If your travels ever take you to a land other than your own one of the best ways to enjoy and experience the culture is to take in a soccer (also known as “football”) match. Soccer is the worlds most popular game for good reason. It is a game that can easily be played by the poorest of the poor and the elites a like. Children in the worlds ghettos even play the game without a proper ball if need be, they can take plastic bags and roll them up into a ball to kick around.
Soccer is especially popular in Europe and Latin America but is even growing in Asia and North America (the north american soccer league, Major League Soccer, has just surpassed attendance averages of both the NBA and the NHL becoming america’s third best attended sport). To enjoy the game it is important to explore the nuances of the game as compared to other games you are more familiar with. One major difference between soccer and many other sports is that there are very few stoppages of play, it is a very open free-flowing game. In addition, the game is divided into two halves of 45 minutes each (plus extra time). If the ball goes out-of-bounds the clock will continue running. While soccer players typically do a lot of running in a match (on average about 10 miles a game) often times games are known for being low scoring affairs where one team is trying to unlock the other team’s defense. The pressure of the match will continue to rise until a team scores and the crowd goes crazy.
Among the most watched soccer matches are often played in Europe, where clubs from different countries have the ability to attract the best players in the world with high paying contracts. For club teams the most anticipated competition is the UEFA Champions League where the best teams from each country face off against other teams in Europe.
One of the most important aspects of enjoying a soccer match is seeing and hearing the sights and sounds of the match. In the United States at sporting events it is common to hear the sounds of the crowd intermingled with power audio-visual effects provided by the stadium. However at soccer matches it is more common to hear the supporters sing in organized songs to support their teams. In some soccer environments you might even see or hear fireworks being set off to celebrate the exploits of a supporter’s team.
In addition to aspects of international soccer matches which are generally true, there are also nuances to how soccer is experienced in various countries throughout the world. Recently, I had the opportunity to experience a soccer match in Rome Italy between AS Roma and Udinese, in addition to a great match, during halftime we enjoyed the experience of seeing a full-blown espresso and panini stand in place of the typical concessions you would find in the states. So my advice is when in Rome, drink espresso at your soccer matches!