Before you start to read this piece I am going to ask you to do something. Close your eyes and picture an American Liverpool supporter.
You probably pictured someone holding a vuvuzela. Someone wearing a half-and-half scarf around their neck, changing which club they supported based on who was leading the game.
Most people stereotype American fans as the glory-hunting lot who cheer for whichever team is trending at the time. The type of fans who don’t understand the offside rule and complains when there isn’t a “goalfest” every game.
You may not be entirely wrong but there are always exceptions to the rule. One fantastic example of this was when Liverpool played United in Ann Arbor during preseason.
More than 100,000 people were in attendance to see Liverpool beat Manchester United 4-1. That’s right, 101,254 football fans in America paying to watch and support their favourite teams.
I, alongside one of my colleagues, was lucky enough to be there to cover the event. Liverpool supporters came from all over the country to see the Reds play in the country’s largest stadium and the game did not disappoint.
Klopp and the players were continuously asked what they thought about the support and the stadium and they all gave different variations of the same answer – “amazing.”
Six hours before kick-off at 11am, Liverpool supporters were already singing United supporters out of the local footy bar – Conor O’Neill’s. The streets of downtown Ann Arbor were crawling with supporters donning the famous Liverpool red as they drank before the game. As it got closer to 5pm, thousands of supporters marched towards “The Big House” singing and forcing nearby traffic to make way for a sea of red.
Tailgating fans in the parking lot crowded around Jamie Webster as he sang alongside Liverpool legends Ian Rush and Robbie Fowler.
— LFC Transfer Room (@LFCTransferRoom) July 28, 2018
Pre-season is a chance for youngsters to get first-team opportunities. It’s a time for regular starters to make short cameos and then be taken off. The “Big House” was packed with 100,000 American fans who paid for overpriced tickets just to watch United field Lee Grant and Liverpool play their academy lads.
Even Mourinho was quoted saying that he “wouldn’t pay to watch this.” American supporters showed up and paid a premium anyway because this is the only chance that many of them get to watch their beloved Reds in person. They sang and shouted at the top of their lungs.
As I spoke to supporters around the stadium, I learned many brought their children to their first game and some drove as long as 33 hours just to see Liverpool play. Still think Americans aren’t passionate about the sport?
Now, I’ll stop telling you the information you already know.
When I first joined Liverpool Twitter, I didn’t tell anyone I was American. It may seem silly but when you want to talk about football and have your opinions be respected, admitting you’re American is setting yourself up for mockery. As my following grew I started to tell people I was, in fact, American. This was met with mixed reactions – some open arms and some turned backs. Going to the local Official Liverpool Supporters Club (OLSC) for matches is probably one of the only places where I felt my passion and support for the club would not be questioned because of my place of birth.
Being American and supporting a club that is 3,900 miles away is not always easy. Watching matches means waking up early. Leaving work as quickly as possible and paying for cable subscriptions. There are also plenty of other hoops we have to jump through as well.
Being from the midwest, I don’t have it nearly as bad as those on the West Coast. For instance, when kickoff is at 12pm in Liverpool, I have to wake up at 5am so I can shower and drive to the pub to watch the match with the local OLSC. To make things worse, the West Coast is two hours behind me and they would have to wake up at 3am to do the same task, which thousands do every weekend.
When I say I support Liverpool, I don’t mean that I like them. I mean that I actively support the club. I spend my money on kits, gear and even help run a very respected Liverpool news blog. I don’t just tune in to watch the matches when we are battering the bitters, much like I didn’t jump ship when we were a midtable team in the late 2000s.
I may be an American but that does not make me any less of a Red. Much like in the UK and around the globe, there are glory hunters and those that have negative opinions about the game, but there are passionate supporters as well.
The supporters at Ann Arbor travelled from all across the country, paid for hotels and transportation to watch Liverpool play. Something many supporters in the UK take for granted.
Now, I’m not saying us Americans deserve to be seen as the greatest supporters in the world, just that we are much more than the typical stereotype. When supporting a club it shouldn’t matter where you were born but rather how you became a supporter and what the club means to you.
Now, close your eyes and think of an American “soccer” fan. What do you see?