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Holiday Gift Ideas for the Soccer Fan in Your Life: A Black Friday Guide by Black & Red Fans

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Writers and readers at Black & Red United help you pick out something special for that someone special.

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Alex Livesey

Someone you love loves soccer, huh?  And you've been googling for ideas for what gift to give him or her for the holidays?  But you're at a loss.  And you've found yourself here, at Black & Red United.

You, my friend, have come to the right place.

Whether your loved one seems new to soccer fandom - he got bitten by the World Cup bug over the summer and increasingly refers to the front yard as the pitch - or she is a full-on soccer nerd whom you think is now impossible to buy for, we've got you covered.

Here are gift ideas from fans of all levels, for all levels.  If you don't find the idea you're looking for in the below article itself, you might find it in the comments section that follows.

Books!

Chances are, the soccer fan in your life also likes to read.

Recommended by Touchline:

The Miracle of Castel di Sangro by Joe McGinniss.  This book is at the top of the list of any American soccer reader's canon.  A gateway drug to falling in love with the game, it's the true, thrilling, hilarious, and even enraging account of an American journalist who embeds himself with a Cinderella soccer team in rural Italy.  The team has a ridiculous owner, a crazy coach, and a cast of players that you fall in love with as the story progresses.  Excerpt:  "Tonino...never failed to greet me by first yodeling the name of his favorite American sports hero - KarrrEEEEEM AaabDDDUL JabbbAAARRRRRR! -- with the finest roling of a final r I ever heard in Italy..."  (Buy for:  Soccer-Curious.)

The Ball Is Round - A Global History of Soccer by David Goldblatt.  This is the textbook on the history of soccer around the world.  It's a thick 907 pages long, not counting the index.  Highly readable, it will bring a recently minted fan up to speed on all the basics of how the game developed everywhere, but especially in England, Continental Europe, Latin America, and Africa, so he or she will be conversant on the relationship between Inter Milan and the Italian left, or the factors propelling the rise of football in Brazil, or the historical depths of corruption in FIFA.  Excerpt:  "...unlike the dust-dry rational calculations of America's space programme, Brazilian football was guided by other parameters:  football as art, as spectacle, as dance and as drama."  (Buy for:  Intermediate fan trying to catch up with the big boys.)

Among the Thugs by Bill Buford.  Like Miracle, this is the story of an American embedding himself within a foreign institution.  In this case, he embeds himself with 1980s hooligan-dominated supporter groups in England - the thuggish kind that run in the same circles as skinheads.  It is a terrifying and sometimes funny study of mob behavior and the drive to violence.  Fight Club before there was Fight Club.  Excerpt:  "I had the suspicion that if I happened to make eye contact with anybody I would be rewarded with a knock on the head.  Also I didn't want to lose my concentration.  Looking straight ahead, I was concentrating very hard on chanting my new refrain.  I will not shit myself, I will not shit myself."  (Buy for:  someone who won't stupidly attempt to emulate any of this.)

Recommended by Ryan Keefer:

Dallas 'Til I Cry by Nathan Nipper. Nipper is a guy who has followed the Premier League and soccer in some manner or fashion for years, but always kept Major League Soccer at arm's length. The book chronicles his experiences following F.C. Dallas during their 2013 campaign. Slowly but surely, he found himself getting immersed into all things FCD. The book is a quick read and, considering 2014's campaign for the club, one can look forward to his updated prologue. (Buy for: the "Europe Soccer rules, I can't follow MLS!" person you know.)

Fear and Loathing in La Liga: Barcelona, Real Madrid, and the World's Greatest Sports Rivalry by Sid Lowe. Sure, the cover of the book has Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi on the cover, but Lowe's book goes much deeper than the figures on the front, exploring the century of tension that has involved Madridistas and Cules past the feelings on the pitch, but also some of the legendary figures who have worn the shirt for the respective clubs over those decades. (Buy for: the person you know who wears a Real or Barca shirt without knowing why he's getting some of the sneers from rival fans.)

Red or Dead by David Peace. Peace is a British novelist, initially known for his work on the Red Riding Quartet of novels which cover various eras. He then dived into soccer with The Damned United, loosely based on Brian Clough's tumultuous and brief time coaching Leeds United. His follow-up footy work covers the Liverpool FC reign of icon Bill Shankly from 1959 to 1974, but more importantly attempts to explain the reason why there is a statue of the man outside Anfield and why he still means so much to the community decades afterwards. It is a mammoth, more than 700-page read, but an excellent one for this LFC supporter. (Buy for: the Red in your life.)

