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Premier League passion in the US: Joe's story

26 Nov 2020
Joe, PL Passion

How opening a bar enabled Crystal Palace fan Joe to create a special community

This season, the Premier League's US Instagram account, @PLinUSA, has been highlighting the passionate, diverse PL fandom from coast to coast, in the series Premier League passion in the US: Fans' stories.

Meet Joe, the founder of The Highbury Pub in Milwaukee, a bar that became a true home to Premier League fans from all clubs.

Joe

“I’m a Crystal Palace fan, but I named my bar The Highbury. We’re the main bar for Milwaukee supporters groups of Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City, Palace, and a ton of other teams.

"All these supporters groups had to pick a bar to go to, and I think people have just gravitated toward this place because of the rowdiness and because everyone is welcome here.

"I kinda messed up at first, because naming it Highbury singled out Arsenal fans only. We bought this building in 2003 and opened in 2004, and it’s just become a mecca for soccer fans in Milwaukee. A lot of bars open up and dictate exactly what it’s going to be on day one, but I like bars to become what they become, and that’s what we did.

Joe, PL Passion

"I used to play soccer with Craig Marsch, the brother of Jesse Marsch, who is the coach of Red Bull Salzburg. They’re all from Milwaukee, and we’re all buddies.

"One day, after one of our games I heard Craig talking about The Highbury, and it just had a great ring to it. I was like, 'Wow, soccer people will get it, and it will sound great to non-soccer people.'

"I was going to show soccer, but it wasn’t going to be this big thing like it is now. But it became what it became. I ended up tearing out all the seats and all of the stuff that we built just to make more room for soccer fans.

"This is an experience we all went through together, as supporters and as friends. The Highbury is that sense of community."

Crystal Palace fan Joe

"I haven’t been open for one day since 13 March. My supporters' groups are supporting me now, it’s not about supporting a team. They’ve raised thousands and thousands of dollars for us, they’re making scarves, masks, shirts, pins, and hats and selling them online to 20 different countries. All from different teams - Chelsea, Man City - they’re brothers and sisters now.

"Who scores the goals, it doesn’t matter to them, this is real-life stuff. Their whole life is getting up, watching PL in the morning - this is what they miss - and because of that they’re making sure I’m going to live.

"It’s all pretty emotional this year with COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter protests, but it’s been incredible to watch our community go by from our little corner.

"This is an experience we all went through together, as supporters and as friends. The Highbury IS that sense of community.”

More stories in this series

Premier League passion in the US: Fans' stories

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