Greg after watching Caen-OM with OMNewYork at Smithfield Hall. Continue on to read the interview.
-So Greg, where are you from?
I was born and raised in Bergen County, New Jersey and currently live in Hoboken, NJ.
– How long have you been following soccer and Olympique de Marseille?
I grew up playing soccer as a kid so I always had a familiarity with the rules and intricacies of the game. I’m a huge sports fan and pretty much follow every sport but I never watched much soccer growing up because the top European leagues were rarely on TV. I think soccer really started to explode in America in 2010 when the US National team won their group in the World Cup and made the quarterfinals. More and more European games were on TV and the video game FIFA become the most popular among my circle of friends. This allowed me to get more familiar with the teams and players and I started to follow leagues such as the EPL, Bundesliga, and Ligue 1 really closely. I supported different teams in each league and of course being lifelong friends with Matt I was introduced to his favorite club OM. I started supporting them when I was invited to watch some of the matches.
-What got you interested in OM?
Probably the first game I went to which was at a supporter bar in Montreal. I was visiting the city with Matt (guy who runs americanom.com) and his family and really enjoyed the atmosphere at the bar. I really got a kick at some of the OM chants and people yelling things in French that I only partially understood. I also remember it being freezing cold (it was February) and the OM supporter scarf really came in handy that day.
-Have you met many Americans who support OM/French Ligue?
I’ve a met a few Americans going to the games. I know a lot of people who are huge soccer fans although they mostly follow MLS and EPL. Unfortunately, in the US the one team most people are familiar with in Ligue 1 is PSG.
-Who is your favorite OM player (past or present)?
My favorite footballer of all-time is Didier Drogba and he played for OM for 1 season. To be fair, I didn’t really start following him until he reached Chelsea. So more recently, my favorite player is Michy Batshuayi. He’s a man among boys on the pitch and really exciting with the ball at his feet.
-What qualities about OM do you find set it apart from other soccer clubs?
I like the fact that that it doesn’t only represent a city but an entire region. Especially in “Le Classique” OM represents the South of France while PSG represents the North. I’ve been to France a few times and always found the people from the South to be friendlier than those from Paris so I can understand why OM fans are so passionate about their club.
-How can OM reach out to and gain more support in the USA? Is there potential for OM to expand into the US market?
I think they can use a club like Borussia Dortmund as a model. They’ve consistently been a top club domestically but were always in the shadow of Bayern Munich. Though they can’t compete financially with Bayern (similar to PSG in Ligue 1), they’ve grown in popularity by developing young players, playing a wide open style which leads to scoring, and have a passionate fanbase that creates an electric atmosphere in home games. These things eventually resulted in major success in Champions League and ultimately they became the cool team to support instead of the powerhouses like Bayern, RM, and FCB. I see a lot of similarities with OM in that they have a passionate fanbase, unique uniform colors, and they seem to have nice pipeline into North Africa to find young talent. They just need to be smarter in the transfer market and lock up some of their young talent to long term deals to better position themselves in the transfer market. Ultimately Americans like winners and I think this is the best way for OM to do that.
Some of the other things are at the mercy of Ligue 1. Currently Ligue 1 games on TV air on BEIN sports in the US, which generally only shows Barcelona, Real Madrid, and PSG games live and replays the other teams (if they show at all). Bundesliga had something similar with GolTV last year showing only Bayern games but this past year signed a new contract with Fox Sports, which has resulted in far more games being broadcasted.
I also feel like almost all OM games are on Sundays and for half the season this means direct competition with the NFL which is almost impossible in the US. So perhaps a few more Saturday afternoon games (Saturday morning is dominated by EPL) would help increase exposure.
-Who is your favorite player from this season?
Michy Batshuayi who’s been in great form this year. He just needs to learn to pass sometimes!
-Where do you think l’OM will place this year?
The last game vs. Caen game me a lot of optimism as the team was in its best form perhaps all year. Right now things are bunched up and OM is only 7 points out of second with none of the either teams looking that strong. It helps that the second PSG game is at home so I think they can make a run at 3rd place.