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Friday Feedback: Outside the EPL

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Gareth shot us a quick email on Tuesday that said "given what seems to be a running theme of internationalism on 7500 to Holte (especially with Kirsten and Fenerbahce), maybe this week's Friday Feedback should be about what leagues and/or clubs we follow."

Well, we of course loved the idea (especially Kirsten, who wanted to write about some Turkish team). So this week's Friday Feedback question is: Aside from the EPL, what other leagues do you follow world-wide, and which teams do you like in those leagues?

Aaron: Of course there's the Sounders, and MLS at large; the quality of the league has improved so much through the years, especially these past few and it's a shame it was so bad for so long as I think a lot of people have it already burned into their mind that it's not worth paying attention to. Which is somewhat understandable I suppose, but still unfortunate.

I don't follow any league as closely as I do the Premier League and MLS, largely due to that pesky limit to the number of hours in the day and all. I wouldn't go so far as to say that I support any teams aside from Villa and the Sounders either. But I definitely follow several others and have my favored teams. In Spain there is Barcelona, which would seem to contradict my usual distaste for massively successful clubs with large casual followings, but I've always wanted to live in Barcelona (that desire has kicked into overdrive here lately) and it's impossible for me to not love Lionel Messi. Their rivalry with Real Madrid doesn't hurt things either. I follow the German Bundesliga and watch as often as possible, but aside from liking VfL Wolfsburg a longstanding love of Volkswagens I don't have any real rooting interests. I'm making an effort to pay more attention to Ligue 1 since one of my oldest friends just moved to Paris and I'd like to go visit her sometime soon, so it would be neat to be able to go to a game and have some context. I've recently decided I like Admira Vienna as one of the clubs that merged to lead to their creation was originally called Wacker Wien. Recently I've developed an affinity for Genoa, which is odd given my general distaste for Serie A.

In a lot of the other leagues I have clubs that I root against despite not having any major rooting interest; AC Milan in Italy, Rangers and Celtic in Scotland, pretty much every club in Serbia. I've recently grown to absolutely detest Monterrey in no small part due to their goalkeeper Jonathan Orozco.I'm not especially fond of Chivas either. And really, hating clubs is almost as fun as cheering for one. Until you're put into the unenviable position of supporting Roma, even if it's only for one day.

Gareth: I alluded to this earlier in the week, but I really don't care about the MLS. When the Vancouver Whitecaps join the league next year, I'll follow them, but I still probably won't watch a match if they're not playing. I'm terrible, I know. 

After Villa and the Premiership, my next biggest interest is in La Liga. It's basically accepted knowledge now that most of the best players in world football play in Spain, and four (or five, depending on how you feel about Pique) of them play for Barcelona. I recognize that for a lot of people, Barcelona is eminently hateable, but I've fallen for their Catalan charms, hook line and sinker. They've got history, a cultural identity, a beautiful style, and perfectly threaded passes. Real Madrid is a fascinating club as well, just because they seem to really relish their roles as pantomime villains. Seriously, they have both Jose Mourinho and Cristiano Ronaldo, two brilliant talents that seem to thrive on being hated. Not to mention a boatload of other great players, particularly Mesut Ozil, who I love even though he plays for Madrid. That's not even mentioning Valencia, Villareal, Atletico Madrid, Athletic Bilbao, and Sevilla, all of whom are also incredible clubs that are always good value. 

After the Premiership and La Liga, I fall off a bit. I'll usually only watch one or two matches per weekend from Serie A, Ligue 1, and/or the Bundesliga. In Serie A, I like Juventus because a long time ago I saw a picture of Michel Platini playing for Juve and thought "that's what football should look like." Brilliant uniforms, brilliant nickname (La Vecchia Signora, meaning "The Old Lady"), and a ridiculous amount of brilliant players over the years (Platini, Zidane, Baggio, del Piero, Buffon, etc.) In the Bundesliga, I quite like Borussia Dortmund this year, so I'm following them at the moment. I don't know if I can call myself a full-fledged supporter yet. I really struggle to get into Ligue 1 though, which is unfortunate since I'm absolutely fascinated by French football. A lot of the struggle comes from not being able to immediately identify with a club. I have a soft spot for PSG that I can't really explain, aside from that they're in Paris, I guess. I also like Lyon for the way they run their club, and Saint-Etienne for their history (and again: Platini.) In an abstract sense, I like Ajax, but I can't bring myself to watch the Eredivisie on a regular basis. I do enjoy catching them in the Champions League when I get a chance, though. 

