Q&A: Girls’ Christopher Owens On Soccer, Euro2012

In the last couple of weeks, I noticed that Girls’ Christopher Owens had been closely monitoring the ongoing European soccer championships, and tweeting a lot about it with a savvy perspective that suggested a wide knowledge and way-above-average appreciation of soccer. Since Christopher spent much of his youth as cargo of a cult, an unusual past that often colors his band’s marvelous, meticulous rock, I wondered where he had developed this passion and I called him to talk about it. So, below, Owens chats about Spain’s Euro2012 chances, Lionel Messi, and developing a love for the game as a kid in the Children Of God. Owens is rocking a vintage Danish national team shirt up top, by the way.

STEREOGUM: So, you tweet about soccer a whole lot, and have been doing so lately for the Euro2012 tournament. When did you start following soccer?

OWENS: It’s hard for me to get excited in the national competitions, to be honest, but I just like commenting on any game. It’s cool that lately the Spanish team has been as good as it is. Also, I’m a really big Barcelona fan.

STEREOGUM: And Spain and Barcelona basically share the same roster, except for Messi.

OWENS: Not so much now as it was during the World Cup. During the World Cup it was something like eight Barcelona players on an eleven person team. It’s a little more mixed up now, but they’re still playing with the same style and tactics. I watch the whole Spanish league throughout the year so I know the other guys. But I mean, I could probably watch any soccer game and enjoy watching it and commenting on it. My real favorite is just to watch the Spanish League games. That’s the only thing I follow.

STEREOGUM: Why do you like the Spanish League — La Liga — best?

OWENS: When I was 10 years old, I moved to Europe from Asia. Because I hadn’t played any group sports before that, I spent from age ten to age 16 in France and Denmark, all over Europe. I grew up in communal housing, and we were separated into age groups so we’d do everything throughout the day all together with our age group. We’d have a time in the afternoon where we always went out to play at the same time every day. By the time I was that age and in Europe, soccer was just the game that we played. I got into it. I enjoyed it a lot, more than others. I enjoyed volleyball a lot too; it’s kind of similar. Ping-pong. But we didn’t play any baseball or anything or American football.

STEREOGUM: Do you play now?

OWENS: No, not really. I’ll play when I find people playing, or by myself a little bit. But it’s just impossible to get the guys. I’m never in town and nobody else wants to play soccer. But I can manage to find people already playing and join them, but I also enjoy playing by myself.

When I lived in Denmark, I was like 13 years old. That was like the age when I was old enough to want to know players’ names and Denmark had won the Euro championship, the same tournament we’re watching now. So soccer became a big deal.

STEREOGUM: So that was ’92.

OWENS: Yeah. When a little country like Denmark wins the Euro it becomes a big deal. Or, you know, when the Giants won the World Series, suddenly everybody here watched baseball. There were two brothers that were very dynamic on the Danish team, very likable, very, very good players, brothers. There were a lot of reasons why you’d like them. Michael and Brian Laudrup. And they had a goalie called Peter Schmeichel. Anyway, they won the Euro and it was just an exciting time to be a teenager and like soccer in Denmark. Michael Laudrup was the big star player, and he played for Barcelona, and that’s how I became a Barcelona fan.

When I moved to the States I lost track of it, until Ronaldinho started playing for Barcelona. So, when the best player in the world, one of the best players of all time plays for your team, I got back into it. As soon as he starts to fade, then Messi starts to become the greatest phenomenon. They have a very particular brand of football that I like and is fun to watch. It’s a very easy team to support because they’re very ethical. You’ll never hear of a case of racism or aggression. They’re all truly great guys, when you follow the team closely and get to know the players. Guys that I would want to spend time with and get along with. They’re not going to have a case of a Barca player being racist. It just wouldn’t happen. It’s an international team; they have a lot of reasons why they’re fundamental to Catalonia pride, because of the history of Franco being a Real Madrid fan and using the stadium to fight for their independence during the Spanish Civil War. There’s a lot of reasons why it’s a very Catalonian thing. At the same time, it’s always been Swiss and Dutch players and people from all over the world playing there. But then, also, they’re the only club team in the world ever that hasn’t worn a sponsor on their jersey. They only wear their charity; granted, Qatar Foundation does give them money, they are a sponsor but they’re still a charity. For years, they had UNICEF on their jersey which was just awesome. There’s little things like that to love about them. That’s the core. It’s just the only team … sometimes you find a Dutch team playing similar, or even. I don’t know. I like plenty of teams, I’m not strictly a Barcelona fan. I just like football, good football. It’s easy to be a Barcelona fan because it’s probably the greatest team of all time.

