In Atlanta, extreme enthusiasm for soccer has been the domain of parents clustered around a field on Saturday mornings cheering on pint-sized players.
Yesterday marked the debut of Atlanta’s MLS team, Atlanta United FC, and while plenty of fans proved to be old pros, it seems some fans, like overly enthusiastic parents, could use a few tips on how to behave.
After Atlanta blew an early lead, reports came in of garbage being thrown onto the field.
For the record, throwing stuff is a no-no according to the MLS Fan Code of Conduct.
Fans can sing, cheer and maybe throw confetti and streamers, but other objects — like beer cans — are prohibited. Another good-to-know matter of conduct? Don’t keep the soccer ball if it ends up in the stands. Just give it back to the ball kid or stadium staff member, say MLS rules.
Since this whole major league soccer thing is new to some Atlanta sports fans, here are a few more tips on soccer etiquette from people who would know.
An open letter from Real Salt Lake, an MLS team with 12 years in the game, to first time soccer fans (as in Americans who are just discovering professional soccer exists in the U.S.) outlines what is expected when you attend a game.
In short, don’t tell superfans what to do, but do ask them to explain the details of the game if you are confused (most will gladly do so). Superfans should be easy to identify, they will likely be yelling and cheering– a lot — for 90 full minutes.
Also, if you don’t like to stand up, soccer may not be your game. Never tell anyone to sit down and plan to stand at least during corner kicks from the home team and maybe on goal scoring chances. If a goal is scored, you must leap out of your seat. Nothing else is acceptable.
British soccer fanatic Adam Baxter offered a few hints for U.S. fans back when David Beckham arrived stateside to play for LA Galaxy. Among Baxter’s cardinal rules of soccer are:
- Drink beer
- If viewing the game at a bar, check the bar’s team affiliation first so you can wear the right jersey
- Learn the rules — or as noted above — find a superfan and ask questions
- Keep your chatter confined to the players, not their personal lives (or you will risk sounding like the petty gossip you are)
- Never think of soccer as just a game. It is life.