Soccer! Or Football! Whatever!

My European Experience #3

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 27: Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur claps the fans after the final whistle during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool at White Hart Lane on August 27, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)

Over in Europe, there is not quite as much variety in sport as there is here in the United States. There is rugby, which if you’ve never watched it, is for the most part a bunch of full-grown adult males running at each other and colliding. I think some sort of ball might be involved in there somewhere, but I can’t be sure. Cricket is also popular there, but, honestly, does anyone even know what the rules are? From my American point of view, it looks a little like baseball with a bigger bat, presumably to make it easier to actually hit the ball. But enough roasting weird European sports. Let’s get on to what this article will actually focus on: soccer.

I personally enjoy watching soccer, a.k.a., football, and naturally, when my family booked a trip to London, the first thing I thought of was going to see a game. After weeks of pestering my dad to spend the money on it, we finally bought tickets to see Tottenham Hotspur F.C. vs. Liverpool F.C. As a Tottenham supporter, choosing to attend this game in their home stadium White Hart Lane in North London was a no-brainer. Looking back on it, that game was probably my favorite experience of the whole trip.

Match day felt like any other sporting event in the U.S.: you grab your tickets from the will call, stand in a mind numbingly long line, show your ticket to the person at the gate, take your seats, and wait for the fun to begin. For me, it was so cool to be inside a stadium I had seen countless times on television during games. Oddly, the stadium itself is much smaller and more compact than it looks on television. The seats were pretty uncomfortable because they were made of some light blue, hard plastic and not much else. When the players came out of the tunnel and began to warm up, the crowd rushed the field. Loads of people rushed down to the first row to try and get pictures, only to turn around and rush right back up to their seats, causing some traffic jams like those in the center of the city. It was rather peaceful and quiet in these moments, or at least as peaceful and quiet a soccer, I mean, football pitch filled to capacity can be. After warm ups, as expected, God Save the Queen played, and the players took their positions, ready for kickoff.

As soon as the anthem finished, around 35,000 people started to chant at the top of their lungs some popular chants of the club like “OH WHEN THE SPURS GO MARCHING IN!” and “COME ON YOU SPURS!” It was truly exhilarating. Directly behind where I was seated, there were a couple very vocal middle-aged British men. And man, were they vocal. Every single chant sung in our section was started by them. I was surprised that my right ear was still attached to my head by the end of it all. In American sports, the crowds are quieter while the game is in progress, only cheering when something important happens. In Britain, however, people cheer and chant for all 90 minutes, plus whatever stoppage time is given. As I am under eighteen, our family was only allowed in the North Stand, the designated “family friendly” zone. However, this area was anything but. Almost every expletive you can think of was shouted during the match at one time or another, usually at either the opposition or the teammate who just missed the wide-open net.

The match started off a bit slow, and Tottenham was looking rather shaky. The first half started off with many useless runs down the side, followed by either a clearance or an attempt to shoot at the goal that missed by at least a yard. The only drama was when a Liverpool player, Sadio Mane, elbowed a Tottenham player. The fans started screaming for him to be ejected to no avail. Afterwards, the crowd was uneasy, and then a Liverpool player was brought to the ground in the penalty box, which gave a penalty shot to Liverpool that James Milner easily converted, making the crowd even more uneasy. At the break, the score was 1-0 to Liverpool, and although I was having one of the greatest experiences of my life, I was a bit miffed about the score. The second half ramped up the intensity quickly, and there were lots of entertaining, back-and-forth game play at both ends of the pitch. Liverpool had a goal disallowed for being offside (you could hear a collective “phew” from everyone then.) That was followed by an amazing save by Tottenham keeper Michel Vorm and then couple of crossbar hits on both sides. Finally, in the 72nd minute, Danny Rose, a Tottenham fullback, scored to make it 1-1, and the stadium absolutely erupted, cheering “DANNY, DANNY ROSE!” as loud as possible. After that, there was plenty of action, but nothing significant happened, other than a couple substitutions and me hoping in vain that Cameron Carter-Vickers, the lone American on Tottenham, would come on the pitch. The game ended with a final score of 1-1. As soon as the final whistle blows, the mass exodus toward the exit began, but my family and I decided to stick around a little bit to watch the players cool-down and to catch our breath from that experience.

As someone who has been to American sporting events in the past, I can say that games here are nowhere near as exhilarating and fun as they are in London. Going to a game was an amazing experience for me, although it probably wasn’t so great of an experience for my parents’ wallets.

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