STEREOGUM: Everyone wants to live in the era where the G.O.A.T. was hitting his peak, and I really think Lionel Messi is doing that right now. What do you think of Messi, as a Barcelona fan?

OWENS: He is the best player of all time. This last season, though Barcelona didn’t win the championship, he passed every single goal scoring record. And he was also the one with the highest amount of assists! He’s a unique player. All he’s gotta do is, at some point in his career, win the world cup trophy with Argentina and he’ll have everything. He’s already the best player of all time. Ronaldinho is the most beautiful player of all time -– I still go back and watch videos of him playing because I remember, it was a different experience when he was striker. He’s just a wonderful player.

At the same time, you can tell by just looking at him that he’s genuinely a good person. You just never see any bad character. Not that I hate aggression or anything — sometimes great athletes have to have that — but I’m just very impressed that he can be the best and you’ll never catch him … there’s never any hateful energy. It’s always very humble and happy, and it’s just something that throughout … there are a few players like Dani Alves on the Barcelona team who is very aggressive but for the most part, you have these guys like Iniesta, Xavi, Messi … very meek and humble personalities but they’re the best players in the world that are just making fantastic football. It’s a pleasure to be a fan.

STEREOGUM: Who do you like in the Euros so far?

OWENS: I think Spain could win it. I also think they could be outmuscled. They play in such a way that they should win but, you can’t just have enough aggression and take over in the way that Chelsea did or whatever. Like when Drogba pushed through the Barca defense and scored a goal. That’s possible, you know? For example, it’s possible that maybe Germany or somebody could beat them. It’s be awesome for Spain to win three times in a row. To be honest, I don’t get depressed or unhappy with national competitions. But it would be cool just because so many Barcelona players are playing, but they still play in such a way that I respect.

STEREOGUM: Do you think that your passion could show up in your music or writing in any way? Maybe abstractly?

OWENS: No! No. I can’t imagine. No, I can’t imagine. I dunno. I like to watch because it reminds me of being young. It’s a romantic kind of passion for sports, it’s not the same. It’s different. It’s a very passionate experience as opposed to like, I dunno, to baseball or something like that.

STEREOGUM: So no rock opera about the 2011 Barcelona club season?

OWENS: That’s not going to happen. I’m kind of an athletic person — it sounds stupid to say, but I kind of am –- I’m pretty fast. Growing up in a really strict, crazy, religious household all the time, there was just the one time of the day where I could just go and forget about all that bullshit. That’s maybe where the passion comes in. It was that one time of the day where everything made sense. Scoring goals. People liked me on the soccer field. When we were back in Bible study, for example, I just wouldn’t talk and maybe be punished later on, or something like that. So, it was good times. I feel lucky to have been able to develop a team to follow and keep up with it. It’s cool, I get to travel all around the world and soccer is very present everywhere else in the world.

STEREOGUM: I hadn’t really thought about that. Since they’re a really well-recognized team and brand, you can pretty much be anywhere in the world and people will probably know how their season is going. Even as soccer is getting more widely-covered in the U.S. there’s still a long way to go.

OWENS: It’s like the North Carolina Tar Heels, you know what I’m talking about? The women’s [soccer] team? They’re kind of a world-tracked team. I think the women’s national team is very strong. It’s just not played by teenagers. I mean, we’re always going to be behind. Even if people care about soccer here, you’re just never going to catch up to hundreds of years of passion.

STEREOGUM: Do you follow the U.S. game at all? I guess San Francisco doesn’t have an MLS team.

OWENS: I think that it’s cool that old players come to the States and play. It just takes time and, I don’t really care.

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Spain plays Croatia today at 2:45 on ESPN.