Post-Gazette staff writer Moriah Balingit spent most of the past week covering the United Nations One Young World conference, where 1,300 delagates from 180 countries converged on Pittsburgh. Naturally, a few of them were international Steelers fans. Balingit talked to one, Ray Farnan, of London.
From the bit of world travel I've done since I moved to Pittsburgh, (and it's not much on a journalist's salary), I've learned you can find Steelers fans all over the world. A couple of years ago, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, I was being driven to a food tour when I told the driver that I was from Pittsburgh.
"Peetsburgh?!" he exclaimed, jolting me out of my travel-induced grogginess. "Los Acereros!"
I learned that he was a "fanatico" because his favorite soccer team shared the black and gold color motif.
So it would make sense, then, in the mix of 1,300 or so young delegates that landed in the 'burgh earlier this week, a handful of international Steelers fans would be the in the mix. Saturday, I was scanning the convention floor looking for a local subject for our One Young Person profile series when my eyes landed on the Steelers logo. I walked over to the gentlemen in the black and yellow anorak and asked him if he was a Pittsburgher.
His English accent gave him away. Nope, he was Ray Farnan, a 24-year-old accountant from London. And yes, he is a Steelers fan.
To be clear, football -- the American variety -- is growing in popularity in England, where the NFL now plays two annual games at Wembley Stadium that sell out almost instantly. In fact, lucky for Mr. Farnan, the Steelers are scheduled to play there next year against the Minnesota Vikings.
The way Mr. Farnan tells it, he was probably destined to be a Steelers fan. A native of Sunderland, England, his father outfitted him in a Steelers shirt for the first time when he was two for reasons he's never discerned. As a teenager, he started playing the Madden video game and fell for the Steelers' blitz defense. That's where the he and his brothers' love for the team was born.
But he said it really blossomed when he learned more about the Steel City. His own city was once the base of a thriving ship-building industry.
"We found out that they had the industrial background," he said. "There's a lot of similarity there ... having a community that's built on hard work."
And he's found the people of Pittsburgh to just as friendly as the people in his hometown. "There's just an openness there," he said.