FEATURE: Capital City Blues – Supporting City in America

A new reality of supporting Manchester City is that the club’s support is going global. There are official supporter’s clubs all over the world which we know almost nothing about. America in particular is fertile ground for City fans, nowhere more than the Capital, Washington DC.

With that in mind, I had a long chat with Matthew Eide, Chairman of the Capital City Blues, about life, what it’s like supporting Manchester City (and football in general) in America, City soccer schools in America, and what he thinks of NYCFC…

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Hi Matthew, thanks for agreeing to answer a few questions. Lets start from the top: Why do you and your friends in the supporter’s group support Manchester City over other Premier League teams? 

Hi there Alex! My pleasure! Well, our members have varied stories as to why they follow City. There are a few folks that hail from Manchester, some have extended family in Manchester, many have other roundabout stories with trails that lead to Manchester City. Each one is an ardent supporter of The Citizens regardless of how they started following.

I personally, started following City fairly recently. By that I mean about 2009. When I say that, the next thing I usually hear is, “Oh. So you started following them after the money.” Timeline-wise, sure. They had just been purchased and had a massive influx of money. But that is not why I started following them. I honestly had no idea that was even “a thing” until I first proudly declared my allegiance for the first time!

When I was growing up in Minnesota, I had no idea football was something that extended beyond the schoolyard. It was a game kids played and that was it. When I moved out to DC in 2009, I attended a DC United match for the first time, and fell in love with the game, the atmosphere, the mystique of it all. Naturally, as I became friends with a lot of DC United faithful, I would be asked “Who do you follow in the Premier League? I had no idea! I was just getting into Major League Soccer!

I started watching as much PL football as I could. Every match I could find. Every team. I fell in love with the style of play that City put out there. There was a work rate that connected with me. They didn’t quit. They gave everything. As a fan of Minnesota-based US sports that have a history of failure with points of light here and there I had an unspoken brotherhood already with City fans that had been through the hardships of City’s existence. I started researching the history of City and how they have ALWAYS had a connection to not just the City of Manchester, but the people. They were the Everyman team. The blue collar, get the job done and don’t complain about it lot. Sure, every team can claim that ethos in some way or another (well, some can) but the amount of work that City does with community programs was (and still is!) fantastic! This endeared me to them, and I haven’t looked back since!

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Ha, I spent a match with the District Ultras and it was an eye opening experience. It was a surprise to me how the sport is the same but the way it is supported is so different from back home in the UK. It is interesting that everyone assumed you would have a Premier League team as standard, as if the idea of just supporting an MLS team alone was unheard of. What kind of reaction do you get in America when people find out you are a City fan? Obviously over here club support is based on over a century of local and community rivalries which don’t apply as much in America…

I…actually…I think I remember you! I am also a member of the District Ultras, and remember a bloke who was a bit taken aback by the supporters! D.C. United is a perfect example of how American Soccer has evolved in a different universe than that of the European leagues. We have so many Central and South American influences to our soccer support. Especially with with DCU. When D.C. United first began, the most ardent supporters were Bolivian and Salvadorian immigrants that were there to cheer Marco Etcheverry, Jaime Moreno, and Raul Diaz Arce players considered all-time DCU greats.

They formed supporters groups, sang in Spanish, and packed the section with drums and flags. As more and more Americans adopted MLS, they also adopted they chants and chanting style as well. I think that American support is a perfect example of how the US is a “melting pot”. Each group adds their own element to the mix.

I think the Premier League questions (or the assumption that I would have a club) speaks to how much Americans gobble up as much soccer as they can. I mean, folks follow all KINDS of leagues over here. Hell, I loosely follow Hereford United in the Conference Premier! But I also follow lower league US teams on top of following D.C. United in MLS. (Minnesota United FC (North American Soccer League [Lvl 2]), Ocean City FC (Ocean City, New Jersey [USL-PDL Lvl 4) I will say though, just because Americans follow and support European soccer leagues, does not mean they discount what MLS has to offer. US soccer fans absorb as much of the sport as they can! The league is only 19 years old! It is going through all types of growing pains. In a country that has the top leagues of so many other sports…it’s the little brother, and it has something to say! We love the sport and I dare say, are rightly obsessed with it!

The reactions from from Americans range from “Oh cool!” to “Oh, you’re a gloryhunter and follow the money, think you can buy a championship…blah blah”. Pretty basic stuff. You get used to it. Actually. The most frequent reaction I get…usually from those not in the know about soccer is this reaction “Manchester United?” I have to let out a laugh and explain the difference. I welcome the chance to spread the sky blue gospel, though

When I was in DC last year I went to your local bar, Lucky’s, to watch some football with my friends. I managed to miss the City game (The kick off was at 7am which is inhumane,) but the level of enthusiasm for the later Premier League games was enormous. People were drinking all morning, shouting at the screen and were just as knowledgeable as anyone back home. Is this normal or just small section of soccer obsessives? 

Ha! Yeah, the 7AM kickoffs are tough to make sometimes, but there are always a few that stumble in.

Lucky Bar is the absolute best soccer bar in Washington, DC. It is not up for debate. Paul, the owner, is a Cardiff boy and is head and shoulders above the rest. If there is a game on, he’ll find it for you.

