It’s official. Sunderland AFC’s global reach is expanding.
Payton Ritchey is a graduate, living in Texas, America, and she has a passion for the Black Cats.
Bizarrely, her love affair with Sunderland began with the 5-1 thrashing by fierce rivals Newcastle United back in 2010 when Steve Bruce was in charge.
Despite the defeat, Payton was hooked after watching the game on television.
And here, in her own words, Payton explains exactly why she loves all things Sunderland:
“As a Sunderland supporter, I am constantly asked to justify the colours I wear on my back.
In a sea of City blue and United red, my heavy red and white stripes are out of place. So too is my 1973 FA Cup jacket – a stark (and painful) reminder of Sunderland’s last trophy of any worth.
Sunderland shirts are rare in the states.
In fact, other than the ones sported by myself and my father, I’ve yet to see a single one. Perhaps there aren’t any others.
Nevertheless, I am proud of mine and slip it on dutifully every weekend when I wake up to catch the game.
This is why I’m often asked to justify myself; stateside, there are five clubs whose colours are worn with tragic frequency: Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, and Arsenal.
You’ll notice that these are not only winning clubs; they’ve all been UCL sides in the last five years, some of them repeatedly.
“Why would you want to support perennial losers?” I’m asked.
“What joy is there in watching Sunderland?”
“How could you possibly have begun supporting the Cats to begin with?”
Allow me to explain.
I did not grow up playing soccer. In fact, before I began following the Premier League,
I’d never paid much attention to soccer at all. It was not my favourite sport, or the favourite sport of anyone I knew. No one in my family played, or watched, or coached.
There was no reason I should be attracted to the sport, and no reason I should have been watching it on television that day in 2010.
Out on the pitch were two teams I’d never heard of before.
There were Sunderland, in their red and white stripes.
Newcastle were there as well, in the black and white I senselessly and immediately reviled. Intrigued by the intensity and fervour of the play, I watched the match all the way through.
We lost a horrid 5-1; without knowing much about the sport, even I knew that the scoreline was abysmal.
A thumping. Unfortunate. I fell in love with Sunderland despite the loss, for their obvious mettle and heart. I did not know of any rivalry so intense in any other sport.
I had never seen two teams play with such heart, passion, determination, and hatred for each other.
Their obvious interest in the game ignited a flame in me which has not gone out and never will.
I began following the Cats then, during the Steve Bruce era. I have followed them wholeheartedly and loyally since.
There are clubs who have won more games, players who have received more accolades, and clubs whose managers rotate far less frequently, but I have found a home with a club whose history and culture is just as rich - richer, I would argue – than the clubs whose kits are paraded around the states.
I stand by my club through thick and thin, and I wouldn’t trade my red and white stripes for any other.
They make me unique, they make me strong, and they make me anything other than a fair-weather fan.”
* This blog has been written by Payton Ritchey, a Sunderland supporter living in America, who also contributes to Sunderlandstateside.com
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