“I…came to soccer through serendipity, endless curiosity, and a sense of an underground, populist international brotherhood.”
I’d be willing to guess that the majority of American soccer fans did not inherit their love of the game. Baseball and football are passed down from fathers to sons in this country, but soccer, long considered foreign, grabs hold of teenagers with too much time on their hands. This is especially true in the internet age, but The Soccer Diaries: An American’s Thirty-Year Pursuit of the International Game suggests that it was the case even in the early 80s.
Agovino fell in love with soccer the same way many of us do, during a World Cup. In this case, it’s the 1982 World Cup, as televised on Spanish-language TV in his New York City home. He fell in love with the Italian national team. The book exists as a series of short stories, usually on individual games that he either attended or watched on television. In the beginning, these are Cosmos games, the rare friendly, or games on foreign language television. With adulthood comes the ability to travel, especially to Europe.
Agovino’s voracious desire to take in as much of the game as possible reminds me of when I was first falling for the game. I had it easy; Wikipedia existed. Instead, he had to delight in whatever he could find: books, foreign magazines, game programs, and VHS tapes of past World Cups. More exciting for him are the rare opportunities to meet fellow fans. He finds, as I have found, a quiet community among American soccer fans, a knowing glance. “Oh, you like soccer too?”
Agovino’s youthful awe of the sport has been tempered somewhat by the years, but that sense of wonder and community carries the book, and makes it worth reading.