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A Valentine’s Day Card to my Penya

The curse of being an American soccer fan is that more often than not, you’re watching games all by yourself, have no one to discuss the game with or share your passion for the beautiful game, and are generally thought of as a freak by your co-workers, friends, and significant others. At least that’s what it sounds like from reading this Onion article.

Well, if you are anything like the fan described in the article, fear not, your misery has come to an end! All over America, soccer team fan clubs are sprouting bringing much needed relief to fans. I can’t speak for every soccer fan club out there, but the one I’m a member of is amazing! I belong to the FC Barcelona fan-club of Washington DC (or as it is known in Catalan: Penya Barcelonista).

I love my Penya, and if you don’t belong to one or can’t find one in your hometown, you can always start your own.

Ours was created in 2009 and granted official status by FC Barcelona in 2011. Our home away from home is the Elephant and Castle, the HQ bar of the Barça fan club. Penya members pay dues, get discounts on food, do some wonderful volunteer work via DC Scores, get discount on local sports stores on Barça merchandise, and even get featured on international news!

It is great to have a place where we can watch, suffer, and more often than not, celebrate as our beloved Barça tiki-takas its way through La Liga, Copa del Rey, and the Champions to victory. The camaraderie that binds our fan club together has helped to create lasting friendships. Singing the Cant del Barça  loudly and proudly every single game has taught those of us who aren’t native speakers a smattering of Catalan. Watching the games together in a proper pub has made the experience of following the greatest football team even better. Now, I can’t promise you will experience this at every soccer team fan club – maybe I’m just lucky on account of our Penya having particularly wonderful members.

I was surprised, when visiting Catalonia, everyone I met there knew of the DC Penya’s existence! One of our Penya members is the legendary Catalan sports reporter, Antoni Bassas. While in Catalonia, every time I brought up the fact that I lived in DC and that I was a member of the Penya, folks would ask about him or tell me to say hi to him. But you don’t need a celebrity fan to have a hometown fan club for your favorite team. You just need a bar that is willing to recognize a good deal when they see one, and one or two other soccer lunatics. Other fans will trickle in and next thing you know you’ll be cheering and losing your mind in a group instead of in a basement all by yourself. And although I hate it when American newscasters use baseball analogies to relate to soccer, don’t forget: “If you build it, they will come.”

Did I also mention we have great gear?

-Marcos da Rocha Carvalho


Photo of the lunatic, courtesy of Natalia.

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Category: Culture, Sport

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