An English Football Match

I have piping hot internet (4X what you slackers can get in the US) so it’s time for some blogging! For those of you with short attention spans, the photos are at the bottom 🙂

As I mentioned earlier, a coworker of mine was extraordinarily generous and gave me his season ticket to see a football match (yes, I’m going to call it football. When in Rome…), in this case Arsenal vs Fulham (Arsenal won 3-1). Now, the tricky part was getting the ticket. He was supposed to bring to work on Friday and events made that impossible. The eventual method of delivering me the ticket was through his brother-in-law, Gary. I was given a phone number and a time and place to meet him. So, at the appointed time, I was there and gave him a ring and had the season ticket (which is actually a smart-card that you just scan as you enter for each match). I was going to be sitting next to two people, one of whom I believe was Gary’s son, but they weren’t very chatty.

So, when describing an event like this, I can come at it from a number of ways. I can just report it straight up, but that’s boring. Or I can go the compare and contrast route. Those of you who read my sabbatical blog might recall some posts about a match Carolyn and i saw in Naples. So, I will end up doing some comparisons to that match as well. I can also try to compare it something my two readers will know more about and that’s an American sporting event. In the end, I would put a premier league match somewhere in between. All the elements of the second division Italian match were there, but in a more refined and genteel manner. However, this being a Big Business meant that the heavily corporate aspects of an American sporting event were there as well. And, the most important part of all, it was some very good football. All in all, I really enjoyed myself and really appreciate an opportunity to see something like this.

Now, to step back, I live in Highbur. This has been the home to Arsenal forever (1913-2006). Until this year, however, they played in a much smaller stadium. This season is their first season in Emirates Stadium (if you think corporate sponsorship is bad in the US, take a look at Europe). This increased the stadium capacity from 35,000 to 60,000(!). It also gives a different feel to the whole event. It had a feeling of an NFL game in a many ways, but all the wonderful elements of a football match (the chanting and the crazed fans are still there, they’re just more of them and they’re still figuring out the whole lay of the new land). The point is that there is a very large stadium about 15-20 minutes walking distance from me.

While I can walk to this gigantic stadium, when I left my house, the only indicator that there might be a football match nearby was the fact that every other person was wearing their Arsenal shirt. They might not be going to the match, but they still wore the team colors on game day. Even as I got nearby, there was never a sense of 60,000 people trying to enter the stadium. While I had some time to kill before I got my ticket, I decided to join in the local custom of drinking a beer in public before the match. This felt a little odd because I sitting out in the open with an open beer and drinking it, yet the heavy police presence could care less (it’s legal to do this in England and I’ve seen a lot of it in my month here).

Anyway, on to the game. Emirate stadium is a huge, very nice stadium. The seats are nice and comfortable and it’s very pleasing on the eye. But I don’t think anyone really cares about that. Like an American sporting event, they actually have things like jumbo-tron screens and concessions. This is in stark contrast to Italian matches which had minimal concessions and not even a scoreboard, let alone a huge screen to show select replays and the time elapsed. However, since football is a sport prone to inciting riots, the crowd control aspects were still there. Even though the area around the stadium had lots of open space to wander and explore, as you got near the stadium, there were tasteful concrete barriers to make people do a little zig-zag (and not in a big mass) before rushing the stadium. Then, to enter the actual stadium, you went through the most claustrophobic turnstiles (floor to ceiling) I’ve even been through. No way will hooligans rush the stadium in a drunken mass.

How about the crowd? Just as in Italian football, there’s a visitor section (look at the picture below–Fulham’s colors are black and white. Tell me if you can see the Fulham section). Unlike Italy, they are separated by a little buffer and not a whole lot else. It must be hard to be the visiting team when you’re outnumbered 5:1. But they tried to make up for it in a shitload of noise.
Now onto the match. First of all, the playing was a lot of fun to watch. These guys are all so good at what they do. Arsenal had a very quick goal. This was good because it meant the fans were happy. And Arsenal dominated in the first half. However, the second half was tough. They seemed to be holding out and hoping to just get the 1-0 win and Fulham started to take advantage of this. Finally, they scored a tying goal. Now, can you imagine 50,000 being completely silenced? It went absolutely dead on the Arsenal side of things and you could have heard a pin drop if now for the 10,000 Fulham fans going crazy. Finally Arsenal woke up and scored another 2 goals (one on a penalty shot on a very well-called tripping penalty). If you appreciate football, it’d be hard to have a bad time watching a English premier league match.

Let me close with a little bit about the chanting. When Dave and Melissa were here, we went through this nice British ‘phrasebook’. In it, there was something about a football chant that went “You’re going to get your fucking heads kicked in!”. Alas, that one was not used in the match. In general, they are pretty simple so anyone can pick them up and are based off a tune someone might already know. But here are a couple of choice ones:

  • Fuck you Fulham — used to drown out “Let’s go Fulham”
  • “You don’t know what you’re doing” — in response to the ref screwing something up. He was not a popular man today. He definitely missed a few calls.
  • Something ending “…and your mother’s a whore”. I wish I caught the rest of it. 🙂

So there’s a very long post going into rambling detail about my English football experience. I’ll have to check out a lower level match to see if I can’t find some drunken hooligans to mess with. In the meantime, here are a few photos:


The Arsenal logo with the new stadium’s name.


Here’s a very of the exterior of the stadium. Look at all the open space! It gets tighter once you try to get inside

The interior of the stadium. Looks almost like the Bears could be playing in here. Can you spot where the Fulham fans were sitting?

One Response to “An English Football Match”

  1. Mom Says:

    Wow – what a great experience!!! And “your mother’s a whore?” I beg your pardon!!!