sunday night. It was thus that the EPL sorting hat selected me as a Chelsea supporter. Ironically, Brian Laudrup, the player that cemented my allegiance to Chelsea, had an underwhelming year at Chelsea and left after just one season.
American soccer fans are in a unique position in that we are not limited by geography in our selection of our favorite (overseas) soccer team. I’ve found that usually it’s a certain player that is the deciding factor. My dad, never a big soccer fan, will occasionally ask me how Middlesbrough are doing based on a spectacular Mark Schwarzer performance he saw on the old Fox highlight show; my best friend loved the silky skills of Denis Bergkamp and still follows Arsenal; another friend who is from Staines is, naturally, a Manchester United fan after watching a young David Beckham’s long range lob against Wimbledon. For others it’s a case of liking a team’s colors, or their historical association with different social groups. It’s fantastically interesting to me, and I’d love to hear any stories you may have of how the EPL sorting hat selected you for your team.