Yes, Jackson, Mississippi Loves Soccer
With the World Cup underway in Qatar through December 18, we wondered, is Jackson, Mississippi a Futbol-loving sort of city?
Jacksonian, former player and soccer fanatic Catherine Lee says, absolutely!
Really? We're into soccer here, Catherine?
Jackson soccer fans have so much to cheer for at every level, from youth - even traveling leagues like Mississippi Rush - to adult professional leagues. As a kid, I would have never imagined the sport's popularity here, but I regularly meet supporters of Major League Soccer (MLS), United Soccer League (USL), National Women's Soccer League (NWSL), and of course, English Premier League fans here. When the US National Teams are playing, we can all get under the same tent!
What is your futbol background?
I played youth soccer in Jackson for JFC and college at the University of Tampa. My brother also played at JFC, at college at the University of Evansville, and continues to coach as his profession, so we started out and remain a soccer family. My husband Garrad is also a big fan, so we travel to watch games together as much as we can. We are members of a supporter group for Atlanta United called Footie Mob, and their tailgate and match presence is incredible. But my entire family is totally fanatical about the U.S. Women's National Team. I was a little kid when my mom drove me and a group of my teammates to Atlanta in 1993 to watch them play Germany. I have been obsessed ever since. We also traveled as a family to Detroit in 1994 to watch the first World Cup hosted in the United States. That experience also left quite the impression!
Where will you be watching World Cup matches from?
The World Cup is a month-long tournament; there will be as many as four games a day in the first round. So I will watch many from home, but for U.S. and knockout round matches, I will watch as many as possible at one of our city's bars. Capitol Grill is the chapter bar for the American Outlaws, an official U.S. Soccer supporter group (and I am a member), so they will have a fun atmosphere for our matches.
Know of additional spots to watch?
There's Fertile Ground Beer Company and I am sure there will be several others. But I have to shout out Johnny T's in particular. The Jackson State University women's soccer team won the SWAC championship this year, and the team gathered at Johnny T's for the tournament selection announcements. I am glad to see that team had a host hangout spot for that experience, so no doubt they will be glad to host fans for the World Cup.
Why is this a sport you are passionate about?
Overall, soccer is a beautiful game to watch, and I love that it can be played literally almost anywhere in the world. I fell in love with it as a kid, and I also loved that the game was a common language for people I met in camps and tournaments from small rural areas across the south and dozens of nations. I also love that the U.S. women's program has been the catalyst for so much growth of women's soccer internationally. As the best team in the world, they have pushed not only the U.S. Soccer Federation but also FIFA and other national federations to increase equitable investment in men's and women's programs.
Lee says if you have yet to get into watching soccer or the World Cup before but are curious about the experience, there is no reason to hesitate to check it out. "Head to a sports bar or pub and watch. It's okay to ask questions of fellow fans. Most of them are like me and enjoy helping others learn the sport. In four years, [the United States] will be the hosts for this tournament, so now is a perfect time!"
Thanks to Catherine for providing this look into soccer fandom in the City With Soul! Catherine also has offered resources for questions surrounding the World Cup in Qatar, from equality to workers rights (Amnesty.org) and how the tournament ended up in Qatar to begin with.