Why Soccer Dads Are The Best

Happy Father's Day

Hello, and welcome to American Tifo, a weekly newsletter for, and about, North American soccer supporters. Thank you for being here. If you haven’t already, subscribe! If you’re a member of a supporters group, please consider sharing this with the rest of your SG and encouraging them to subscribe as well.

It’s a special thing to share a love of sports with your dad. It creates bonds, moments and memories that stay in your heart forever. To bond over soccer, especially the soccer in your own community, is an even greater gift. In honor of Father’s Day, we’re celebrating the dads who are sharing their passion for the American game with their kids. Here are four dads (and one son) on what the love of the game means to them and their family. 


Jeff Henderson

Mad Hat Massive, Hartford Athletic

I really got into soccer during the 1990 World Cup, that’s when I was hooked. Fast forward to 2019, Hartford Athletic is founded and comes into the USL, and I think, I’ll check this out. The second road game they ever had, it was against Louisville, and I went to the viewing party. At halftime, I said, “I’m sold.” I got one ticket at the start. 

My mother had passed in February of 2019, and my daughter was close to her. It was tough. That happened, and I figured, we’ve got to do something to bond together. So, I thought, “Maybe I’ll take her to a [Hartford Athletic] game and see how this goes.” So I got an extra ticket and took her to a match. We got to the tailgate and we saw a bunch of people that we knew, and she just started connecting with everyone. After this game, we had such a blast I thought, “Maybe’ll get her a season ticket.” So now we have two season tickets in the supporters section.

It’s tough for me because I work in IT and I’m constantly busy. We don’t have that much time together. So, I thought, this is time we can spend together. We can bond a little bit because I didn’t feel it was fair to her, because I was never around because of work. I figured I would introduce her to something that I enjoyed, that I know she enjoyed.

She has a great time at the matches. They’ve actually let her capo a couple times. She’s definitely a part of the family of the supporters section. All the groups look out for her. She’s got a whole new bunch of aunts and uncles that watch out for her. 

My wife told me ‘That’s your guys’ time, that’s a sacred time. You guys have your father/daughter time, go to the match and have fun.” My wife will go to away match viewing parties, but she will not go to Dillon Stadium because she feels like she’s treading on sacred ground. She feels like that’s our time. 


David Zeller 

Dark Clouds, Minnesota United

When my son, Ragnar, was born at the very beginning of the polar vortex in 2019, I knew that less than 3 months later I would be bringing him to the Loons Stadium Opener, come hell or more winter. I spent the winter preparing him by watching Liverpool matches with him in my arms, cheering, but not too loud, when they scored, yelling, but not to sweary, when they screwed up.

Finally, as that fateful April day approached, my wife and I kept looking at the weather, a high of 36 (feels like 28), but no snow or rain, I will admit, I wavered a bit. But, when I asked my wife about dropping him off at my parents, she insisted that we ALL go, that this was a memory for him but also for us, something that we will be able to share for the rest of time.

So, we walked to the Black Hart (the Dark Clouds pre-match bar) Ragnar attached in his carrier, me in my Loondo Goalrissian costume and enjoyed a beverage or two and then went to the match! Firmly entrenched in the Wonderwall, we sang, we drank and most importantly I introduced my son to soccer and to the chosen family (Dark Clouds). We scored a goal and I hoisted Ragnar to the Wonderwall (ala Lion King). Nothing but cheers!

I do not remember much after that. I do remember we drew that match, but the rest of the day was a blur. I do know that I will get to make many more memories with him as we watch our Loons and cannot wait until my next chance to bring him to a match!


Andrew Janavey

Hartford Athletic

After I graduated high school I got big into the Premier League as a Chelsea fan, and my dad [Scott] had been watching Premier League games for even maybe a season or two before that. After college, still living at home, we would watch games together. A couple years later I moved out. We lost that, being able to wake up early every Saturday and Sunday and watch games together, which was a really good weekend tradition for us. 

When it was announced that soccer was coming to Hartford, I wasn’t super sure what to expect. But I said, “I’ll get a season ticket and just see what happens.” A few days later I signed up for another season ticket, thinking, “I’ll find somebody to go.”

