I recognize the dominance of football in sports- driven America yet soccer rules the world in spectator games popularity. In my short attention world, it seems difficult to embrace soccer’s rules of continuous “time of play” and its low scoring nature. Looking globally then for a personal explanation for such heightened soccer intrigue, I vividly recall the excitement I felt as a professor for my ESOL students of Latin American background. For I encouraged them successfully to improve their ability to speak English by proudly describing the soccer mania in their respective countries.
From a travel perspective, I also recall our 1980s – 1990s summer vacations in Italy , France , and Holland, where we often observed citywide celebrations of winning teams in World Cup action. Later in 2010, Africa’s stunning landscape backdrops and competitive game action associated with the World Cup Finals would definitely pique our interest in visiting South Africa that year. Most recently, our vacation visits to London and Southampton, England in Fall, 2018, would thus provide a unique opportunity to study up-close the mass appeal of English Premier League soccer. The following video captures a sample of such soccer mania that we experienced at this time.
September 26 – Brentford Bees at Arsenal Gunners
On the day of this well publicized, playoff match, I surprisingly purchased inexpensive tickets for my wife and I for thirty British pounds apiece. Due to a transit strike that day in London, alternate tube station routes would require greater walking distance to and from North London’s Emirates Stadium. So we patiently made our way through the center of town from our outlying transit station to the stadium on foot following a slow line of fans two hours before the game. Interestingly, we noted then that designated pubs were strictly marked with signs for home and away fan attendance. Yet fans of both teams of both teams were observed amicably mingling on the streets.Observing souvenir stalls on sidewalks for both teams along the way, we soon purchased a relatively inexpensive, Arsenal sash to mark the moment. We noted then that Gunner fans wrapped similar sashes around their bodies to combat the surrounding chill .
Entering Emirates Stadium environs on this cool and clear night, dazzling billboards of Arsenal team unity immediately. attracted our attention. As policemen vigorously patrolled the Emirates perimeter, we then enjoyed the serenity of walking in this pedestrian safe and oddly quiet environment. In addition, with no auto traffic/parking lots to cross and noticeably light crowd congestion here, we would locate our entry gate with ease. Our small handbags would then be quickly cleared in a security tunnel leading to a conveniently located elevator to our midfield, upper level seats. Gazing around at the simplicity of the stadium’s inner structure at first entrance , we quickly noted a “sea” of uniformly designed, red seats, one stadium clock and minimal advertising banner distractions.
As match time approached, the stands filled quickly with spectators in businesslike fashion. As the two teams conducted pregame practice on the field, team unity seemed prevalent then as groups of players informally gathered to discuss upcoming strategy. After a brief return to the locker room, both teams now re-entered to raucous crowd singing and flag waving mania. A single line formation of players from both teams at the center of the field indicated their appreciation of such positive crowd energy provided prior to kickoff.
As both teams settled into a vigorously contested defensive struggle, I noted that every spectator surrounding me seemed intensely engrossed in the game’s action. Scoreboard reference to goals earned and assigned penalties by player(s) reinforced such undivided fan attention. At times, however, the sprinkling of shouted profanities (yet few boos), spontaneous cheers, and loudly heard chorus of home/road team singing seemed more interesting than the game action itself. Midway through the second half of the match, we joined a line of fans who surprisingly chose to forego the end of match celebration and thus begin an orderly exit from the stadium. We soon waited patiently in the long queue of passengers at our designated tube stop for the return trip home.
Displayed below are some sample pictures depicting the kind of behaviors that I observed this night.
How strange to me that in spite of the few goals scored and the transportation inconveniences that night, the sheer fun of being there then sustained my interest throughout the night. Clapping for an injured player who rose from the turf to play on, the cheer for a star player returning from the bench, and the unified linking of home/road team fans singing in unison their respective fight songs seemed to transcend the intense concerns about who was winning.
What conclusions might you consider from this soccer blog to make your next American football experience a more pleasing one?
- Focus on the game more. Turn off your cellphone, ignore the continual advertising distractions and give full attention to the action in play.
- Lighten up” some and enjoy the present moment of witnessing a competitive moment. Look for positive opportunities to cheer performance of individual players in times of need rather than mindlessly booing their errors. More clapping and singing should be encouraged before and between game action.
- Consider commuting to the game in some other method than car. Walk around the stadium more and notice places of quiet solitude. Avoid purchase of cheap and unusable souvenirs as you tour the stadium grounds.
- Embrace opportunities to unify with others. Mingle with road fans. Avoid divisive political discussions. Be more aware of those sitting around your seat. Look for opportunities to engage in human interactions with players at stadium gates, souvenir opportunities near the field or at organized team events.