Wednesday, June 27, 2012

You'll Never Walk Alone

I was hoofing down Charles Street as usual on my way to work.  When the light changed at the intersection, the young man next to me looked admiringly in my direction and said "Nice kit!"

Now, lest you think that's an interesting pickup line, let me assure you (a) it's 40 years too late, and (b) he wasn't looking at the "Carlsberg." 

The word "kit" gave him away. This was a soccer fan.  Someone who recognized the vintage Liverpool uniform at a glance and knew not to call it a shirt.  It's a kit.

So as we stepped off the curb, I asked if he were going to the match (not game) next month.

Yes, he replied with great enthusiasm.  He'd bought his tickets a month ago.  In fact, he'd even purchased tickets to the open practice.

He'd never been to one of the international soccer matches at M&T Bank Stadium and was really looking forward to seeing how it would be transformed.

I explained how the pitch (not field) was created from natural turf trucked from a farm in Virginia and stitched together like a giant carpet several days before the match.  That gives the seams of the fescue time to knit so it doesn't buckle during play.

(And no, this doesn't even come close to the landscaping involved with Monster Truck or U-2.)

Ticket sales are going well for this Premier League friendly, in part because the "Reds" and the "Spurs" have followers all over the world.  Some have chartered buses from several states away for the trek to Baltimore.

There's something else worth noting about this match between these two top English (not British) teams:  as of the 2012-13 season, they will be outfitted by American sportswear manufacturers.

That's right -- the logo you see on the new red and gold kit at the right is Warrior, the same sports equipment manufacturer that has a lacrosse presence here in Baltimore.  Their corporate headquarters is in Michigan.

Under Armour, in Locust Point, won the contract for Tottenham.  Although many of the new EPL kits have been unveiled, Under Armour is being coy about the Tottenham design, choosing to debut it at the match in July.  So I won't ruin the surprise by posting any of the leaked versions.

Both teams were previously outfitted by German giants Adidas and Puma.  So the US is making inroads into the beautiful game in more ways than one.

I thought about Liverpool's theme song, "You'll never walk alone," as I opened the door to the Warehouse.  Soccer is the universal language, and every time I stroll the streets of Baltimore wearing a kit, there is someone to strike up a conversation about it.  A nice way to enjoy community.

Hope to see you at M&T Bank Stadium on July 28th.

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