A lot of people in the US dismiss soccer instantly as “just a bunch of babies, rolling around on the ground holding their shins”, a “slow and boring game where nothing much happens”. If that’s your belief start taking a good look at what is happening in the stadium, in addition to what’s happening on the field.
What attracted me to the game of soccer from a fan perspective was the stadiums and the fanbases of the European teams. The talking heads on SportsCenter love to talk about the atmosphere in Seattle and what an advantage the Seahawks have when they’re playing at home. Say you’re a player on the visiting team, when you walk out of the tunnel, which of these views would you find to me more intimidating?
Tonight, Chelsea is heading to Turkey to play Galatasary in the Champions League. Chelsea plays there home games in Hugh Grant’s neighborhood in West London. Galatasaray play in a stadium made famous for its gigantic “Welcome to Hell” banners that greeted Manchester United in 1993. Chelsea, undoubtedly have the more talented team on a neutral field, but tonight Galatasaray will have a significant home field advantage.
In America you can hear 50,000 fat guys yelling “D, Fence, D, Fence”, while one or several individuals who believe certain jokes will never stop being funny will hold up a “D” and a little white picket fence. Hilarious. At Liverpool’s Anfield stadium the players are greeted with a 40,000 strong accapella version of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” (turn your headphones or speakers up as loud as you can stand to get the stadium effect).
The atmosphere inside the stadium is a big part of the appeal of watching a soccer game on tv. The banners, the songs, the fans, or both (the Matrix intro is a bit strange, but the rest is good). College basketball comes the closest since college kids lend themselves to enthusiasm. But, it still has a ways to go to catch up to soccer. I can’t imagine what they think while watching a baseball game for the first time. They must think we’re on drugs.
In closing, I’ll say give your surround sound a workout sometime. Especially, if you can catch a game on those glorious days when the audio feed is a bit disturbed and the commentators have been muted. All you can hear is the sounds of the stadium. You don’t have to know or even understand what they’re singing. Just go with it as they say. Imagine what the experience is like. And try not to feel like we’re missing out.