The People’s History of American Soccer Hall of Fame Just Got More Historical

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Official 1994 Striker the World Cup Pup coin purse, courtesy of Jonathan Tannenwald

Official 1994 Striker the World Cup Pup coin purse, courtesy of Jonathan Tannenwald

Your amazing artifacts continue to pour into the CPOS for The People’s History of American Soccer Hall of Fame. This week, we received a second treasure chest of footballing ephemera from Washington, DC-native turned Philly.com Soccer Scribe and one of the must-follow bylines for all things American soccer, Jonathan Tannenwald. We asked him to pen something on his collection and contribution to our GFOP-fueled museum. His story is below. Equally as amazing: THIS Storify page he created of his collection. Astonishing.


Jonathan Writes: I am a hoarder. I have been for much of my life. It's not a trait that I recommend developing, but at least I come by it honestly, because both of my parents are the same way.

This summer, those parents are moving out of the house in which they raised me in Washington, D.C. They've lived there for 46 years, which is no small feat in a city as transient as our nation's capital.

(And they've had no voting rights in Congress for all 46 of those years, plus some before it. Which is a subject for another newsletter, but still worth an aside.)

My parents didn't raise me to be a soccer fan. I became that on my own. I first came to know the sport thanks to the 1994 World Cup. The first soccer game I ever watched on TV was the U.S.-Brazil game that summer, on a projection screen at a summer camp in eastern North Carolina. (I believe there are a few GFOPs out there who are fellow alumni of Camps Sea Gull and Seafarer. Ahoy there to you.)

In that same summer, I acquired my first pieces of soccer memorabilia, some of which I have sent to the Hall of Fame: a World Cup commemorative half-dollar coin (one of a set of many, which makes each one sufficiently sub-optimal), and a coin purse featuring Striker, the 1994 World Cup mascot.

Four years later, I became truly enraptured by the sport, as I traveled to France during the 1998 World Cup. Not for it, but just being there was enough to make me see how much joy soccer brings to so many people worldwide.

When I got home, I became a fan of D.C. United. That continued throughout high school and into college, a time when I was a member of the Screaming Eagles and later La Norte, and made many friends who I still know today.

(One, alas, is no longer with us. Somehow it's been five years since Chico Solares left RFK's bouncing bleachers for the final time (More on that here)

I also started following women's soccer, with the 1999 World Cup followed by the Women's United Soccer Association era. I was part of a small group which tried to bring supporters' culture to the women's game while Mia Hamm and Abby Wambach were leading the Washington Freedom at RFK. I kept a lot of things from those years, including a fanzine from the Crusaders' Supporters Club and a set of Freedom ThunderStix that I've sent to the Hall of Fame.

I couldn't have known on those summer nights that I would go on to cover the 2003 World Cup for the student newspaper at the University of Pennsylvania, or that many years later I'd find a new home for the media guides from the tournament that I've sent you.

Nor could I have imagined that a dozen years later, I would travel to Canada to chronicle the 2015 World Cup for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, a journey that is the highlight of my professional journalism career to date and will likely remain so for some time. I wrote an essay during the tournament on the years-long journey to that summer, as seen through my eyes and those of many friends met along the way. (READ HERE)

My work as a professional journalist over the last decade has taken away my old rooting affiliations in soccer (as has Arsenal's inability to do anything more than infuriate).

But my passion for the game as a whole is as strong as ever. It has been a particular joy to chronicle the growth of women's soccer, not just the superstars of the national team but the players who toil outside the spotlight just to earn a living wage.

So much has changed over the years, especially when it comes to how we consume the game. I sent along some old issues of Soccer America and other magazines of the 2000s. They seem so distant now, even though they really aren't. When I started reading SA, it was printed every two weeks on stapled newspaper. I sent one edition from that era to the Hall. Now it's quarterly on glossy paper, and almost all of the organization's great efforts go online only.

Consider this, too. Major League Soccer had to buy the U.S. English-language television rights to the 2002 World Cup because no American TV network wanted them. MLS printed a TV guide for that tournament because it had to.

That deal was how Soccer United Marketing began. Now it is a behemoth and the World Cup commands enormous rights fees here, as do soccer leagues from around the world.

Many of you know these stories already. But some of you might not. That symbolizes perhaps the biggest change in soccer in America: there are so many more fans of the sport than there have ever been before.

And there are so many ways in which we have come to the sport. I grew up in the American game, adding it to my fandom of traditional American sports. Others, such as Rog and Davo, brought a lifetime of soccer experiences to this country from abroad. Still more have only started following the sport in the last few years, and have only known it in its era of success and widespread appeal.

It wasn't always that way here. It hasn't been all that long since the scale of the community was much smaller, a gathering of hardy souls on message boards trying to follow U.S. Open Cup games years before Twitter and YouTube existed.

I'm not that old - at least, I hope I'm not. I'm 33. But I've seen a lot, and I know the value of teaching history to those who didn't experience it. I am thrilled that the People's History of American Soccer Hall of Fame exists to do just that. It's my pleasure to play a small role by sending you some of the suboptimal crap that I've collected over the years.