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My Introduction To English Football

My Introduction To English Football

Back in mid-January, Cory celebrated his 33rd birthday. Because I totally dropped the ball and didn’t start planning something for us to do until a week before his birthday, we didn’t get to celebrate until last weekend. So, what does a guy in England want to do for his birthday? Go to an English football game, of course!

Now, I’m not exactly a go, sports! kind of girl, but Cory has been to two musicals with me since moving here, so I owed him one. And since football is more than just a pastime in England – it’s a part of the culture; a rite of passage for all the little English boys and girls out there – I decided I better give it a go.

My Introduction To English Football

My Introduction To English Football

My Introduction To English Football

My Introduction To English Football

Cory picked our game – QPR vs Southampton. I’m not even going to pretend I know who these teams are. (Actually, Cory just corrected me. Apparently we call them ‘sides’ here.) He booked our seats in the family section of the stadium since football fans are known to get a little rowdy, and we had Lexie coming along with us, too. And so, on a freezing cold Saturday afternoon, we joined about 18,000 yelling, singing fans at the Loftus Road Stadium for our first English Premier League game. (Lexie’s and my first game, not Cory’s.)

The minute we walked into the stadium, a guy tried to paint my face blue and white. And if we hadn’t been heading straight to a dinner with friends afterwards, I might have let him. Speaking of team colors, I actually had to wear Cory’s coat to the game because the only coat I own is bright red, the same color as the opposing team (Southampton). I definitely prefer looking like a giant green marshmallow to being heckled by overzealous fans, so Cory’s coat it was!

We had arrived early, so the guys were still taking practice shots as we made our way to our seats. I was so excited to see our seats were only five rows off the field! (Pardon me – five rows off the pitch.) But I swear, not two minutes after we sat down, a rogue ball came flying through the air and was only inches from slamming right into my face when Cory blocked it. That was when I stopped being excited about having seats so close to the action.

My Introduction To English Football

My Introduction To English Football

My Introduction To English Football

My Introduction To English Football

Luckily, once the game started, the temporary goal that had been in front of us was taken away, and the actual goal was situated a nice, appropriate distance from where we sat. (I never stopped flinching when the guys would kick towards the goal, though. Football PTSD.) Almost right off the bat, one of the players got knocked out and had to be taken off the field on a stretcher. (That totally could have been me ten minutes earlier if Cory’s reflexes weren’t so superhuman.)

Now, I’ve been to my share of football games. Cory played for our college in Tennessee and then continued to play for other leagues after graduation, but – and this is going to make me sound like a terrible girlfriend/wife – I’ve never taken the initiative to actually learn the rules of the game. So the only way I ever knew if something happening on the field was good or bad was by the reactions of everyone else in the stadium. And when it comes to English football fans, they certainly don’t hold back. I’d equate English fans’ investment in the players, plays, and outcome of the game to that of American college football fans. Meaning – every call, every play is taken very, very seriously, and you absolutely must vocalize your displeasure or approval either way. Simply by the mood of the people around us, it was reasonably easy for me to keep track of what was happening in the game. Funny how a whole nation of people who are typically fairly reserved, can become so emotionally and vocally uninhibited the moment they enter a stadium.

My Introduction To English Football

My Introduction To English Football

My Introduction To English Football

My Introduction To English Football

I’m never one to pass up a chance to try something new on my Canon, so this was also an opportunity for me to practice shooting at a sporting event, something I’ve never done before! And after getting home and looking at my results, I realized I definitely should have been shooting at a much faster shutter speed than I chose, but a few of these still came out okay. After completely missing the action in my first few shots, I learned to anticipate the direction the ball would be going and then it was a lot easier to capture the ball and players in motion. And when I got confused, I’d just look down at the professional photographers below us and point my camera in the same direction they were. The expressions on some of these guys’ faces – hilarious!

The game itself I guess was good. The thing about English football is, no one can score and people will say it was a good game. I don’t get that. I need to see numbers on a scoreboard to feel like anyone’s making any progress. At the end of this game, the score was still 0-0, but then they tacked on an extra four minutes to the time. In that four minutes, Southampton scored. Then QPR scored, but their shot didn’t count because something about off sides. (Yeah, don’t ask me.) And even though I wasn’t invested in the outcome, I was still sad when our team lost. And sad that I had to go a full 90 minutes before someone actually started scoring. (This is why I prefer basketball.)

So would I go to an English football game again? You bet! But not in February. Holy smokes, it was cold. It was in the 30’s (F) and windy, and by the second half, I was already daydreaming about the warm Vietnamese restaurant we’d be going to afterwards. But yeah, April or so? Count me in. We had a blast cheering along with the rest of the fans and, dang it, if I’d known what the heck everyone was singing, I’d have joined in with that, too! This was such a fun day, barring the almost broken nose incident. Now I just need to pick a team to start caring about. I’m thinking Liverpool, if only because that’s where The Beatles are from. And I wouldn’t be booed out of the stadium for wearing my red coat.

