I have watched football games in more than 40 countries around the world. Football is a big part of the culture and the social life in most countries around the globe and I love to visit football clubs around the world and watch them play and have a few drinks with the fans before and after the game. For me it’s not so much about who wins the game, but about the culture that surrounds it. Football is a working class sport in most countries and that gives it a lot of heart and a lot of edge.
I have watched the cup final in Laos, been to a third division game in a Paris suburb, at the MLS final in Los Angeles, a UEFA Cup quarter final in Prague, watched Denmark and Georgia play in Tbilisi, seen Bolivar against the strongest in Bolivia (for some reason the strongest lost), been to Maracana in Rio more than 10 times and to 3 football world cups, just to mention a few of the games I have seen around the world. I travel the world most of the year for the pure love of travel, but if I can throw in a football game then that is super. I’m not just going for the big famous clubs, but often I visit smaller clubs that has an interesting history attached to them, or maybe they have some fans that are a very dedicated.
But what about hooliganism?
One thing I always get from people who do not watch football games in the stadium is that it can be dangerous to watch games because of all the hooliganism. Fact is though that hooligans are very few and they tend to gather in their own little groupings and they seek other hooligans to fight with. I am never in trouble when I go to games and I hang out with the fans both before and after the games as I see this as one of the most fun things about the game. I have been to some stadiums where the atmosphere was very intense, such as when I watched Croatia play Hungary in Zagreb once, or when I watched a Besiktas game in Istanbul, but I felt totally fine in all the places. Most football fans are very honored that you come to watch their team, so what mostly happens is that I get a few free beers when they realize that I am from abroad. Going to a football game is like going to a bar. You can have a great time with people there or you can be the odd idiot looking for trouble.
The football World Cup is the best.
Of all things in football, the world cup is what I like the most. National teams from all continents celebrating football for a month in a giant party that looks more like a carnival than a football match. I love all the different nations that gathers there and this is a place where you can stand and talk football and have drinks with Mexicans, Greeks, Brazilians, Japanese, Nigerians, Norwegians, Iranians all at the same time and there will probably be another 12 nationalities around you at the same time. FIFA might be corrupt, but the world cup is still the real deal and not a boring tourist circus like the Champions league finals, where you barely have any fans coming because the tickets are being given to sponsors and sold to tourists, who in many cases have never been to a football game. The world cup is the real deal and I have been to 3 of them so far in France in 1998, Germany in 2006 and Brazil in 2014.