Recommended by blazindw:

Finding The Game By Gwendolyn Oxenham - One of the stars behind the documentary, "Pelada," Gwendolyn Oxenham brings her experiences from the documentary and expands upon them in her book, Finding The Game. At sixteen, Gwendolyn Oxenham was the youngest Division I athlete in NCAA history, a starter and leading goal-scorer for Duke University. At twenty, she graduated, the women's professional soccer league folded, and her career was over. In Finding the Game, Oxenham, along with her boyfriend and two friends, chases the part of the game that outlasts a career. They bribe their way into a Bolivian prison, bet shillings on a game with moonshine brewers in Kenya, play with women in hijab on a court in Tehran-and discover what the world looks like when you wander down side streets, holding on to a ball, in search of the ordinary-and sometimes, extraordinary-game of pickup soccer

How Soccer Explains The World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization by Franklin Foer - A groundbreaking work-named one of the five most influential sports books of the decade by Sports Illustrated-How Soccer Explains the World is a unique and brilliantly illuminating look at soccer, the world's most popular sport, as a lens through which to view the pressing issues of our age, from the clash of civilizations to the global economy. Truly an amazing read.

Soccernomics: Why England loses, why Germany and Brazil win, and why the U.S., Japan, Australia, Turkey -and even Iraq - are destined to become the kings of the world's most popular sport by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski - Soccernomics is a new way of looking at soccer through meticulous, empirical analysis and incisive, witty commentary. The San Francisco Chronicle describes it as "the most intelligent book ever written about soccer." This World Cup edition features new material, including a provocative examination of how soccer clubs might actually start making profits, why that's undesirable, and how soccer's never had it so good in its history.

Recommended by leanneelston:

Tor! The Story of German Football by Uli Hesse. Folks who've frequented the Bundesliga section of ESPNFC (or Soccernet, what what) for years like I have will recognize Uli Hesse's name, but you don't need to have been reading about German soccer for years to appreciate this book. The title pretty much tells you the gist of it--this is the history of German soccer, and you'd be hard-pressed to find as an in-depth a look at it (in English!) anywhere else. Hesse dedicates a short chapter to explaining German club names (ever wonder what the VfB in VfB Stuttgart stands for?), but one of my favorite small stories he goes into involves Adidas and Puma--yes, the shoe companies--and the rift between brothers Adolf and Rudolf Dassler that started them. Hesse is a wonderful storyteller, and his book is full of the people whose stories shaped both the Bundesliga and the soccer of East, West, and modern Germany. Anyone with any interest in German soccer owes it to themselves to read this book. Looks like there's also an updated edition that brings us into 2013 (the original edition brings us to the 2002 World Cup), so somebody may have to buy me this book as a gift.

Jerseys!

Check your soccer fan's closet.  If he or she does not have any jerseys from obviously favorite teams, you know what to do.  DC United Team Store.  World Soccer Shop.  But even if they have a few jerseys already, there are always more jerseys to give them because so many jerseys just look awesome or help strike up fascinating soccer conversation at a bar.

Warning!  A lot of online jersey shopping involves overseas shipments, foreign exchange, google translations, or even ebay bidding.  Supplies run out at one site and pop up somewhere else.  So shop early.

JERSEYS THAT JUST LOOK COOL

Recommended by Touchline:

Baltimore Bohemian jersey.  This is mainly for people who live in or hail from Maryland because the jersey is so...Maryland.  It's got the checkers of the Maryland flag and the winking Mr. Boh.  It's an awesome, awesome contraption.  It just looks good.  (Buy for:  the person in your family most likely to say something like "Crab cakes and futbol!  That's what Maryland does!")

Recommended by Ryan Keefer:

RSC Anderlecht Away Jersey: Aside from a damned nice looking pink jersey (the home shirt is purple with a white sash a la the 2010 US jerseys), you can get it customized with Andy Najar's name and number, and who wouldn't want to do that? An email is necessary to their staff as they do ship to the US, though that information isn't readily available. Speaking as the guy who actually did something similar for a Branko Boskovic jersey from Rapid Vienna, it's worth exploring.

JERSEYS THAT WILL MAKE YOU THE COOLEST PERSON ON THE BLOCK

Recommended by blazindw:

1. FC Kaiserslautern Home Jersey - Kaiserslautern contains one of the largest American expat populations in the world, and while the local team is in the German 2nd division, 1. FC Kaiserslautern will still be #1 in their hearts. Know someone stationed at Ramstein Air Force Base? Have them mail you one of these bad boys as a nice present.

Federal City FC (DCU U-23s) Home Jersey - You buy this jersey for someone in the know. You wear this jersey, and you will identify those soccer fans with true knowledge of the local game. It also will show that you are a supporter of D.C. United from top to bottom, from the academy level up to the first team.