Have you ever been to an English football game? Who’s your team?

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27 Comments

  • Reply
    Jacintha | Urban Pixxels
    February 16, 2015 at 11:26 AM

    I’ve never taken photos of any sporting event, but I can imagine it’s very challenging with the distance and constant moving. Don’t they get that people are trying to take pictures here :-)? But these turned out great! And I enjoyed reading your post. Football is huge in the Netherlands as well, so I grew up having to watch football with my dad every Sunday evening (it was the only evening we would eat in front of the television). So I can actually enjoy watching a good football game right now, but I must admit that I’ve never been to one or have a favorite team. Could be fun though!

  • Reply
    Alyson Tart
    February 16, 2015 at 11:49 AM

    We went to an Arsenal match two years ago – fun, but like you I still don’t get it. It took me years to figure out American football, so perhaps I’m just not meant to follow football of any kind?

  • Reply
    Katrin
    February 16, 2015 at 1:16 PM

    Germans definitely take football very seriously as well. :) I love watching football games and I even know the rules (but I do not understand American football or baseball). I do not have a team but of course I root for the German national team. I always had fun when I went to a game (of course only when you can avoid the idiot fans, one time a guy wanted to start a fight with me). I am glad you enjoyed the game. But you are right, it’s not that enjoyable in winter! And thank god for Cory’s good reflexes!

    • Reply
      Sarah Shumate
      February 21, 2015 at 12:55 PM

      That’s the reason Cory booked us in the family section – he figured there’d be less of a chance we’d get in the middle of a brawl! :) I can’t imagine anyone wanting to start a fight with you, though!

      • Reply
        Katrin
        February 21, 2015 at 4:12 PM

        You are so sweet. :) I guess that guy was just looking for anybody to start a fight with and I was the first person he saw.

  • Reply
    topchelseagirl
    February 16, 2015 at 3:05 PM

    Offside, not off sides lol!! I started going to matches in the 80s, so have been to quite a few – and I LOVE it! The coldest match I ever went to was an England game in the early 1990s, when they said the temperature with wind-chill was minus 7!!! Brrrrrr.
    But you can’t support Liverpool – boo hiss, pick Chelsea! You can then watch our Champions League match tomorrow evening on ITV to swat up. I can teach you some songs!

    • Reply
      Sarah Shumate
      February 21, 2015 at 12:57 PM

      Cory corrected me about the offside thing before I posted this, but he laughed so hard at it that I decided to leave it in case someone else got a little chuckle out of it. And you did! :)

      -7?! I don’t think I could have handled that. I’d have been one of the crazies running out onto the field just trying to warm up! :)

  • Reply
    Connie Weiss
    February 16, 2015 at 7:22 PM

    How fun! I love their outfits!

  • Reply
    Amy
    February 17, 2015 at 12:25 PM

    You should visit the North East for a football match, we take it really seriously up here!

    • Reply
      Sarah Shumate
      February 21, 2015 at 1:00 PM

      I need to get up to the northern parts of England anyway! I’m sure my husband wouldn’t mind one bit going to a game while we’re there! :)

      • Reply
        Amy
        February 21, 2015 at 9:11 PM

        Hope you make it up north! Can recommend lots to see if you ever need suggestions :)

        • Reply
          Sarah Shumate
          February 22, 2015 at 10:40 AM

          As a first time visitor, where would you suggest I go first?

          • Amy
            February 23, 2015 at 8:58 PM

            There are lots of places worth visiting, depending on your taste. If you haven’t already, I would definitely visit Edinburgh; sure it’s Scotland, but it’s easily accessible by train via King’s Cross and the journey takes you through some beautiful parts of County Durham and Northumberland. York and Durham are both beautiful and full of history, cobbled streets and great places to eat and drink. Newcastle is really lively, it has fantastic night life and art galleries and museums, such as the Baltic, Sage Gateshead, Discovery Museum and you might get a kick out of the accents! From there you can visit Northumberland, which has a stunning coastline and national park, plus great heritage sites like Hadrian’s Wall and Lindisfarne. There are plenty of castles (even filming locations for Harry Potter, if you’re into that?) and lots of amazing small hotels, B&Bs etc. I’d look into the East Coast mainline, as all these places are stops for the train from London. I find if you look at trains departing around lunchtime, you can get much cheaper tickets too, around £15-£30 rather than £100+ North Yorkshire is also beautiful and has lots of rugged countryside and seaside towns like Whitby, where part of Dracula was set. I have photos/info on some of these places on my blog, if you do like the sound of anything!

          • Sarah Shumate
            February 27, 2015 at 9:28 AM

            This is incredible!! Thank you so much for all the information! I want to do ALL of this. Really, all of it. Sometimes I wish we were going to be here longer because I know I’ll never have time to do it all. Northumberland sounds exactly like my type of place. I’ll definitely have to make a point to go there before we leave. We are ALWAYS excited to see places associated with HP. Big fans right here. :) I will start going through some of the archives on your blog. We have a trip to Scotland coming up, but won’t see Edinburgh because we’re flying into Inverness and spending a few days on the Isle of Skye. I will need to make a separate trip for Edinburgh. Looks like a fun place to be for NYE! Seriously, though, thanks so much for all of these tips. This is perfect.

