Our family is soccer mad. My husband grew up in the UK, where soccer (or football, as it’s more commonly known) is the national pastime, and he carried his love of the sport halfway across the world when he moved to the Silicon Valley. I had always been mildly interested in soccer, especially when the FIFA World Cup rolls around once every four years, but that interest grew into a genuine passion after years of sitting beside Alfie on the couch as I read a magazine and he screamed at the television. I gradually started paying attention to the game being played, and now I scream much louder than he does.
Given Alfie’s roots, the league we follow most closely is the English Premier League (EPL), and it’s definitely a league worth following. The EPL boasts some of the the highest earning, and highest paying, clubs in the world — and those high salaries attract some of the best athletes on the planet. With so many competitive players and so many rabid dedicated fans, the EPL offers plenty of opportunities to enjoy the beautiful game.
Recently, though, we’ve been taking a cue from my friend Kimberly’s book and looking a bit closer to home to get our football fix. We’ve got a Major League Soccer (MLS) team — the San Jose Earthquakes — right in our back yard, so why watch a time-delayed tv broadcast from half a world away when you can watch exciting football played live, just a 20-minute drive away? We watched a couple of games back when they were known as the San Jose Clash, but found it just too difficult to sit through an entire game with three young kids in tow. Now that the kids are older (and football fans to boot), there’s no reason to stay away. We took our boys to their first Earthquakes game last year to see them play the EPL’s West Bromwich Albion, and we’ve been fans ever since.
The MLS season started last week, and we got to attend the Earthquake’s opening game against the New England Revolution. Their home turf, Buck Shaw Stadium in Santa Clara, is small enough to ensure that every seat has a great view, but big enough to boast luxuries like a state-of-the-art scoreboard and gourmet food trucks (I could do without the annoying cotton candy/lemonade vendors hawking their wares and blocking my view, but if that’s what it takes to get fans into the stands, so be it). At a capacity of 10,300, I’ll admit the atmosphere at Buck Shaw is a far cry from other stadiums I’ve been to, including Wembley (home of the England national football team, cap. 90,000), Stamford Bridge (home to Chelsea FC, cap. 41,000) or the Stanford Stadium (cap. 50,000). But it was filled with loud, cheering fans, including a rowdy dedicated group of diehards behind the goal, armed to the teeth with painted faces, giant flags, drums, smoke bombs, fireworks, and bawdy songs.
It was a marvelous game, and I’m not saying that just because the Earthquakes won, 1-0, or because the kids got a free signed mini football. Win or lose, it’s great to be in the midst of so many people cheering with the same fervor as you do, to be a part of the game in a way you could never be by watching it in the living room. The Earthquakes are an exciting, dynamic team. The MLS has been improving in quality and talent, year after year, with world-renkowned players like David Beckham, Robbie Keane, and Thierry Henri joining the ranks of MLS players and raising the standard of the game. The passion is there, and the numbers are growing. We still watch English Premier League games every weekend and we’ll continue to scream at the TV — but we’ll also be donning our Earthquakes shirts and caps for quite a few more games, and we’re hoping more soccer fans around Silicon Valley come join the party.
When Bonggamom isn’t blogging, you’ll find her driving her kids to and from soccer and dance classes, or cheering on her beloved Arsenal FC. Please do not attempt to contact her on weeks when Arsenal has lost a game, as she will be in mourning.