This week the Colorado Rapids community was graced by the presence of one really cool dude, Steve Bernasconi. If you didn’t know, he has been traveling the US and Canada following every level of soccer for the last five months on The Soccer Tour. This week he was in Denver (see pictures of his trip here) and we were able to sit down for a while and talk soccer.
Steve has been in Denver now for about a week and this was his first trip to Colorado and he is making it an extended stay. I asked what was one of the harder things he has encountered during his time on The Soccer Tour and the common theme was that it can get hard leaving his friends and family. He has made new friends on his journey of course but leaving the people you love is difficult. The soccer community has been very supportive of Steve but combating loneliness is one of his biggest challenges.
In every city that he has been to, someone has graciously opened their home to him. Because of the gracious people who gave him a place to stay, Steve has only stayed in his van about a third of the time.
The more that we got talking the more I realized that The Soccer Tour is more about the people that are around the game and the friends that we make during our travels. As Steve put it, he is just a “homeless guy having a quarter-life crisis traveling the country meeting cool people and watching soccer.” The stories about each town all had the same message and the strangers that all rally around this purpose supporting their respective clubs and The Soccer Tour highlight the community. There is so much love and camaraderie around the sport. This whole experience is less about soccer and more about the (Pablo Reference) the human spirit.
I was curious about if he had a plan after this pilgrimage. If he had any jobs lined up or if another tour is in the works. “If I was worried about what I was going to do at the end, I wouldn’t enjoy the journey,” he responded, which was something that resonated with me on multiple levels. Doing this crazy awesome adventure is what many people long for, but most people can’t. Most people have mortgages, kids, and jobs that mean they can’t drop everything and tour this wonderful country. Luckily for us, Steve has the time and he is documenting the journey. I only wish it could continue longer.
Obviously in our conversation we talked about soccer, a large component of The Soccer Tour. Having seen and commented on every level of soccer here in America, Steve probably has the best idea of the growth and health of the sport, so I asked him about promotion and relegation (a topic we recently discussed here on Burgundy Wave).
“At first during the journey it was something that was not talked about, you were either for pro/rel or against it,” he said. “But the further I’ve gone along, the more the conversation has opened. If it is something that can grow the sport than it is a conversation that needs to be had.” As we talked more about what we think can help the sport grow in America the idea of pro/rel wasn’t one of the top ideas. The strength and stability of the lower decisions isn’t where it should be to create that type of promotion system, not yet.
We also talked about the monsoon that was the game last night. The general consensus was that of enjoyment. We both felt that it was encouraging that the fans could have left when it started to pour, but they didn’t. Steve kept highlighting the fact that even though the Rapids season has not gone the way would have all hoped the attendance last night was surprisingly higher. “Supporting a soccer team is kind of like tribalism and being a part of something bigger,” he reflected.
I asked is he stayed out during the rain, “I stayed with all the die hard until they went up into the bar, but the cool thing was everyone went back to their seats shortly after the rain. No one left.” That got me thinking of the snow game last year, when its cold, miserable and there is no reason to stand there other than your devotion to this team. This is the reason that I love soccer, the community that comes with the game, the people supporting this project is amazing and win or lose we are all still here for the guys. It made me more optimistic for the rest of the season.
If anything, his story has strengthened my love for this team and this sport. It helped me see the better side of the soccer world and made me wish that I could join him on the journey. While I can’t physically be with him on the tour, I can help by sharing his story, buying him a beer, and by creating a new friendship.