RR: Tell us a bit about yourself...
My Name is Matt Rosen - I’m 28 years old, from the suburbs of Chicago across the pond in the United States. I played every sport growing up, but soccer was my passion.
RR: So... why Sunderland then?
Stateside there are programs where young men from Europe (in their 20’s) and especially England, come oversees to coach club Soccer. The club that played at the field behind my house was a part of this program.
My parents were friends with the woman who was organising coaches coming over, and since we lived so close, she asked if we could host a coach for the nine months he would be here. As it turns out, he was from Sunderland.
We thought it was only going to be one season, but Paul soon became part of the family and ended up coming back to coach for 5 years, staying with us the entire time.
This started when I was 12/13, as I just started to follow English soccer. We would stream the games and watch together, and I remembered Paul’s joy when we got promoted back into the Premier League.
He bought me a kit, and a goalkeeper kit - the lime green one with BoyleSport on the front. I used it as my match kit for years. From that moment on I was hooked.
Then came NBC and the Premier League was all over US TV. We’d watch every Premier League match together, and it became a regular occurrence whenever the lads were on, that we were watching.
The reason I fell in love with Sunderland was because of the connection between the club and its supporters, the rich history of the club, and because no matter how bad the situation, the club and its supporters never give up hope.
RR: Do people ever give you funny looks when they see you in a Sunderland shirt?
All the time. Especially now as we are down in League One. I get a lot of “why don’t you just root for one of the good teams?” - I simply respond by telling them that they just don’t know what it’s like to support and love a club. There is no switching fandom or abandoning the club because we are going through a tough time.
It’s my club for life, not just a little while.
RR: How popular is football becoming over there? The women’s game seems to be well ahead of the men’s game, which is interesting, isn’t it?
It’s getting more and more popular every day. Obviously, when players like Pulisic make a move to Chelsea, or McKennie to Juventus, or Steffen to Manchester City, fans start to engage and realise that the US has the ability to produce world-class players, and if we keep with it, we should be able to compete with the best countries in the world.
I think the reason that the women’s game is farther ahead than the men’s has to do with all the other sports here stateside. Football (american football) at the professional and university level are much bigger sports here for men, as well as basketball, baseball and even hockey. That puts soccer around the 4th or 5th biggest sport in the US for men.
For women, the only professional sport that comes close to competing with soccer is basketball, so they have less variety and thus, more girls are playing soccer instead of other sports.
RR: Who are your favourite MLS team? Do they relate in any way to Sunderland?!
Being from Chicago it is the Chicago Fire. We really don’t have a connection with SAFC on a club level, but on a footballing level, we have had our struggles to compete at the top of the league for some years now. If relegations were a thing in the MLS we would have certainly been fighting for survival on many occasions.
RR: What did your pals think of the Netflix series?
I told all my friends. Some watched it and finally understood what supporting the club meant. Others did not. It definitely helped a lot of them understand about club management, and how the way that a club is managed impacts play on the field.
It was tough to rewatch what had happened in back-to-back relegations after living through it. Football clubs are run much differently than sports franchises in the US, so that helped a lot of them understand what can happen to a club in just two years.
RR: Have you ever visited the Stadium of Light?
I have never been to England, let alone the SoL!
It would be incredible to be able to watch a goal and cheer on the lads with the rest of the supporters in one voice. I could only imagine being able to experience something like Defoe’s volley on Derby Day, or Bent hitting one in off a beachball...
RR: Is it difficult trying to feel part of what’s going on from so far away?
With Covid, I feel that I am just as close as any other supporter right now. I keep up with the news articles on a regular basis, and watch all the games I can. I feel a part of the community and supporters, and I know if I ever rocked up to the SoL in a home kit that 48,000 supporters there would accept me as one of their own.
RR: Are you a member of any branches out there?
I was living in South Carolina for a while before moving back to Chicago last summer. I plan on becoming a member of the Chicago branch now that I’m back home.
RR: If you could wish for one thing for the club, realistic of course, what would it be?
To keep pressing on - KLD has came in with a vision and drive to bring us not just back to the Premier League, but to stabilise a club that has been in disarray for some years now.
I also wish for the supporters to stay in support, and keep the belief that those derby day heroics and Premier League days are back on the horizon.
Let’s be patient and enjoy watching this incredible club go through a wonderful revival.