Away Days: America in Europe

Words and Photos by Nathen McVittie, from USA vs Czech Republic in Prague.

After the World Cup dust has settled, soccer continues.

International teams take to friendly matches to tune up ahead of competitive fixtures or to test the youth of tomorrow.

Their fans turn up, from near and far, to pay respect to old heroes or to catch a glimpse of heroes-to-be.

This past week, close to a thousand American fans took the plunge and traveled to Central Europe from all over the world in order to witness the continued evolution of an emerging power.

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Welcome Home

As another summer winds to a close, club football returns to English cities and towns. And while much of what makes that significant happens on the pitch, the signs of the beautiful game’s return can be seen even more poignantly in the elements that surround the match.

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Seattle, you are something else in American Soccer

You know what’s a good problem to have? Not being able to tell which is more entertaining: your fans or your team. Seattle hosted its first World Cup qualifier for US Soccer in 37 years, and it was one to remember.

Under the leadership of Jürgen Klinsmann, the U.S. played with a new confidence and cruised to a 2-0 win, leaving them in a perfect position for 2014. Under the leadership of the American Outlaws (and Seattle’s finest fans), over 40,000 cheered on the Stars & Stripes. KICKTV captured the match in its latest dispatch of "The Hex" series, and the scenes were truly unbelievable. It does feel like this American revolution is on the brink of becoming something special in the world of football.

Lisbon in flames / A Chama Imensa

This is a new one for us. A few nights ago, a leader of Benfica’s ultras dropped us an email. The Benfica Ultras are these guys, as a reminder. Benfica’s road to Amsterdam, the home of this year’s Europa League Final, continues in Turkey tonight against Fenerbahce, home to some of the most passionate and devoted fans in the world.

Here’s part of what was sent our way:Dear AFR, as you probably know, this can be a dream season for all Benfica fans. Benfica is much more than a club, it’s a religion and being an “Benfiquista” it’s a feeling that can’t be explained.

Being a “Benfiquista” is to have a huge flame in your soul. Benfica is that and much more and that is why it is said “Benfiquistas” have inside them the “Huge Flame” - Chama Imensa (in Portuguese). That brings me to the reason why i’m writing you this message. That is the name an unofficial motivation video fully designed, filmed and edited by members and supporters of Sport Lisboa e Benfica. 

It was filmed anonymously throughout Lisbon.”

Benfica are in flying form this year; unbeaten on a domestic level, with their 12th man always being behind Jorge Jesus’ side. Tonight they will be outnumbered and outsung, but despite the minority, we’ll see if Benfica’s flame will stay lit in one of Europe’s most intimidating environments. Eles acreditam. [Posted by Eric and Dom]

Fans as family, not customers, and the rise of Dortmund

By Anthony Lopopolo

They’re made of steely stuff, these people, and a few stories in the tabloids and the press didn’t do much to break their nerves. After all, Dortmund almost went bankrupt in 2005, and even when they lost so much – millions of dollars, sponsorships and players – the fans never died down. That’s not their way. No fewer than 70,000 attended the matches following that close encounter with the death penalty, and now, sometimes for as little as €11 per ticket, they can watch a team that’s looking destined for Wembley and has a chance to win a second Champions League title.

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MLS x Futbol Artist Network

With Major League Soccer returning in about two weeks, the league collaborated with our friends at the Futbol Artist Network, using the anticipation from fans to garner a fair share of creativity. The result was a piece of art for each club in MLS, designed by fans for their respective communities. While we posted the best designs (in our opinion) above, you can check out the whole collection with information about the artists and their pieces here. [Posted by Eric]

Every passing tournament brings a new kind of coverage.

I don’t know about you, but for me last night was not pretty. Striving for more football to sustain my Euro 2012 fix, I resorted to Beach Football, followed by futsal. Obviously, it just wasn’t the same. Actually, it got ugly. I know the (Beckham-less) Olympics will be here soon, but after Spain lifted yet another trophy I couldn’t help but look back on just how fantastic Euro 2012 was.

But beyond the drama on the pitch, it’s always fascinating to see how coverage on the internet progresses every time a major tournament comes around. In 2010, Twitter and Tumblr took to the World Cup. While both were still in full force, something refreshing popped up on YouTube: KickTV. Only a few months old, KickTV has been something that transcends the type of coverage found on ESPN and the BBC. It’s more intimate and interactive, and the ridiculous amount of all-access, yet fan-centric content is refreshing.

One of KickTV’s main presenters, the easy-going Jimmy Conrad (former United States Men’s National Team player and MLS All-Star), went to Poland and Ukraine to cover the tournament and take in “his first major sporting event as a fan.” The video posted above is a “Best Of” of his right of passage into fandom in Eastern Europe, which is unlike any coverage of a sporting event I’ve seen. I’m predicting big things for KickTV as they continue to grow, and I’ve subscribed to their channel to go along for the ride. [Posted by EB]

The Fields of Athenry por ftw1905

You’ll never beat the Irish spirit.

Ireland needed a result to prevent themselves from being knocked out of Euro 2012, but Spain were Spain, the best team in the world. Losing 4-0 in the dying minutes of the match, the 25,000 traveling Irish fans did the unthinkable. This was a time for despair. This was a time for utter misery. After all, the Irish were about to ensure that they would not progress beyond the tournament’s group stage.

But the Irish fans did not succumb to such negativity. Instead, they bursted into singing The Fields of Athenry, an old Irish folk song about maintaining dignity and hope when you have nothing else left. The Spanish or the Germans may win Euro 2012, but the Irish will leave this tournament with all the respect in the world. [posted by EB]

100,000 Poland fans react to the first goal of Euro 2012.

Robert Lewandowski (aka The Big Lewandowski) is the man who wrote his name in the history books with the first goal of Euro 2012, not to mention a 1-0 lead over Greece. And what a splendid finish it was. The atmosphere in the National Stadium was immense, but it couldn’t compare to the 100,000+ Poland fans who filled the Warsaw fan zone and went absolutely crazy. Greece would come back to make the scoreline 1-1, but the magic of the European Championship has officially arrived. [posted by EB]

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