One of the joys of passionate fandom is the opportunity to daydream. The ecstasy of playing air guitar is underrated. The sport of soccer presents its fans with a ludicrously rich buffet of vicarious possibility: our heroes and villains come from everywhere, in a million iterations, with every possible back story. And as a bonus, they have dependably outrageous hair styles, which we can marvel at but never need to adopt ourselves.
The Portland Timbers have a new player, and while his haircut is sedate, his back story has the makings of a daydream. Alvas Powell is 18 years old and a defender for the Jamaican national team, the superbly named Reggae Boyz. The Timbers have him on loan from Portmore United, a team that plays in the Red Stripe Premier League, Jamaica’s first division.
Imagine, for a moment, that you’re 18 years old. You’re a talented and ambitious soccer player, and you’re Jamaican, which among other things probably means you’re not familiar with Alice Cooper’s classic rock radio staple “I’m Eighteen.” It’s likely that you know a much cooler song about being 18. At 17, just a few months ago, you were good enough that people write articles about how you should be getting more playing time. Now you’re playing in your country’s World Cup qualifying games, and while it’s a huge honor, the intense scrutiny is disorienting. You make a bad throw-in and a British tabloid posts the embarrassing video, which 15,000 people watch on YouTube. These are wild times.
Then you’re loaned to the Portland Timbers, a team based more than three thousand miles away, in a very ... different climate. By way of odd circumstance, you are from Jamaica’s Portland Parish. This doesn’t help with homesickness, but it makes for charming conversation. You’re a professional athlete, a teenager, and on the best team in a foreign league. The fans are crazy.
Let’s welcome Alvas Powell, and while we do so, take a minute to think about how far so many of the players we watch have traveled. There’s a lot of soccer geography to learn, and it’s a great past time.