The Great European Adventure

Come on you Spurs!


If Afternoon tea was the one thing I had to do in London, then going to a football match was the one thing my brother had to do.

And yes, we were in London, so when I say “football” I am referring to what the majority of the world calls “football,” and the US (rather sillily) calls “soccer.”

Now, I’ll be honest, I don’t know much about football or any spectator sport really. I find televised sports dull, and if you ask me about my favorite teams, I will tell you the Boston Red Sox and FC Barcelona because I lived in Boston for four years and I studied abroad in Barcelona, and to not root for those teams would have been a sin. I do, however, enjoy live sports because I like the culture of sporting events–the energy and enthusiasm of being in the crowd, and the various traditions that go along with the experience.

My brother, on the other hand, considers himself a football fan over a sports fan, and even contributed to a US blog called Soccer By Ives. He wrote their weekly international round up, but gave it up because his fulltime job as a journalist meant that he wasn’t giving as much time to the blog as he would have liked to.

So, unsurprisingly, my brother was in charge of choosing a game to go to in London and getting us tickets. We settled on a match between Tottenham Hotspur and Queens Park Rangers. It was a home game for the Spurs and we were seated beside their fans’ section, which was behind one of the goals.

In case, like me, you have never been to a professional football match, the hardcore fans for each team get their own special seating sections. In these cheering sections, the fans are allowed to stand and sing and cheer the entire time while the rest of the stadium is consistently asked to sit down in their seats. (Maybe I’m stereotyping, but asking the spectators to please be seated seemed particularly staid and British.) At this particular game, the away team’s cheering section was off to the left of the home team fans’ section so that the true hooligans were close enough to shout obscenities at each other.

Now, keep in mind that Tottenham Hotspur and Queens Park Rangers are both teams from London. In fact, for the 2012-13 season, there are 14 professional football teams in London, so Londoners have plenty of options when choosing who to root for. The Spurs’ stadium, White Hart Lane, is only about 20 minutes from the city center via the overground, and when my brother and I arrived, we poured off the train and followed the crowds of people coming from various parts of London to see the match.

The fans had already begun cheering, chanting, and generally carrying on, and I heard a group of lads singing, “We hate Chelsea.” I turned to my brother wondering if I’d heard that correctly, “Chelsea’s not even playing in this game” I said. He replied with a grin, “Everyone hates Chelsea.” Apparently that’s the one thing the other London teams can agree on.

So, with so many options, how did we end up cheering on the Spurs? Well, the truth is that their goalie, Brad Friedel, is an American, and we found that sort of amusing. Friedel has been living in England for the last 15 years, and even has a British accent, but whenever he blocks a shot, the fans cheer, “USA! USA!”

I felt very patriotic.

As I mentioned earlier, I like live sports because I like the culture of going to a game, so, for me, the cheers were definitely the best part. “Come on you Spurs,” the title of this post, was the most common cheer, although singing “When the Saints Go Marching In,” but replacing “Saints” with “Spurs” was also popular.

I especially liked when the Rangers fans would excitedly shout Rangers, Rangers, Rangers! To which the Spurs fans would reply Wankers, Wankers, Wankers! However, our team’s fans were forced to fall quiet for a time while the Rangers were winning. Luckily, the Spurs made a comeback and their fans began to sing to the Rangers’ fans, “You’re not singing, you’re not singing, you’re not singing anymore” followed by “You only sing when you’re winning.”

I may not have been a Spurs fan before going to that game, but I’m a pretty competitive person and I quickly got invested. At one point during the match, I commented to my brother that the officials were clearly favoring the Rangers. After I said it though, we agreed that everyone always thinks the referees are favoring the other team. As if on cue, we heard a man near us comment to his friend, “None of the officials are on our side, mate.”

Those Brits never cease to amuse me. And I like to think I amused them a bit as well because around halftime I became confused as to how much time was left in the game, and had to ask my brother. I tried to keep my voice down, but he replied clearly, telling me that the referees keep time and only they know exactly how much is left; this information doesn’t get shared with the spectators. As my brother explained this to me in his American accent, I swear we got a few odd looks from the British lads. Who was this girl who didn’t understand the basic rules of football? And who was this American bloke explaining it to her?

In the end, the Spurs won, so we could all go home happy. Well… I guess the Rangers fans didn’t go home happy. But they’re all wankers anyway.

Have you been to a sporting event outside your home country?

Emma Holliday is well-traveled. After 5 years in Boston, she and her husband upended their lives to move to Berlin where she is currently writing a (funny) book about travel and grief and attempting to learn German.

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  • Ian

    Actually, the reason we went to see the match was because Clint Dempsey (also an American) plays for Spurs. He had only been with them for like a month at that point. Friedel had a better game that day, though.

    This is a really good post. I hardly ever read about football from a non-fan’s perspective. And usually when I do it’s from the perspective of an American sports person complaining about how it’s not more like American sports.

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