Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Starting 11: An Interview with Jesse Nechodom (Part 2)

Site Note: This is the second part of our first interview with people and ideas that are shaping American soccer the Free Beer Movement has lined up. Our first interview is with an old friend of the Movement, Jesse Nechodom. Read part one about Jesse's background as a sports fan and his early soccer experiences.
- Dan

6) Now that you’ve become more familiar with soccer, and with your love of other sports, is there anything you see in soccer than you can’t get in other sports.

I would say that what I’ve found with soccer that is more surprising to me is that I can get many of the same things in soccer that I get in other sports such as upsets (US Nats), frustration with teams not performing up to their potential (US Nats), and inspired play with non-stop tension and excitement (take Sunday’s Manchester derby for example). If there is one thing about soccer that doesn’t exist in other sports (outside of maybe hockey which I don’t follow) it’s the pure joy of a goal since it doesn’t happen so often and the tension and excitement of when a team is constantly threatening and putting on pressure to score (the misconception turns out to actually be a good thing.)

7) You live in Paraguay now and recently saw their national team face off against Argentina in a World Cup qualifier. How was that?

Well, it’s hard to summarize in words but it was pretty incredible overall. The stadium and fans had a much more European feel to it as the supporters groups behind the end lines of the stadium sang and chanted all game long and the rest of the crowd joined in quite often. Paraguay won the game and qualified for the WC so the crowd went crazy and so did the city with everyone outside their houses singing and dancing in the street waving flags on our cab ride home.

Seeing Messi in person was incredible though he didn’t play well as he tried to beat 5 defenders and score every time he touched the ball. Maradonna on the sidelines looked fat and depressed just like you’d imagine he would (we kept watching to see if he’d do a line of coke to make himself feel better but he never did). I didn’t take pictures of the pre game part, but we did take some non-fans to the game promising a fun atmosphere and had some beers and food before the game so the FBM spirit lives in South America!

8) You’re hosting a Free Beer Match Day down in Paraguay. When? How’s that going to go down?

Later this afternoon (last Sunday) I’m heading to a match between a couple teams in the local league as I attempt to choose a team here. We’re going to head downtown a bit early to grab a few drinks and some food again before the game and then hopefully enjoy a good match. The more formal FBM Match Day I plan to host will be when the US plays Honduras in October. A friend of mine (who grew up a soccer fan in the DC area) has a nice TV with pretty fast internet here so we’ll stream the game on his computer, hook it up on the TV, and invite people over to drink some beers and enjoy. I’ll send in some pics to the FBM after the fact.

9) What is it about beer and sports that they go so well together?

I think people enjoy sports to relax and escape their everyday routines and they enjoy beer for the same reasons so it’s perfectly natural that they go well together. Plus a good beer can just be so refreshing when you’re sitting out in the hot sun watching a game and eating some salty snacks.

10) You probably won’t live abroad forever and when you come back to the States all those sports that you’ve watched and supported all of your life will be available. Do you think that your enthusiasm for soccer will continue with such competition?

My guess is that I might watch soccer less (since it’s pretty much all I watch here cuz there’s nothing else on TV) but based on how I’ve continued to follow all the sports I’ve become a fan of while seeing them less here, I don’t think I’ll stop. There’s no other sports on early Saturday or Sunday mornings which would interfere with my watching of soccer so when a good game is on I’ll still tune in. I have always found time for sports I’m interested in before and I’ll find time for soccer when I’m back in the US.

11) You really personify what the Free Beer Movement is trying to do, turn other sports fans into soccer fans as well. For those of us trying to convert more people like you, what advice do you have?

Free beer is a great starting point to get people involved. Once at a game or watching a game, I would try to make comparisons between soccer and other sports to relate what the person is seeing to what they know (I’m a teacher so that’s called building on background knowledge).

Lastly, I would strongly recommend somehow giving the potential convert a chance to play soccer in a fun and not super competitive situation. For me I need to play a sport to truly appreciate it and how difficult it is to do what you see elite players doing. Organize a “friendly” match with some friends, tell the players who know what they are doing to take it a bit easy, and watch the conversion happen. If your potential convert is like me and enjoys playing sports as much as watching them, this experience playing a sport is the key to get them interested in supporting it. Who knows, you might even find yourself a new defender or midfielder for your intramural or indoor team in the process!

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"Anyone who tells me soccer is boring, I'm going to punch them in the face."
- Former Dallas Burn (aka FC Dallas) coach Dave Dir

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