A bit long, but this has been quite a process over the last month. Credit to Ryan for inspiring me to write about it!
Growing up in Peru, my first exposure to sports was the passionate South American version of football, which was played at every opportunity - men played during breaks in the workday and even between church services; boys played in the streets and in dusty playgrounds and parks; girls mostly stood on the sidelines. I played as often as the boys would let me, though, and upon moving back to the States in middle school played frequently and fearlessly in youth groups. Admittedly I had no particular skill or training but I loved the game.
I've followed Premier League football for a while now, though without a team to call my own, and have talked about finding a team for a few years. When this World Cup came around I decided it was finally time to take the plunge - watching and listening to the first set of group stage games while I worked my office job reminded me of all the things I loved about football as a kid. The passion, the sportsmanship, the sudden breaks down the sideline, the footwork and the dramatic headers, the tension of a good defensive play or a beautifully executed set piece.
So then the question became, which team to follow?
I wanted a competitive team, but not a super-wealthy one that bought all its talent instead of developing it; a team with an exciting style of play, but that relied on teamwork and good fundamentals instead of one star; a team with a long history and a healthy fan base, but not the most popular one.
My brother follows Crystal Palace and one of my oldest friends (who played football with me in high school - sorry for all the accidental shin kicks!) follows Tottenham Hotspurs. I wanted to be able to banter and compare teams during the season, so those two were out.
A few years back I casually kept up with Man U because news on them was easily accessible, but as a long-term team I don't want to follow the equivalent of the Yankees. That also puts Arsenal and Chelsea out. I turned to Wikipedia to research history, play styles, and standings.
Man City was briefly considered, but on reading about them I discovered they had been bought in 2008 and are now one of the wealthiest teams in the EPL - no thanks. Liverpool was right out because of Suarez. I'm not interested in clubs that don't stand up for sportsmanship (and this was before Suarez struck again during the match with Italy). Stoke, Swansea, Hull, and Newcastle have made it up from the Football League recently, but I was looking for a team with staying power. Then I came to Everton.
Everton's style of play, focusing on attacking and possession, immediately impressed me. The club's history and consistent presence in the Premier League, the focus on signing players who will perform long-term, and the terrific home and away support from the fans were all in Everton's favor, including Stateside fan clubs - and the motto "Nothing but the best is good enough" spoke directly to me. Also, what's not to love about a team with a sense of humor? I joked to my brother that I couldn't not love a team called the Toffees, with a fan club called FOREVERTON, but by that time I had realized that Everton is where I belong.
In the last week and a half I've dived in and seen the response from established Evertonians. Without exception, Blues have been welcoming to me and to all the other US fans who have joined up. Even in the avalanche after the USA-BEL game, I've seen no gatekeeping or disdain for new fans, only open arms. This season promises to be an exciting one and I'm thrilled to be along for the ride.
I'm lucky enough to have been born an Evertonian. COYB! Iris.
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