Join me in welcoming return guest poster Arthur of Halifax ReTales, who graciously offered to demystify two things for me: football (generally) and traveling for sporting events (specifically). Since I’m rather clueless about sports (generally) and football (non-David Beckham-ly), I thought, “If this isn’t public service, I don’t know what is.”

“Soccer” to us Canadians is still a bit of a mystery. First things first, the game is called Football. The sport is catching on in Canada and the United States, and the MLS is a good way to dip your toes in the water and test it out. Montreal, Vancouver, