Tiago Silva, cover
Photo by Tiago Silva

From the Stands: Portuguese fan's passion for the Portland Timbers translates in any language

You could say that Tiago Silva is marrying into the Portland Timbers family.

The 37 year-old Lisbon, Portugal native only learned about the Timbers in 2012, while visiting his fiancée's family in Oregon. As his fiancée's sister drove Silva through town, they passed by Providence Park.

"There's a stadium here? What is it? [American] football? Baseball?" Silva asked her.

"No, this is a soccer team," she replied.

Silva, unfamiliar with America's soccer scene, was flabbergasted. "Really? There's a soccer team here in Portland?"

When his fiancée's sister told him about the Timbers, Silva was intrigued. But it wasn't until he returned to Oregon during the summer of 2014 that his Timbers fandom began in earnest. And it began, innocuously enough, with a Timbers jersey.

"We ended up in Seattle visiting some friends," Silva said of the 2014 trip. "I said, 'Well, I gotta buy a Timbers jersey.'"

Silva, his fiancée, and their friends went to a sporting goods store in front of CenturyLink Field.

"I tried on a Seattle Sounders jersey because my girlfriend's friend was saying, 'Well, if you love Seattle you have to buy a Sounders jersey,'" Silva explained. "I said, 'No, no, in 2012 I said I have to buy a Timbers jersey.'"

True to his word, Silva bought the Timbers jersey and when he and his fiancée returned to Portugal in September, Silva began closely following the team, watching Timbers games any way that he could.

By the end of the 2014 season, Silva was hooked.

"When the season ended, I wanted the season to start again because I only saw the last part of the season and I was getting into it," he said.

So far this year, Silva has yet to miss a game despite some matches starting as late as 2:30 AM in Portugal. It's helped, though, that several Timbers matches have been broadcast nationally in Portugal on Eurosport.

Before the Timbers match against Orlando City, Silva went to the Eurosport Facebook page to see if there were any other MLS fans out there. He was surprised by what he found.

"There was one young girl who knew all the players," he said. "She knew that Valeri was injured and she knew that he would be coming back and it would be great. She knew all the players from Orlando. It's crazy."

He even discovered a fellow Timbers fan in Portugal.

"There's this Portuguese guy who lives in Lisbon. He said he's a huge Timbers fan: 'I went to the stadium. I know everybody. I know all the players. I wish [Timber] Joey could cut the timber two or three times, because that would mean two or three goals.' I was like, 'Whoa.' I never imagined this existed in Portugal."

To connect with this whole other world of European Timbers fans, Silva set up a Facebook page, Portugal Timbers.

"I started [the group] to bring more Portuguese people into the Timbers. If I liked it, I figured there's many other people in Portugal who will like it also. I had this idea. It just came to my mind all of a sudden: it'll be cool if there was a Portugal Timbers fan group. It's just another way to share the Timbers with other people."

Looking through the Portugal Timbers page, Silva's passion for his new favorite club is evident with every post. Silva not only links to Timbers news, but he constantly posts pictures of himself in Timbers gear watching the game or even pictures of his trips to Portland in 2012 and 2014.

Silva believes that the Timbers possess something unique in American and world soccer.

"It's a special club. It's hard to say exactly why you become a Timbers fan. I think the atmosphere [at Providence Park] just brings people in. It's just so much different from the other teams. The songs. The chanting. It's great. It just feels different.

"Of course, I love Oregon too and I love the people of Oregon so that helps."

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