Orlando Pirates Home Jersey- Ever since seeing people in the stands with this jersey during the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the Orlando Pirates home jersey has been one of the most sought-after jerseys among collectors. For United fans, you'll love the colors: black with red and white trim. The logo is simple yet fantastic and the team that many fondly call the "Happy People" are actually good too: they were runners up in the 2013 CAF Champions League.

Western Sydney Wanderers Home Jersey - You probably have no idea who the Western Sydney Wanderers are. That's okay...they've been in existence for only 2 years. You know what they also are? Champions. Their first season, they won the A-League Premier Plate (their version of the Supporters Shield) and finished 2nd in the A-League Finals (their version of the MLS Cup playoffs). Season 2 saw them finish 2nd in the Premier Plate standings, once again runner-up in the A-League Finals, but also saw them qualify for the 2014 FIFA Club World Cup by winning the AFC Champions League, the youngest team ever to do so. Oh yea, and they wear Black & Red. They're in a big city in Sydney but don't yet dominate it (that honor goes to crosstown rival Sydney FC), so having this jersey will still make you feel like you're supporting the underdog. Plus, it's gorgeous...makes you wonder how that would look with a United crest on there. 3rd jersey perhaps?

Persib Bandung Home Jersey- You may remember this team as one of the two teams that D.C. United faced in an exhibition a year ago during their tour to Indonesia. What you may not remember is that Persib Bandung is the third soccer team in Erick Thohir's portfolio. This might be one of the hardest jerseys to get in world soccer...I'm not even sure if Uncle Erick himself has one in his closet. But, if you have a direct line to Mr. Thohir, getting one of these jerseys will make you the absolute king/queen connoisseur of rare jersey collectors.

And, of course, the jersey of the newest FIFA member to take the field:  Gibraltar.

JERSEYS THAT STRIKE UP CONVERSATION

Recommended by Touchline:

Discontinued jerseys from teams that no longer exist.  I'm talking a strangely acid-washed Soviet national team shirt with the letters "CCCP" emblazoned across the chest.  Or how about some ost-nostalgie for the DDR?  You can find old NASL jerseys online from the 1970s.  DC United fans might want to go retro with a Washington Diplomats jersey, emblazoned with their nickname in curvy outerspace 70s font:  "DIPS."  (Buy for:  those with pants that are a little tight in the calves.)

There are also extant teams with very cool names, histories, or jerseys.  Take one of the world's northernmost soccer clubs:  FC Santa Claus.  It may be the hottest thing at the moment in the world of novelty jerseys, as even World Soccer Shop is in on the action of this tiny Finnish third division club.  (Buy for:  the dad who wears Santa ties to family dinner.)

Or Hapoel Tel Aviv FC, with its hammer and sickle emblem?  They're known as the Red Demons and the Workers.  The club is "the standard-bearer of the Israeli left."  Another fun conversation piece.  (Buy for:  the communist in your vanguard.)

Is your soccer fan also a computer geek?  Bayern Munich's sponsor in the 1980s was Commodore.  So this jersey from 1984 combines retro soccer with retro tech.  It's almost too glorious to look at.  (Buy for:  the 40-year-old in your family.)

Recommended by blazindw:

Inter Milan Home Jersey -  Inter Milan is in the D.C. United family, as majority owner Erick Thohir is also the majority owner of "I Nerazzuri."  This team is one of the more recognized teams in all of soccer, and despite their struggles in Serie A this season, you can't go wrong by purchasing this jersey for that growing soccer fan.

Richmond Kickers Home & Road Jerseys - With the Kickers located just down the road in Richmond and also with its affiliation with D.C. United, grabbing a jersey is a no-brainer.  Kyle Porter, Michael Seaton, Collin Martin, Conor Shanosky and Joe Willis are among the United players who called Richmond home at times this season, so you may be able to call the team and see if you can't get one of those players' name and number on the back of your jersey before you give it as that perfect gift this holiday season.

Sunderland L/S Home Jersey - D.C. United announced its partnership with Sunderland earlier this season, and their jersey has red, white and black in it.  How perfect.  Even though Sunderland is not doing well at all in the Barclays Premier League, it's still a pretty cool jersey to have.  No one can ever accuse you of being a frontrunner rocking this jersey to that cocktail party. And, because it's starting to get cold out there, why don't you gift someone the longsleeve version?  

Rosenborg BK Home Jersey - A team in Norway's Tippeligaen, Rosenborg BK is best known for being the current club of U.S. international and heartthrob Mix Diskerud.  Getting a Mix jersey is not for light wallets, but it does seem easy to navigate the website and have one shipped to your home in time to place under the Christmas tree with care.

