20 July 2008

A Walk Down Memory Lane with Letters From Vagabondia

Chris Courtney from Letters From Vagabondia, has written a great piece tracking the evolution of the American player in Europe. Chris had the enviable job of actually getting paid to cover US Players in Europe as a writer and reporter for Soccer Times! He has done a great job of capturing the trends and key names in his Part 1 post (1980s to the mid 1990s).

I found it interesting to overlay his time line with my own player/fan experience through that same decade and a half. As a 6 year old kid playing in the United States in 1977, my only real soccer influence was Pele. Frankly, I was too young to realize how big soccer actually was in the world, so it turned out that for me, like millions of children all over the world and in the absence of any real soccer news, Pele was my first ambassador for the beautiful game.

My home town NASL team was the Atlanta Chiefs, a team I vaguely remember as it went through the ups and downs of professional soccer in the States. Interestingly enough as I got older in the game, I played soccer alongside and became good friends with the son of one of the Chief's pioneer players, Alan Hamlyn. The fact that Alan was a professional for several years and actually played on the US National Team was completely lost on me!

Even as I began to play more seriously in the 80's, the players Chris tracks in his piece were largely unknown to me until World Cup 1990. So taking this walk through time, I'm saddened a bit about my generation's missed opportunities but at the same time, I'm incredibly optimistic about the future. The soccer information landscape has matured dramatically in the US and so have the players. My own trend line I think is a close match to the trend line that Chris traces - and while there is still a very long way to go, the soccer experience for both players and fans in the US has grown dramatically.

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