Detractors from the game we love have dubbed it a socialist sport, a commie endeavor, one favored by the liberal ‘lefties’. Whether that is due to the more open fluidity of the game itself, the grey areas prevalent in both the way the game is played and controlled, the low scoring, the ties, etc., etc. These naysayers have tried every trick in their book to slight the sport and frankly it doesn’t matter anymore. Why is that you may ask? Because hipsters. They’ve officially latched onto the sport – just ask Portland about it:
What appeals to hipsters about the Beautiful Game? A group that revels in the poor fashion and hair choices of prior generations – and thinks it’s a great idea to reintroduce them to today’s unsuspecting world – can bask in the glory that is soccer’s past:
Look at how gracefully Chris Waddle revolutionizes the mullet game, “extra long in the back if you don’t mind guv’nor“.
Counterculture is not only cool, but celebrated:
The game is egalitarian, even the smallest of the small can fell the Goliaths:
Sidebar: I remember waking up at some ungodly hour – 2 or 3AM – to watch this match (the opener for World Cup 2002) with my Dad, basking in the glow of the tele and France’s inept display – then trudging back off to bed before waking up hours later for school/work, likely still bleary-eyed.
Soccer hits all of these attributes that would cause a hipster to stand up, take notice and gaze semi-interestedly in its direction – as is becoming all too evident, once hipsters latch onto something, they’re quite good at bringing it to the forefront of pop culture. Which, strangely enough, is the antithesis of their subculture’s mindset, but I digress.
Taking all of these things into consideration, I’ve compiled my list of what I believe to be ten soccer clubs that exude this hipster….aura if you will – clubs that are/were ahead of their time, exude the ideal of grassroots initiatives and social involvement, or overall are just different from the rest of the soccer establishment. Let’s take a moment to awe at them, in all their bearded, artisanal glory:
Couple that with the throwback Scream mask, and this club already is screaming ‘hipster’ – probably a bit more boisterously than a ‘true’ hipster might. St Pauli was a trailblazer back when right-wing nationalist sentiments were popping up around Europe and hooligan culture became associated with those ultra conservative ideals, outlawing any such displays. They took a stand where other clubs didn’t, or wouldn’t. Flying a bit under the radar recently in the 2.Bundesliga (one level below the top-level Bundesliga and giants like Bayern) die Freibeuter der Liga have a set of fundamental principles that guide the way the club is run. Responsible before it was cool to be – a socially conscious hipster.
Milan (Italy) – A club with a storied history (18x Scudetti, 5x Coppa Italia, 7x European Cup/UEFA Champions League, 5x UEFA Super Cups, among others) now struggling to reach the heights of yesteryear – what hipster doesn’t like to big-up their history and past triumphs? Their cathedral like ground in the Giuseppe Meazza with its steep stands and steel latticework over the field is truly a sight to behold for every true fan:
A built in blood-curdling rivalry with big-brother/little-brother Inter – the Derby Della Madonnina – and a pantheon of greats to #humblebrag about don’t hurt either – Van Basten, il Tulipano Nero, Maldini, Baresi, George Weah, Sheva, Kaka, Gunnar Nordahl, need I go on?
Portland Timbers FC (USA) – America’s true gem of a club from its NASL (version 1.0) hey-day. Or so they like to think they are. Immediately became the noveau-American choice of hipsters the country over when introduced in MLS in 2011, with Portland “fans” popping up in all corners overnight. It could be their locale within the West Coast epicenter of granola hipsterness – as the beards are palpable and the ‘cultured soccer historian’ act is laid on thicker than jam on toast – though I’m not quite sure what brought the consistent sell-outs and widespread fanatical following, but it happened. Insert gratuitous dig at PTFC “fans” here. If you couldn’t tell, these ones get under my skin a bit.