América de Natal Home Jersey - A lot of U.S. fans called Natal home during the group stage of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, and América de Natal is the biggest club in the city.  A team battling in the 2nd division of Brazilian soccer, América's jersey is simple, very red, and one that could be added to the gift bag...hopefully, you speak enough Portuguese to make it through the website checkout.

Recommended by Ryan Keefer:

Real Oviedo Third jersey: For those unfamiliar with the story, the Spanish club (whose alumni include Santi Cazorla, Juan Mata and Michu) suffered a combination of relegation and financial hardship and almost was forced to fold, until a fan-generated purchase of shares in the team (including some members of Portland's Timbers Army) led by the aforementioned players helped save the club, where they currently are three points out of first in the Spanish Segunda B Division. Located in the north of Spain in the Asturian region, this shirt includes three logos, two from Club Deportivo Oviedo and Real Stadium Club Ovetense, the clubs which merged to form Real Oviedo in 1926. Possibly busy, but it looks damned nice and as a shareholder, am proud to support them.

Movies!

Recommended by Touchline:

Maradona '86 - A very short documentary, part of ESPN's 30 for 30 series, with vintage footage of Argentinian superstar Diego Maradona manipulating the physics of a ball, his feet, his head, and occasionally a hand of God.  It's narrated with the poetic words of Latin American writer Eduardo Galeano.  It's the most beautiful thing I've seen about soccer.  I'm not sure if you can buy this episode alone.  You can buy the entire set of episodes, which cover soccer and all other sports, from the show's Fifth Anniversary Collector's DVD Set.  Groupon has it on sale.

Recommended by blazindw:

Shaolin Soccer - This movie is honestly one of the more eye-catching, hilarious, absolutely awesome movies of all time, a true cult classic.  With tons of action, eye-popping special effects, and nonstop laughs, here's a hilarious martial arts comedy about a team of misfits who take their best shot at winning a championship! Sing is a skilled Shaolin kung fu devotee whose amazing "leg of steel" catches the eye of a soccer coach! Together they assemble a squad of Sing's former Shaolin brothers inspired by the big-money prize in a national soccer competition! Using an unlikely mix of martial arts and newfound soccer skills, it seems an unbeatable combination ... until they must face the dreaded Team Evil in the ultimate battle for the title!

ESPN 30 for 30: The Two Escobars - This 30 for 30 documentary is arguably the best documentary in the entire award-winning series.  This centers around the Colombian national soccer team and its quest to blaze a new image for their country.  While rival drug cartels warred in the streets and the country's murder rate climbed to highest in the world, What followed was a mysteriously rapid rise to glory, as the team catapulted out of decades of obscurity to become one of the best teams in the world. Central to this success were two men named Escobar: Andrés, the inspirational captain of the National Team, and Pablo, the infamous drug baron who pioneered the phenomenon known in the underworld as "Narco-soccer." An official selection at the Tribeca and Los Angeles Film Festivals, and an official selection at Cannes' Cinema de la Plage, award-winning directors Jeff Zimbalist and Michael Zimbalist examine the mysterious events surrounding Andres' tragic death with this intense thriller about the intersection of crime and sport.

Other Gift Ideas!

Recommended by Ryan Keefer:

This one is easy. A new Collective Bargaining Agreement struck between Major League Soccer and its Players Union. Aside from avoiding to play an Academy team in Costa Rica in February, seeing continued labor peace would go a long way to improving the health of the game, particularly ahead of their long-term television contract.

Recommended by blazindw:

MLS once again releasing next year's schedule by Thanksgiving. With the 2015 Women's World Cup, the 2015 Gold Cup and a host of other international friendlies, the calendar is sure to fill up fast.  So, let's hope the league releases the schedule early so that we can start planning some road trips!

Recommended by Touchline:

Tickets to the storied Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium.  DC United has a holiday gift package:  4 regular season game vouchers (which can be redeemed for any 2015 match) plus 1 beanie for 80 bucks.  Go to the main DC United page for the ad.

Buy your loved one tickets to the 2015 Women's World Cup.  It's in Canada, and that's not so far, eh?

Scarves.  Lots and lots of scarves.

The peerless video game named after the shameless sport association:  FIFA 15.

A year's subscription to World Soccer - the top-notch monthly magazine that covers the beautiful game from North America, to Europe, to even little Oceania.  Since it comes from the UK, it's not always timely delivered to the American door, but well worth it in any event.

A new stadium for DC United.

Commenters!  Your turn below!