The first club side I ever followed, however, was Glasgow Rangers. The only reason I knew about them was that we had a Scottish neighbour when I was growing up who was a Rangers supporter, so of course I liked them because he was a nice guy with a funny accent who was really passionate about this club. That was before I found out about the sectarianism and the Old Firm and the duopoly that they share with Celtic in the SPL. But because it was a part of my childhood, I can't help but like them. 

To take a page out of Aaron's book, I do have a couple of clubs that I just instinctively dislike. Inter Milan, for whatever reason, have always rubbed me the wrong way. Real Madrid, obviously, even though I do recognize that they're brilliant and will watch them whenever they're on. Speaking of clubs that have had shady connections to dictatorial regimes, Lazio are just terrible. I hardly love Roma, but I have to side with them in the derby of Rome just because of how awful and right-wing Lazio are. 

I think that's about it. I want to follow South American football, but their leagues are so confusing that I have a hard time following it. The best players always leave for Europe as well, so the quality isn't always great even if the atmosphere is brilliant.

Kirsten: Obviously Aston Villa are the true loves of my life (is the true love?) but just one game a week is not nearly enough footy for me. Thus, I collect football teams the way some people collect baseball cards.

For my MLS team, I have the Seattle Sounders. I may have moved to Portland but I'm staying Rave Green--I've got way too much invested in the likes of Fredy Montero, Osvaldo Alonso, Alvaro Fernandez and even some non-Spanish speakers.

In the English lower leagues, I support Exeter City, doing my best to follow Ryan Harley, Richard Logan, and the rest from afar. Lower league football following is tough, but not nearly as difficult as attempting to stay abreast of news about Tooting and Mitcham, my non-league football club. These ties formed when attending games in England (curiously enough, both were away matches) and even if it's hard to find news about the teams, I still try my best.

Most weekends the TV is on, showing Serie A matches--but if it's Napoli, I'm up and cheering, even if it means an alarm and lots of coffee. Although a nominal supporter last season, the Partenopei won me over this year. I love their sky blue kits, I love their snazzy coach, and I love love love their Uruguayan footballing god, Edinson Cavani. And even if he inspires rage almost as often as joy, I still love Marek Hamšík. But geez, Marek, couldn't you have put it in the net against Liverpool?

Speaking of Slovakians, everyone's probably heard way too much about the newest league I follow--the Turkish Süper Lig. I found Fenerbahçe by following the Miroslav Stoch trail and guys, I think I'm in love. Yellow and blue? The canaries? Batshit crazy supporters? I am all over this one. Now I'm just saving up my pennies to buy their away kit. And you know who else is on Fener? Diego Lugano, Uruguayan center back. No, I'm not sure if I love the Uruguayans or the repre more. If only Seattle would buy a Slovakian...

There are quite a few other teams I support in theory--Atlético Madrid, FC Koln, Estudiantes Tecos--but I just haven't gotten into La Liga, the Bundesliga or Primera División that much. I'm doing better at the Eredivisie, where I try to watch both Ajax and FC Twente (who gave me both Blaise Nkufo and Miňo, bless them). I'd love a Ligue 1 team and a Belgian side, and I'm also trying to get into both Russian footy and Slovakian league football.

Yes, it's a sickness.

Robert: Well, I feel awfully lame this week. As much as I'm starting to love soccer, I just haven't found the time to have another club. I keep an eye on the MLS, and even occasionally watch Sounders matches, but I don't think I can call myself a fan yet (besides, as distasteful as it seems, I keep thinking I should be a DC United fan so I can actually... you know... SEE a team in person with some regularity). But if I do decide to put in the effort to become a fan of another league for good, it will definitely be the MLS. I like supporting what we have here, and I love how the league has matured in the past couple of years. When I heard they were expanding, I laughed. I figured that would be the death knell. But instead, it's only helped make for a larger, more passionate fan-base.