AUSTIN, Texas -- My name is Dan Wiersema and I am an American soccer fan.
That statement is not some quiet confession or a shameful admission to others sitting around in a circle in a community center basement. I say it proudly. Because I believe it should be shouted from the rooftops and declared unconditionally for the rest of the world to hear.
Or perhaps typed on a keyboard for publishing on a website. Which is why I'm here. Over the next two weeks (and, fingers crossed, maybe more), I will document the American fan's experience in Brazil, from Natal to Manaus to Recife, from the bars to the beaches to the back row of a raucous bus.
Who am I?
I am the founder of the Free Beer Movement, a grassroots organization dedicated to “Building American Soccer One Beer at a Time.” Since 2009 the FBM has used the power of the pint to convince newbies that soccer, as Men In Blazers describe it, is the “sport of the future.” Have a friend, family member, or co-worker that doesn’t know much about the sport? Buy ‘em a beer and educate them. Beer is the medium… soccer is the message.
I’ve been a fan of Major League Soccer since I pasted a USA Today ad with Lalas, Harkes, Balboa, Wynalda, and Co. on my bedroom closet door to support them as they launched the league back in 1996. I suffered through the 1998 World Cup in Europe defending the Yanks despite their disastrous finish. My faith was restored during the USWNT’s World Cup victory in 1999 and celebrated in euphoric silence at 3 a.m. from my best friend’s parent’s basement as we shocked Portugal in 2002. From Germany to South Africa, Kansas City to Salt Lake City, I’ve seen this sport grow to unbelievable heights.
So, yeah, I’m a pretty big fan. Or supporter or enthusiast or whatever semantical rules you play by. Certainly there are bigger fans than I am, and smaller ones, but who cares. Regardless of the level of fandom, we’re all fans of the same country and the same team.
Right now, I’m sitting between two dogs on a couch in Texas. But tomorrow, I’ll be sitting between two palm trees. Or maybe two beach chairs. Or two Caipirinhas. Or all of the above.
I'll be one of thousands wearing red, white, and blue, chanting "I believe that we will win," and representing our nation as a member of the American Outlaws, the vibrant US national team supporter group. We all have our stories, some of which I will tell as our journey goes, some of which are yet to be written.
My name is Dan Wiersema and I am an American soccer fan.