This is Alicia’s story. Though she originally wanted to be a history professor, life guided her in a different direction–thank goodness! If it hadn’t, the online soccer world would be short an incredible editor and writer. If you haven’t already read something of Alicia’s, don’t worry, I’ve included plenty of links. Let’s meet her.
Q: Tell us about your very first soccer game.
A: The game that got me hooked was USA vs. Switzerland, at the Pontiac Silverdome in the 1994 World Cup. No, I was not at the game, but my parents were! I grew up a town over from Pontiac, and my Dad won a raffle at work for two tickets to the game. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he took his wife and not one of his kids, but I was jealous then and remain jealous to this day about not going, I’m not going to lie. My parents knew nothing about soccer! But then again, neither did I. I loved sports, but had zero exposure to soccer to that point. But watching the game on TV at my grandparents’ house, I loved it. My parents sat with a bunch of wacky Swiss fans, who were friendly enough to the American novices in their midst, while I remember running out at halftime, practicing throw-ins, of all things! I went with throw-ins because I didn’t know how to kick a soccer ball properly at that point, but was good at throwing, so I guess you could say I had a thoroughly American introduction to the sport.
Q: What team(s) do you follow, and what leagues are they in? How did you start following those teams?
A: I suppose I’m pretty unusual on this front, but I’m not a big about following teams in general, since I want to have a real connection to a team and not just randomly pick teams I don’t know much about. The only active team I root for is in China, Tianjin TEDA, because I lived in Tianjin in 2004, although I haven’t been able to watch them play in years. (I’m nosy and asked why Alicia lived in Tianjin — she studied abroad there. Alicia is cool. That is all. –K)
I did root for Chivas USA, the team I wrote about for four years before they were shuttered last fall by MLS. When I moved to California in 2005 from Michigan, I obviously didn’t want to give up my rooting interest in Detroit teams, but since Michigan didn’t have an MLS team, I felt comfortable picking a California team. When I got around to deciding, in 2006, I had a choice of the LA Galaxy or Chivas USA. The Galaxy had just won a league title the year before, while Chivas USA were only in their second season. Thinking I’d rather see a team built (almost) from scratch, I cast my lot with Chivas USA. What a whirlwind that turned out to be. On one hand, I met some amazing people, got to write about the team every single day and loved it, and eventually turned it into my career, so on many levels it was a great decision. But the team was a mess, there was loads of drama, a lot of abuse endured at the hands of other MLS fans, and then the team itself folded. That was pretty tough to take, honestly, and it still feels weird to be an MLS neutral for at least the next few seasons, after really putting my heart into following a very flawed club.
Q: What about the game hooked you?
A: As I mentioned, the 1994 World Cup hooked me, but I didn’t really have many outlets to keep following it. I watched subsequent World Cups, but it wasn’t until I was in college, around 2002, that I started really getting into it again. The thing was, there was no way to watch games on TV beyond a few Champions League games shown every year, at least on the cable I had in school, so I would just read sites like ESPN Soccernet, and followed European soccer that way. I played entire seasons of EPL Fantasy having never watched the players!
But when soccer on TV became more readily available, I was so excited. And after moving to San Diego, we didn’t have cable in my first apartment, but our antenna picked up a couple local Tijuana stations so I got into Mexican soccer at that time, since I could watch a couple games a week. Since then, my soccer consumption still continues to increase, though I’m not sure how I find the time.
I love the global nature of it. The skill on display is often jaw-dropping, and seeing players, even those far below world-class standards, make amazing plays is so exciting. I grew up watching a lot of hockey, and soccer is set up similarly, minus the element where the puck gets dumped in one end of the rink and the action totally stops, which I’ve always hated.
I also enjoy learning about soccer through the cultural context, and learning about culture through a soccer context. It can be fun, frustrating, and fascinating all at once.
Q: With whom in your life do you share soccer?
A: For the most part, I’m a solo artist. That’s what drove me to Twitter originally, which in turn drove me to writing about soccer, so I could find a community of other people who wanted to discuss the sport. I have a friend or two whose soccer interest ebbs and flows, but no one who really has that obsessive interest like me.
