Watching a Football game in Europe is one of the greatest contemporary cultural activities you can
possibly do on the continent. You’re connecting with the locals, supporting their community and getting a legitimate feel for an important slice of European culture.
But within the European Football fan communities, there is a lot of heated discussion and concern regarding “Gameday Tourism”.
Foreign interest in the Premier League, for example, is seen as a contributor to the declining atmosphere inside many stadia; tourists travel thousands of miles and cough up to see one of the big teams play, denying the chance for poorer locals to buy a ticket.
The visiting fans spend their time Googling player names and taking selfies instead of singing the chants and performing the fan customs, resulting in increasingly dull atmospheres.
Many fans in other countries are therefore understandably wary about welcoming large amounts of
foreigners to their stadium. They acknowledge how they could so easily lose one of their greatest
passions in life if tickets are sold to thousands of visitors each game and prices gradually inflate.
However, when done correctly and with a whole lotta humility and respect, catching a game on your travels as a foreigner can be an excellent way to meet, engage with and learn about the locals
without offending them or having a negative impact on their lives, even to the extent of receiving an
invitation to spend time with them outside of the stadium.
Here is our top tips for a trip to the Footie. Enjoy.
Drink in a Pub
Chances are you will be in or near the city centre during your visit. I know you know the stories of
hooligan pubs where strangers get their heads kicked in, but the pubs in the centre of the city
are pretty much always safe for visitors on match day.
Get a table, a hearty breakfast and a couple
pints, and maybe chat to a couple locals to catch up on the latest team gossip and get into the right
mood for Football.
Do Your Research
A quick read on Wikipedia and a look at the league table and recent matches will help you understand a little more about what the fans are going through. Memorise the names of the club captain, the manager and a couple strikers. Make sure you know who the opposition are on the day. Get the stadium name right. Find out who their big rivals are.
All this may help impress regular goers you meet.
Buy a Souvenir Scarf
Outside many grounds street vendors sell team merch including t-shirts and scarves at good prices.
Not only will a bright scarf help you get behind the team during the game, it makes a great addition
to your bedroom wall when you get back home.
And, if it’s mid-December and you’re in the middle
of Europe, you will be glad you have an extra layer of thick material to wrap around yourself after an
hour inside a giant concrete bowl.
Avoid the Ultras’ Block
The Ultras are the hardcore who have earned the title by going to every game home and away for
years, regardless of the distance or how the team performs.
They deserve the respect of fellow fans, and ultimately their sector of the stadium is where they can congregate and be themselves. Be careful; a tourist going into the Ultra block can feel like a stranger walking into your bedroom and expecting hospitality.
A foreigner openly taking photos inside their zone will be treated with zero tolerance. Do yourself a favour and ask for a “quieter” sector when buying your ticket.
This is the most important one. We really don’t want you to get beaten up.
Take Photos Before the Game
It is bad form to spend the whole game photographing instead of actually enjoying the sport.
If you’re going to take a couple (and you probably will want to), do so before the game. Do it before the players walk out onto the pitch, or if the fans have prepared a choreography, get a quick snap of that.
Then stick your iPhone back in your pocket and enjoy the game like the rest of the decent folk around you.
Don’t Bring a Selfie Stick
You will look like an absolute prick.
It is the signature of the self-obsessed tourist who is more interested in social media likes then the history or significance of whatever they are visiting. The same is true in Football.
Fans around you won’t respond well; it shows you only regard their club, their stadium and their tradition as nothing more than a background for yourself.
Don’t bring them.
Keep Your Evening Free
Travelling back to the city from the stadium is never fun and always long.
If you’re taking public transport, prepare for long queues and a lot of standing. If you’re travelling by car or taxi, go to the bathroom before you get in.
Basically, you don’t know how long it will take to get away from the stadium and get to wherever you need to go. So don’t tell your Tinder date you will meet him/her at 18:30.
Thanks James for the sweet tips on heading to the football in Western Europe (and supplying the photos). If you’re a fan of football culture, definitely jump over to the From Boothferry To Germany blog for the latest adventure.
Your Turn: Do you agree with James? Anything he missed off the list?