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Old Gold & Black

Old Gold & Black

A European football experience

Photo+courtesy+of+Phil+Ellsworth.%0AA+sold+out+European+football+stadium.+The+Czech+Republic+national+team+took+on+Wales+in+a+World+Cup+qualifier+on+Oct.+8.
Photo courtesy of Phil Ellsworth. A sold out European football stadium. The Czech Republic national team took on Wales in a World Cup qualifier on Oct. 8.

Prior to arriving in Europe, I had not really been exposed to the passion that surrounds European soccer. I knew the Premier League clubs and loosely followed the big-name players, but I had no idea what it was like to get an in-person experience of the sport across the pond. 

I noticed posters and flyers scattered around Prague for upcoming matches of the local clubs. I saw a soccer field in nearly every park, which often hosted a pick-up match. There was also soccer on the TV in most restaurants and bars. 

I expected this, but it still felt weird to not see the NFL or MLB on when during football season and the MLB playoffs.

Then, on a weekend trip to London, I received more of a taste of the sport that captivates this continent. While waiting for our train to the airport and with some time to kill, some classmates and I stumbled across a pub in Tottenham. There were not many people in the bar at first, but after a few minutes Tottenham fans started pouring in, some chanting. 

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Just as we were getting ready to leave for the train station, the barkeep came over and said, “I’m so sorry to ask this, but this is a big game for us, and we need this table for the fans. I wouldn’t want anyone to give you a hard time.” 

We politely agreed and apologized and made our way through the door. It was clear to us how passionate these fans were about their clubs.

These experiences were steppingstones to what would push me over the edge into the passionate culture of European soccer, or “football” as I have been told to call it over here. 

In early October, some classmates and myself bought tickets to watch the Czech national team take on Wales. 

Upon arriving at the stadium, I stood out like a sore thumb. I was in blue-jeans and a t-shirt, among a sea of colorful jerseys, hats and scarves. I quickly bought a scarf to try to fit in. When we entered the stadium, it was already packed and chaotic. We went to where we thought our seats were located, but fans were already sitting there. We then asked a worker for help, and she muttered some Czech and pointed toward the rows closest to the field. 

The game had already started, but we walked down toward the field and found some seats on the first and second rows, right behind the goal. The chants were already going, and we did our best to act like we knew them, even though they were in Czech.

I felt like Ted Lasso, an American accustomed to American football, dropped right into the center of a passionate, high-stakes soccer match. When the Czech Republic scored, cheers echoed, and beer flew into the air and rained down on us. But when Wales scored, jeers and sounds of agony filled the stadium. 

The match ended in a 2-2 draw, but I will never forget the feeling of passion that permeated that stadium. I had finally experienced true European football. 

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