          • Amy
            February 28, 2015 at 1:55 PM

            Glad to help! Edinburgh is great in summer for the festival too! Really hope you make it to the North East, it’s not somewhere most travellers would ever consider visiting and that’s such a shame. If you do, head to Alnwick Castle and Gardens – perfect for HP fans :)

  • Reply
    Mandy Southgate
    February 17, 2015 at 12:57 PM

    Yes! I’m an Everton fan and have been to several games. Admittedly, the last one was probably 15 years ago but my dad and cousin still go often. Stephen is a Man United fan and used to travel up every second weekend to see them.

    Your photos are amazing despite your reservations about shutter speed.

    • Reply
      Sarah Shumate
      February 21, 2015 at 1:02 PM

      There was a Man U game the exact same day as Cory’s birthday, but because I waited too long to start planning, we missed it. The only tickets that were left were from season passholders trying to sell off their tickets for exorbitant prices! Maybe we’ll get a chance to see them some other time while we’re here.

  • Reply
    Jennifer @This Off Script Life
    February 17, 2015 at 10:10 AM

    My husband is a huge fan of English football, so I’ve been to quite a few matches since we’ve moved to Europe. Like you, I can’t put up with the cold; so, now, I only go if the weather is warm enough. Glad you were able to experience it!

    • Reply
      Sarah Shumate
      February 21, 2015 at 12:58 PM

      It’s a shame Cory’s birthday falls in January. I’d be game for going in April or something, but not the middle of winter again! Which team do you guys support?

      • Reply
        Jennifer @This Off Script Life
        February 21, 2015 at 1:58 PM

        He’s a Fulham supporter (I’ve been to Craven Cottage with him a few times), but he’ll watch just about anyone play :)

  • Reply
    Jo
    February 17, 2015 at 11:39 AM

    We have never been huge football fans, actually to be honest I only ever watched football matches during the world cup with my dad when I was growing up. Now that we have a very avid footballer in the house things are changing. Only he doesn’t support an English team but rather a Spanish team. (Real Madrid). I am all about rugby but have been ‘forced’ into watching some football now. You really should try and see if you can’t go and watch a rugby game, it is very actin packed (and faster moving than American football). And if you don’t now which team to support I would suggest Saracens.

    Oh and you got some great action shots, well done!

  • Reply
    Robert
    February 17, 2015 at 5:57 PM

    I’m not a big football fan, to be honest. Tthe opposite is true of my brother though. He loves Chelsea & so occasionally, when he can really find nobody else to go, I’m taken along to fill an otherwise empty seat. I do quite like going but I never find it massively interesting, though it’s just occurred to me I’d find it so much more interesting if I were to take my camera. What a great idea! I probably wouldn’t take my DSLR, he would let me lol. But I could sneak in my compact, I expect. Definitely doing this next time! And I think your photographs have turned out great, by the way!

    • Reply
      Sarah Shumate
      February 21, 2015 at 1:04 PM

      I know…I got some strange looks from the people around us when I brought out my huge camera! Not to mention, it probably isn’t the safest place to bring an expensive piece of equipment… How nice that you are your brother’s last resort… ha! Do you have a sport you get into? I’m still struggling to find something that can hold my attention longer than a few minutes.

      • Reply
        Robert
        February 21, 2015 at 7:30 PM

        When it comes to watching sports, there aren’t really any that I get much into. I mean, there are lots of sports I like playing – tennis, golf, football, running (if that’s a sport lol) – but I get so bored just watching, no matter what it is really. I’m more of a “partaker” than an “observer” I guess! :)

  • Reply
    rorybore
    February 20, 2015 at 4:24 AM

    This is so awesome!! I would love to see a real live soccer game. Of course over here, it’s hockey hockey hockey… and I have been to many games. Actually, I will be going in a just a couple of weeks. But soccer in England….well, I imagine it’s rather like watching the Montreal Canadians in the old forum (which I have): just one of those things you have to experience!
    I hope I can take my camera to the hockey game — you did really good capturing the action and I now I am dying to try myself. :)

    • Reply
      Sarah Shumate
      February 21, 2015 at 1:06 PM

      I’ve actually been to quite a few hockey games myself! In college, I had friends who were really into it, so we’d go a few times a year. I doubt it was as cutthroat as Canadian hockey, but we saw a few pretty good fights, both on and off the ice! :) I like the sound the hockey sticks and skates make on the ice. It’s so much better than squeaky basketball shoes on a basketball court! :)

      • Reply
        rorybore
        February 22, 2015 at 9:00 PM

        We have a saying in Canada before games that we “smell the ice” — it’s kinda weird, but that’s how connected we are to the game. Mind you, I wouldn’t actually put my face too close….because hockey players like to spit. eeeewwww.

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