What makes Washington,DC so great, is that it is such an international city. With so many embassies and people traveling here…there are ALWAYS soccer supporters from any number of countries looking to cheer on their home team. Lucky Bar usually delivers the goods! And god help you during World Cup Qualifying! The line is out the door! On the last day of the season last year, the bar was jammed with City, Arsenal, United, Chelsea, Southampton, West Brom, Tottenham, Sunderland…WIGAN…fans…It seemed that if you looked hard enough the entire Premiere League had a representative there! Every once in a while small patches of the bar would celebrate while the other lamented.

In terms of the support…I’d say that sounds like a pretty normal match day at Lucky! Officially, Lucky Bar is the home bar for us, The Capital City Blues and the Arsenal Supporter Club (DC Armoury). This relationship can get pretty heated at times, especially on head-to-head days but it remains pretty civil for the most part. Whenever this is mentioned to folks from across the pond, they are flabbergasted, (“How can you two be in the SAME BAR!?”) actually, that that is the reaction of ALL foreign supporters that come visit us. The strangest part of it all is that most of us are close friends and fellow RABID D.C. United supporters! We tear into each other in the morning, and link arms and sing that night! It’s a strange dichotomy.

North American supporters are very knowledgable and enthusiastic about the game! Why wouldn’t we be? It is a sport that has total control on our lives just like anywhere else in the world! I think what separates North American supporters from anywhere else in the world is a bit of a “We’re all in this together” sort of mentality. As you know, soccer’s not really to top sport in the US (though it is gaining in popularity with each year) so there is a bit of an “us vs them” mindset. We stick together. Sure, we hate each other–but we both hate the guy trying to turn the ONLY TV in the bar that is showing a soccer match to a snoozer of a college basketball game. In this same vein, it leads to strange interactions among supporters of teams here. MLS supporters of different teams regularly tailgate together. They share beers, sausages, talk and laugh together…it’s a sort of “I’ll hate you for 90+ minutes”, but let’s go get a pint after and chat about the game. This is always a bit of an oddity to overseas fans as well, but Americans LOVE tailgating and they’ll be damned if they’re going to let a little thing like a blood hatred get in the way of a good time. Obviously, there are rivalries in MLS that people take as seriously as any rivalry around the world, and those matches are not as “friendly”, but there are a few moments of camaraderie here and there.

NYCFC logo

With NYCFC kicking off next year are you and yours planning on making trips up the coast to New York or is your support a strictly Manchester City thing? I ask because Washington DC has it’s own football team – DC United – and this looks like a potential conflict of interests…

There are a few folks in the club that are debating following NYCFC for the City connection but I haven’t heard any solid allegiance proclaimed. I think the closest any of our members have come to supporting NYCFC is when James Milner tossed one of our boys a promotional t-shirt for NYCFC after the exhibition match against Chelsea in Yankee Stadium last year! I personally wish them all the best, but I hope they have all failures that life can provide! I’ll be traveling up to NYC to watch the matches, but I’ll be in the Away stands! I am a D.C. United supporter until I die, and then for a little bit after that.

Is there a disconnect in supporting a team who play thousands of miles away?

There is obviously some level of disconnect to a team that is so far away. Especially if you’ve never been to a match, but I don’t really let that bug me. With the amazing work that City does online, it is the easiest thing in the world to stay up to date with the club. Our Twitter account has followers from all over The US, The UK…The world! They share their opinions regularly on all levels of City. I don’t think it has ever been easier for fans of the club to connect with one another, and that has led to a wildfire of Official Clubs popping up all around the US. I regularly get requests to help set up clubs all over The States from interested folks! It goes without saying that unless you’re in the terraces every weekend, there is some disconnect as you can’t really get the full effect–but in time, everyone finds what connects them to the team in the first place–and it simply grows stronger with each season.

Also! We here in DC have an amazing set up. What with this being an international city, we’ve had events with The Embassies and other parties for match days, City Soccer in the Community just opened up and AMAZING pitch at an elementary school which we will be helping with in regards to officiating/volunteering, heck, I was lucky enough to discuss the City and their 2012 FA Cup run with His Excellency Al Mubarak at a business council breakfast while CEOs of some of the US’s largest countries looked on, totally confused as to why someone was talking soccer and not making deals with the man. I dare say we in DC have a connection with the club unlike anyone in the world!

khaldoon

I completely agree about City’s excellent online presence. It adds so much value to supporting the cub. I am also very jealous you got to meet Khaldoon! The City soccer schools all over America seem like a good thing for both the club and the children – How hard does the club push the blue propaganda at these places? 

I don’t think they push the “propaganda” that hard. Sure, they give the kids youth kits and all for the unveiling, and have banners up with the City Soccer logo…but for the most part, they let the schools that have them be themselves on them. Our pitch here in DC has the added bonus of floodlights that they painted sky blue for night matches…so that is a fun thing to see when passing by the stadium.

Thanks a lot for speaking to us, Matthew. I will make sure to get along to Lucky’s again next time i am in DC…

Written by Alex Timperley who is on Twitter

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