Home Illinois Club or country? Chicago Premier League fans faced a dilemma.

Club or country? Chicago Premier League fans faced a dilemma.

26
0

When the U.S. men’s national soccer team plays England in the World Cup on Friday, soccer fan Danny Jodorowsky is likely to face a dilemma that would irritate the bravest patriot.

Imagine: England captain Harry Kane, who normally plays for Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur, hits a penalty and has a chance to score for his nation. In the twelve yards stands American goalkeeper Matt Turner, who plays for Tottenham’s despised London rivals Arsenal.

Jodorowsky, who hails from Aurora, will root for the US national team. But he is indeed roots for Tottenham, a club he has followed since American forward Clint Dempsey’s brief stint a decade ago.

So, with Spurs star Kane in charge of the England squad, what will Jodorowsky choose? Club or country?

“I’m torn,” he said. “It’s hard not to have such loyalty to a club to which you give a lot of time and support year after year. The U.S. (has a chance to play) at the World Cup every four years, and I’d like them to do well, but I’d like the Spurs players to do well, too.”

Such hardships will be commonplace on Friday, a testament to how deeply ingrained Premier League fans are in the Chicago area. Many of the teams here have official fan clubs, and fans flock to special bars on weekend mornings when games across the Atlantic begin.

“It’s been amazing,” said Joe Davies, who has seen the boom since becoming a Manchester City fan in the 1990s, when watching a game meant finding a rare bar with satellite coverage. “I’m really excited to see the spread. The pubs are full and sometimes people are turned away.’

All but one of England’s 26-man squad play in the Premier League (the exception being 19-year-old Jude Bellingham, who plays in Germany but is expected to be snapped up by the English giants next summer). Many of them are stars in the most famous clubs.

Seven players on the US team also earn their living in the Premier League, but they either play for lesser-known teams such as Fulham, Leeds United and Norwich City, or act as back-ups for a big team such as Turner and Chelsea winger Christian Pulisic.

Brian Wolfe, head of the Chelsea supporters’ group in Chicago, said he would no longer support the United States because of Pulisic’s pedigree at the club.

“I don’t root for one player or another,” he said. “Whoever works well for the U.S. is paramount.”

Not all fans feel that way.

Arsenal, a team based in North London, have three England internationals, including Bukayo Sakho, who scored twice in Monday’s 6-2 thrashing of Iran. Sacco is one of Arsenal’s most beloved players and Dilly Young, head of the Chicago Gooners fan club, said that makes it hard to root for him, even though she wants the US team to do well.

“I love Saka very much,” she said. “It’s an emotion from player to player. If he killed Matt Turner, I’d be happy for him.”

Her fellow Gunner, Matt Williams, has a different attitude. Although his father is English and he is an ardent Arsenal fan, he does not root for his country. The only hope for Sacco in the USA-England match is that the young forward does not get injured.

“When it comes to international matches, I’m USA first,” he said.

Seth Smith, who supports Manchester United, said he is excited about the young talent on the USA team and is rooting for them to win, although his mood can change depending on the situation.

“If (Manchester United forward) Marcus Rashford scored a hat-trick against the USA, it would be a disappointment at national level, but I would be happy for him,” he said. “If Harry Kane had put the ball over the goal I would have laughed.”

For Ben Foster, a Tottenham fan so devoted that he served on the board of the Chicago Supporters Group, there is no difficulty. The country before the club.

“The US is not perfect as a country, but this is my country and my team,” he wrote in an email. “When Kane meets Matt Turner, I hope Kane goes over the crossbar and the USA get whatever result they can.”

Fellow Spurs fan Andy Juvan is also rooting for the USA, but not at the expense of the Tottenham players.

“I want Kane and (Spurs defender Eric Dier) to step up, especially because it could affect them psychologically when the Premier League resumes,” he said.

Manchester City, the class of the Premier League over the last decade, have five players in the England squad, more than any other club. But Davies, who travels to England twice a year to watch the Citizens play, said he is still ready for Team USA – not least because he wants to show off to other members of City’s international fan base.

“After all, this is where I was born and raised,” he said. “Definitely I don’t want to lose to England.”

World Cup fan Joshua Houlihan in the front yard of his Walla home.  Houlihan has no problem rooting for England instead of the USA team.

The most serene Premier League fan waiting for the USA v England game may be Joshua Houlihan, an 8-year-old boy from Wollo who also supports the mighty Manchester City. He wore his England shirt to school on Monday to show his fan commitment and will be back in action for his favorite team on Friday as he predicts a 3-2 win over the USA

“They have the best team and I’m already watching them,” he said.

jkeilman@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @JohnKeilman

https://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/soccer/ct-world-cup-england-usa-chicago-fans-20221125-ylauf3yy4zek3ftulgr6nxqmmq-story.html#ed=rss_www.chicagotribune.com/arcio/rss/category/news/

Previous articleFees for using MyChart? Chicago Health Systems charges a fee for messages
Next articleA man was stabbed multiple times during a West Ridge home invasion