Monday, May 23, 2011

Close Encounters with Footballing Giants

The management of D.C. United should, by rights, be disappointed to have organized a friendly against one of the world's most storied football clubs and have only a paid attendance of 10,728 people take advantage of the event.

The disappointing turnout ignited another long, familiar debate in our section as to whether the sport has really managed to make any significant strides in the country. If a visit by Ajax -- which started the game with four (Kenneth Vermeer; Vurnon Anita; Demy De Zeuw; and Miralem Sulejmani) of the starters that played in the league title clinching match against Twente one week ago -- could not get casual soccer fans in the region to come out in droves, then perhaps it is only the celebrity of Beckham, Henry, Barcelona, Milan, and Chelsea that drives ticket sales and not technical brilliance.

I walked past Will Chang and Charlie Davies on the ramp heading down to our seats. Whether there is sufficient support for soccer among the general population does not really matter to me so long as Mr. Chang continues to have faith that there is a worthwhile market here.

The addition of Charlie Davies, I think, showed a commitment to making the fan experience more enjoyable; adding exhibitions that feature Ajax and Everton demonstrated a commitment to restoring pride in the franchise.

My daughter and I were treated to a fantastic display of football today at RFK. For the first time, I regretted not having seats higher up so as to better appreciate the passing and design of Ajax's offensive forays.

My daughter's not old enough to appreciate what happened on the pitch -- she told me that her favorite part of the game was Blake Brettschneider's goal, but I think that the rainbow dipping dots will be her answer tomorrow -- but it will hopefully be memorable nonetheless. We were about three-quarters of our way up the stairs and out of the stadium when she turned around and looked down at all the Ajax supporters congregating in the corner to salute their club. I asked her if she wanted to get autographs from the players or go home; she chose to head back down the stairs. Ten minutes later, with the help of some very nice young men in Ajax replica kits, we finally made our way to the metro with a shirt signed by Siem De Jong and Andre Ooijer.

I am, as ever, grateful for D.C. United.

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