Living for the City
by Chris Burton
6 year old me got a soccer ball from my uncle in ’94 and I kicked it for years. Cousins and friends would have one on one matches where gears were constantly switching between offense and defense. Competition was fierce.
We kicked that ball into oblivion.
Didn’t give much thought to soccer over the years. My first love was #gettingbuckets and when I wasn’t on the court I was playing American football, baseball or practicing my sharpshooter.
I remember when I was in middle school, soccer came back into my mindset. The Reggae Boyz were poised to make noise in the World Cup (unfortunately more likkle than tallawah) and my gym teacher gave me props for my dribbling. Playing soccer, even though I called it soccer, made me feel in touch with something. Every game felt like deja vu but I couldn’t call it. I had not been there before.
I spent several weeks with my father in ’03. It was great to be in Jamaica again and being there took me completely out of my comfort zone with sports. No one in Portland was tryna play basketball, football (as my father was quick to correct…maybe adding a “real” before football) was the game of the land. In the multiverse of sports I had found the other West 4th. This cage was an open field where men gathered for pick up. The competition was nothing to ramp with.
My introduction to Davidson College came from African brothers who hosted me. Brothers from Ghana, Botswana and Ethiopia showed me hospitality and we played FIFA and tried to watch Premier League on a laptop. In college I continued the practice of caring about soccer a whole lot when the World Cup came around and then pretty much forgetting about it for three years.
I continued to dabble. From showing up in Little Brazil with my homemade vuvuzela to combing through websites with hopes of finding a fly jersey (Shouts to the Czech national team joint I bought in Prague). My fortunes would change going into the 2014 World Cup. I had begun watching Premier League on Saturday mornings when my beloved went to work. (True story: Whenever I watch soccer now I immediately smell pancakes.) It was refreshing to watch a sport simply for the aesthetics. I had no team to ride with so I was not tripping off every win or loss. Games were there for my pure enjoyment.
But I’m a sucker for story. My instincts taught me not to rock with Manchester United. I had already denounced a team from my youth (who I will be lowkey supporting this weekend!), the Dallas Cowboys. Living in a world where one is a Yankees AND Cowboys fan is just unacceptable. I had to choose and Jerry had to go.
I really love the color blue so on a visceral level I felt a connection to Everton. (Riding with Chelsea made me feel like a poseur for some reason, iono.) My man Tim Howard playing keeper had me intrigued so I paid extra attention whenever they were on.
Part of me wanted to find a squad that was really trash so no one could accuse me of bandwagon riding.
But nah. I’m a diehard Knicks fan and a Jets sympathizer, I’ve got enough heartache in my sports life.
Conversations with my Dad have always been choppy. I think in my mind we had to talk about feelings, reconciliation or other parental things (whatever those are). He isn’t really bout that life. And rather than pulling teeth I realized we’d do best to just talk as men. We share an unreasonable love for music and sports so that’s where we set up shop. And as much as I love the New York Knicks, my father had fallen in love with Manchester City.
He talked about the grief he’d gotten from friends as they suspected that he was a waggonist which he vehemently denied. No matter. I found hope in MCFC as common ground for my father and I so City found a new fan.
It was not love at first sight. I found myself looking at Manchester City games in the same way I look at college sports. I did not want to merely cheer for the team. I wanted to know the players, appreciate what they bring to the game. I needed reasons to care about each match. Premier League is a party that has been going on long before I got interested. And as I’d experienced whenever entering a new niche, it was important for me to feel like I was a part of the story. I wasn’t tryna dabble in cultural tourism, I was here to stay.
As it is MCFC and I came together at a good time in my life. My beloved Knicks are straight biodegradable, I’m getting ready to move back up top where I’ll be able to watch Man City’s farm team (I kid, I kid), and I’m a few weeks away from knowing whether my beloved and I are having a boy or a girl. People don’t believe me but I really don’t have a preference. I’m just looking forward to the little fella/little lady sitting on my lap Saturday mornings and carrying on tradition.