SUPPORTING QUEENS PARK RANGERS: AN AMERICAN PERSPECTIVE Rafael J. Fernandez
I’m just like you when it comes to Queens Park Rangers. When it comes to the frequently used metaphors, I’m right there with you. Like you, “QPR is my life”, and “Loftus Road is my church”. Like you, I live and die with the SuperHoops every day, every week, every season. Yes, I really like to classify myself as “QPR Till I Die”.
Yet, unlike you, I live thousands of miles away in a foreign country; not just down the road in West London. And unlike you, I’m an American. No, not your English or British bloke who moved across the pond. I am like a real, 100% freaking American. A bloody Yank. A foreigner. And to some, at worse a soccer Neanderthal or w*nker. But that is where you are wrong. See for I never refer to the sport as “soccer”, and would like to believe that I’m quite educated in the sport of football. But like you, I’m a QPR fan, a fan of the SuperHoops, and a die-hard Queens Park Rangers fan.
What is it like being a truly American QPR fan? Ironically enough it is probably just as much as being a QPR fan in England, Great Britain, or anywhere else worldwide.
I first became enthralled with Queens Park Rangers in March of 2005. This was a season in which the club was back in what was originally known as the Football League First Division, but now changed to the Football League Championship Division. At the time I was serving in the U.S. Army in Germany, and was on a military pass for a week. For my pass, I decided a visit to London was in order.
Originally I was looking to have a good time in London, and learn more about the culture of football within the city and country as well. I’ll admit that, at the time, I had vaguely heard of QPR, but was more interested in watching a club like Spurs or Arsenal. But on March 12, 2005, nothing was available and I truly thought I may have missed a golden opportunity to catch any football. Luckily, I was given a tip at a bar near West London about QPR and how there was still tickets available. In my mind I remember saying “well, it’s not the Premier League but what the heck, football is football”.
What ended up happening that day was destiny for me, and forever changed my course on how I view and feel about football. I watched QPR take on Watford at Loftus Road; with the R’s coming out on top 3-1 with a brace from Kevin Gallen and another from Paul Furlong. But more importantly, I fell in love with a club, an atmosphere, and a culture. Having grown-up in New York City all my life, I have attended my fair share of sporting events. But what I experienced at Loftus Road that day was something that was rarely rivalled. From the passion and hospitality of the fans, to the amazing electric atmosphere created by that passion and desire for the club, to the team itself fighting for every loose ball, tackle, and goal; it was truly an amazing event to me and something that I just couldn’t let go! The sense of friendliness within the community, the family atmosphere shared by the club, players, and fans alike, and overall historical aspect of the club was appeal enough to draw me to the club and become a supporter.
Through the years since then, I found myself continuously supporting the club through the internet. It wasn’t until 2010 and 2011 when I joined Facebook and Twitter, respectively, but before then I would scroll through articles, readings, and any other online sources that I could scrounge upon just to read about the Rangers and their highs and lows of maintaining within the Football League.
I left Germany in 2007 to be stationed stateside, and that is where the challenges truly began for me as a QPR supporter. I was placed in a unit in the northern portion of the State of New York which was highly deployable to regions like Afghanistan. By this point my military career was truly taking off, and I had no plans of leaving the service anytime soon. But my obligations to the service and my country were making it difficult to follow my club.
In 2009 my support for Queens Park Rangers was put to the ultimate test as I was deployed to Afghanistan for the entire year. From a QPR perspective, that covered the second half of the 2008-2009 season; as well as the first half of the 2009-2010 season. But like a good soldier and supporter, I was resilient and persevered in my support for the SuperHoops! In the midst of my most dangerous and challenging deployment, I managed to ensure that I was well in the know-how of the club with mailed clippings to my military post; as well as continuous internet articles and updates whenever I wasn’t busy being blown-up by the enemy!
On my return from that deployment in the beginning of 2010 is when I knew that I was truly hooked to QPR. Since my return, I followed that wonderful 2010-2011 season in which everything seemed magical and outstanding.
Stateside, that promotion season was the time of my life in terms of following QPR, because the end reward of promotion to the Premier League meant that, for the first time ever, I was able to watch the club live on television. By this time, the internet had progressed to where live streams and internet radio was the craze, but never was I able to actually watch the club live on television.
Since the return to the Premier League, my routine for the matches has been pretty much to script every weekend. I would wake up anywhere from 8:00 A.M. to 9:00 A.M. in order to watch the pre-game festivities, followed by the match itself. Even though the past two years in the top flight brought minimal success, I was at least glad to experience watching my club live. This routine would always be followed with breakfast and an enjoyment of the rest of the weekend.
By this point I have migrated onto Facebook and Twitter; and in the process met some amazing friends along the way. The power of social media really took my support to another level as I was able to interact with other fellow QPR fans from across the pond and abroad. The best part about this experience for me was the countless times where fans abroad (mostly with British-ties), would be shocked that I was a fan of their little-known club! They in-turn would become fans of me; ultimately sharing a love and mutual respect for the club and each other.
Since relegation, things for me have remained status-quo. My military commitments now have me residing on the west coast of the United States near Seattle, Washington. And while I’m enjoying carrying on with my career working on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, the fact remains that I’m now 8 hours away time zone-wise from my beloved Hoops. Yet my routine is uninterrupted. I now find myself waking up at 6:15 A.M. just to listen to the matches on QPR Player instead of watching them (since relegation has robbed me the ability to see them live on the television set), and sometimes I wake up as early as 4:00 A.M. for those 12:15 P.M. Sky matches!
But regardless of what time of day it is, where I may be in the world at any given notice, or my nationality, one thing always remains the same: I am a QPR fan through and through. I love the club for everything that it is and isn’t. Unlike others, I never care for being a “glory hunter”. All the teams that I have followed throughout my life have always been local to me. I win with them, and I lose with them. But they always remain my team. QPR is no different. I didn’t fall in love because it is some sort of “brand franchise”. I fell in love with the club because of what I witnessed first-hand in terms of the quality of support from the fans, players, and community alike.
Someone once questioned my commitment by saying what would happen if the club ever slipped to the depths of League 1 or 2? They stated that I would be found out then and just abandon my support of the club all-together. I responded by saying that I guess I would be a fan of a League 1 or League 2 club! If I was successful in following the club at 10,000 feet altitude in the rugged mountains and terrain of Afghanistan, then I would not have an issue following them in the depths of the Football League at all.
That point was never more driven home then this past March of 2013 when I was fortunate enough to make a trip back to London for the match against Sunderland at Loftus Road. It was wonderful to meet some of the supporters who have welcomed me with open arms through the social media world. It was my first time back since that match against Watford in 2005 and the experience was just as memorable. Ironically enough, it ended up being our last win of the season that year, but I was just happy to be back amongst the R’s faithful.
So there you have it; that is what it is like for this American to follow and be a fan of the Greatest Club You’ll Ever See! As long as I’m still ticking, I will always be a supporter of the R’s. And who knows, maybe one day when I’m done with my military career and retirement is upon me (which is in 8 ½ years!), I might just leave the comforts of home and seek a new adventure in the rural pastures of England itself. It is only a dream, but one well worth making a reality. For anything is possible….like even an American cheering on the SuperHoops! UURRSS!!