North America needs about ten thousand more like him, punk rock, inner city, ex-pat, lover of the Real American Game: sah-ker. Too often coverage of the sport in North America is either clouded by insiderish earnestness, or worse, ESPN talking head bile. Some want the game to shirk its roots in the barren New World to suit the childish anglophilic crushes of Williamsburgs and Mission District Arsenal-scarved hipsters; others are satisfied to make moronic, homphobic jokes about the dainty European disease invading America.
Steven Wells thought the future of the Beautiful Game here was “black, female and from the inner-city.” In other words, hidden from the faux-glam of MLS with its logo designed to fool the American passerby into thinking he'd stumbled upon Major League Baseball's stunted cousin. Wells knew more than anyone that the game is here, and not because of the scared, undecided suburban voters driving their kids to-and-fro in minivans and SUVs, the mothers Don Garber and MLS team owners hoped would fill the bleachers at Pizza Hut Park.
No, football is in the centre of our dilapidated cities, the centre of poverty, the same place its embers burned during the Great Depression along the coastal enclaves where immigrants played in forgotten leagues. And it's not going away. But it needs unique voices, many many more than currently grace the airways or the internet. Steven Wells passing on Tuesday has silenced the sport's North American punk rock vocals; it has left British cultural snobbery about Goldenballs unchecked; it has left soccer a little more vulnerable to its American haters, high and low. While his brand of footballing hardcore is irreplaceable, there is ample need to fight the good fight on behalf of North American Football Fans everywhere who want the sport represented as it truly is and not through the lens of a maroon idealist or a malevolent ideologue.
And while Wells probably wouldn't have cared a damn one way or another, We NAFFs owe it to ourselves to be that voice.
I was honoured to interview Steven Wells for EPL Talk this past February. You can read it here if you want.