I had tried a couple times to get into different MLS clubs, but I just never made a connection. It all just felt far away, either physically or emotionally. When Hartford launched, that gap was bridged almost immediately in the first game. There was an immediate connection, and I just knew after the first few games that I had to get my dad to come out to this. We had spent so many mornings in front of the TV, seeing the crowds singing, thinking, ‘Oh that looks awesome.’ We just didn’t have that, and now we had an opportunity to have it.

Share

When you move away from home, in your head you think, “Oh, we’ll call and catch up.’ But stuff gets in the way, and maybe sometimes you go for weeks without speaking, you get back in touch every once in a while. But through Hartford Athletic games, we talk every week, if not more. Beyond just talking, we’re able to be there in person. It’s a beautiful way to stay connected, not only for the sake of connecting, but through something we are really passionate about.

It’s just a feeling you don’t get from anywhere else in your life. When the team scores a goal, and the crowd turns on a dime and erupts, the energy that runs through your veins, you literally don’t get that anywhere else in your life. To be in the stands, jumping up and down and singing, it’s not something I would have pictured for myself, because I’m a pretty quiet, reserved person. So, I think it says a lot about the passion that Hartford brings out of us, that, I’m able to be here in the front row, jumping up and down. To be able to do all of that with my dad next to me is even more fun, and to see him doing that as well has been such a blast. I think it’s brought us both a lot of confidence and enjoyment. 

Scott Janavey

Hartford Athletic

[My son] Andrew and I attend a bunch of matches, around Foxboro, MetLife, Yankee Stadium. When Hartford announced they were forming a team, Andrew reached out to me and said he was thinking about becoming a founding member. Hartford’s over an hour away from my house, so I said, “Oh that’s cool. I’ll go to as many games as I can, but Hartford is far, so probably not too many.” The first season I went to four games, probably the last four games of the season. After the very first game, the crowd in the supporters section was so infectious, I was blown away. I thought, “I can’t believe there are only four games left in the season.” One of the greatest gifts that I’ve been given is being his second season ticket. It’s really been a wonderful experience and I appreciate it. 

I don’t have the ability to play the drums, I don’t have the body strength to wave a flag. I just scream and yell. But this year I went ahead and bought cymbals. So, now I play along with the drums and it’s not so taxing. I just sit there and bang the cymbals. So, Andrew has drawn me into being much more of a supporter. I love sitting in the supporters section, I love making the noise, but I’ve never been a participant like that before. Andrew’s enthusiasm and all of his activities, it really brought me much more out of my shell and into being the active participant that he is, and that so many of the people there are. It’s a really fun spectacle to be a part of. 

There’s just so much enthusiasm back and forth between the players, the coaches, the fans and the supporters group. It goes beyond soccer. I’ve made so many new friends in the last two years, and it’s just incredible. That’s why I keep telling Andrew that it’s such an incredible gift, because it’s not just an occasional Saturday game. It goes way beyond that. It’s such a great experience, I’m having the time of my life. 


Greg Lucero

The Curse, New Mexico United

I am a huge Arsenal fan that just so happens to live in New Mexico where there was not a huge soccer presence at the time. The Albuquerque Sol had started up and I had started to get even more interested with local soccer.  When I saw the live feed of the announcement of USL New Mexico something in me just said "This is it". I was hooked after that announcement and just wanted to go to any event they had to meet the team. I got season tickets right away and met the first members of the squad. The fact that the team was introduced as such a humble group was one of the many reasons why we are such big fans. In those early events I met some other fans which ended up being the first Curse members. I was all for joining the supporters group cause I knew the team and the Curse were going to be huge.

My kids have been involved in sports, one of which is of course soccer. My daughter played goalkeeper for Santa Fe High School for 3 years so she was definitely excited for New Mexico United. I took my kids to every single event that New Mexico United had. My kids went to a little youth clinic that the team had and the team was so incredible with the kids. Ever since Game 1 my kids got hooked. They loved getting to meet and talk to the players after the game.  My kids love going to the games and seeing their team represent the state that they live in. It's also so great to see other families coming to the games and experience the same things we do.

I try to spend as much time with my kids as possible. Going to soccer games with them is the icing on the cake. I am so grateful that they love going to the games as much as me. I hope that it will be a tradition that we can do forever. I don't want to pressure them to have to go to every game if they do not want to. Luckily that has not been the case. Even my 16 month old waves a United flag and yells when the crowd does.