Hajduk Split (Croatia) – Under the radar in recent times, with their major glories firmly in the proverbial rearview, Hajduk were a former power before and during the era of Soviet and Italian occupation – refusing to take part in the Italian Serie A under an Italian-ified name of AC Spalato. A defiant club, they firmly refused to fall in line under Italian fascist control – even going so far hiding their previous trophies in a baker’s oven to conceal them during wartime. An original motto that still rings inside every fan, past and present, “konrta mraku, kronta sili” (“against the darkness, against the force”) tells you a lot about the club and those who associate themselves with it. Standin’ up to the man – and with significant involvement and influence from supporters in the club’s administration, it looks like they won’t be answering to one of those anytime soon.
Athletic Bilbao (Spain) – A very interesting club in today’s modern world, where it seems that borders and cultures are becoming more fluid and mixed than ever before. Based in the Basque separatist territory in northern Spain, Athletic play in a ground – San Mames – named after an early Christian man thrown to the lions (literally – they did used to do this stuff) who pacified said lions and was later canonized. By association, the club is not only ancient (hipsters LOVE old stuff), but counts a champion of pacifism among its club’s influencers – win/win on the hipster scorecard right there. The most obvious trait that cements Los Leones‘ place in this list is their steadfast adherence to solely fielding players of Basque heritage A.K.A. exclusivity. There have been only two non-Spanish players to represent them in their history, both French internationals with Basque heritage in their veins:
Belonging to a club that no one else, save for a very small subset of the population, is a hipster dream – go on Athletic!
Real Sociedad (Spain) – With ties to anti-Franco movements and sharing the same Basque heritage as Athletic, you might think the hipster-appeal ends there. Nay. The club has provoked disagreement amongst poets. Fielded a sculptor – as a keeper nonetheless! Now that’s ballsy, and thought provoking – they caused intelligent, creative, and enlightened scholars to discuss the club’s merits openly and passionately. An inspired following, some recently sexy football (finishing 4th and 7th in the past two La Liga campaigns), and a location in the beautiful locale of San Sebastian round out their hipster cred. Although sadly the proto-hipster, Antoine Griezmann, is no longer gracing Estadio Anoeta with his presence:
Millwall FC (England)- If you’re looking for the dirty, grimy, gritty vibe and a ‘nobody like us, look at all the f***s we give’ attitude, you’ve come to the heart of hipster nihilism – its most sought after enlightened state – in East London. Their attitude towards their opponents, and the soccer community as a whole seemingly, is summed up in a terrace favorite:
Their ground, simply “The Den”, is situated deep in East London, south of the river Thames and is frequented by the bluest of blue-collar, rowdy type. Always unfancied, but have seemingly unsurpassed fight and spirit. Truly a David kind of club. If David carried a blade in his boot.
Swansea City AFC (Wales) – Gained access to an elite club (Premiership) as an outsider (one of only two Welsh teams to ever play in the English top flight English top flight) – the exclusivity they enjoy on their CV is enough to make a hipster skip his morning 12-hour-cold-brewed iced coffee and go in search of a retro Swansea kit to wear! It doesn’t hurt that they have been a revelation since joining the top flight and have even gotten back into European play, even if it is the Europa League – but hey, that’s where all the up-and-coming European squads are playing, hipster heaven.
Hipsters LOVE Movember. Ahhh, I love this!
Ajax (Netherlands) – A club defined by – and possibly not so goed ‘protectors’ of? – a persecuted people. With an illustrious history and a trophy cabinet busting at the seams, the Amsterdammers can boast of a veritable assembly line of talent through its youth academies – competing, or even possibly on par, with La Masia at Barça. With their distrust of all things modern, hipsters will be glad to know that Dennis Bergkamp – a club legend and current assistant manager – shared their sentiments, earning himself the nickname “The Non-Flying Dutchman”.
And there you have it, a taste of the hipster-tinged, club football world of the Beautiful Game. I foresee more and more obscure replica jerseys coupled with bushy beards and ill-fitting pants to grace our fine country in the coming years – now you’ll be equipped to recognize a few of the more obscure ones!
What do you guys think? Have any clubs you associate with the hipster movement? Agree with my choices? Feel free to share your thoughts below!