In my own family, my parents went to that World Cup game in 1994, and were not really hooked, though they’ll watch World Cup games on TV every now and then. My husband doesn’t like watching soccer at all, despite being a big sports fan. The only exception is if Mexico is in a tournament, then he’ll watch. My father-in-law, however, is a big soccer fan, and that’s something we’ve found common ground on over the years, watching and discussing soccer together.
So while most of my communication on the sport is Internet-based, occasionally I talk about the sport with the people physically in my life.
Q: Have you traveled to any away games for your team?
A: Not really, to be honest. I’ve never had much disposable income, and tend to work a lot in whatever I’m doing, so it’s a combination of being busy and not having enough money to really go on away trips, much as I would like to.
Q: Do you have any personal soccer-related traditions? What are they?
A: I’m not really sure what’s normal and what’s not, haha. I’m not an early riser, but during a World Cup I will wake up early to watch games. The rest of the time, I just DVR European games and watch them after I wake up.
Q: What is the impact soccer has had on your life? What has it brought to you that you wouldn’t have had otherwise?
A: For me, this is the heart of the matter. If I hadn’t been reading about soccer for more than a decade before I could watch it regularly, if I hadn’t decided to try and find some community online to find an outlet for my interest in the sport, and if I hadn’t read blogging about soccer and thought, “Maybe I should start writing too,” my life would be completely different, guaranteed. I was going to be a history professor, and around the time I started writing about soccer I realized maybe working in academia wasn’t what I wanted to do as a career after all.
Now, I get to do what I love every single day. I get paid to write about soccer, edit stories about soccer, and watch games. It’s amazing, and I am grateful on a daily basis. I’m a big believer in luck, and I know some luck helped me get to the place where I am now, but I am thrilled with the direction my life has taken, truly, and it’s all because (and about!) soccer.
Q: How did you end up going from history professor to journalist?
A: I entered college wanting to be a journalist, and after taking classes for a year and hearing how little journalists make and how terrible the job prospects were, I was more inspired to enter academia. So I finished undergrad as a history major, went straight to grad school, and after several years…learned how terrible the job prospects were as a professor and how little they make. I have never wanted a career solely based on how much I can make, I’m a person who wanted to love what I was doing, but at a certain point, actually finding a stable job and enough money to live off is an important aim in life to do what one loves. And as I mentioned before, I was lucky enough for my passion for soccer and writing about it to lead me into a career doing just that every day.
I started writing about soccer early in 2011, when I was reading more and more blog posts about soccer, and just started feeling the creative juices flowing, really. I was getting antsy with the delayed gratification of writing an academic article or book, and liked the idea of getting an immediate response by writing online. I wrote a few random posts around the web, and then I was approached by a startup website called Total MLS to see if I wanted to cover Chivas USA. I said yes, wrote for them for a few months, and then was approached to write for The Goat Parade. Before long, I was running that site, something I do to this day. And in 2013, I was asked if I wanted to work for MLSsoccer.com, and of course I said yes to that as well. And here we are.
I get to work from home with these jobs, take care of my daughter, and consume soccer all day long. It’s pretty cool. I guess I’d say that while it’s not perfect, I get the sense that people overall are much more open-minded about having women involved in covering soccer than most other sports. I, like many other women, have my share of stories, but I don’t have to deal with all-out abuse regularly, and in the cases where someone has said something really awful to me, others (female and male alike) have quickly come to my defense. In many respects, that inclusive environment makes me love the sport even more, since it helped me really feel like part of a community, and not just a token appendage in a male domain.
Q: If you could tell everyone in the world one thing about soccer, what would it be?
A: There is no league or competition in the world where people are truly satisfied with the quality of referees, so in many cases, your complaints about the standard of officiating probably isn’t truly accurate and the refereeing may even be better than in other places.
I’m so grateful Alicia shared her time and words with us! If you enjoyed this interview you will probably love following her articles at one of her many other media outlets. She was a delight to chat with, but it doesn’t stop here! I can’t wait to share more of these wonderful women’s stories with you and I can’t wait to hear yours. Tweet me at @starrphishe, tweet at @WUnitedFC, or leave us a note in the contact box below and we would love to share your #WomenLoveSoccer story.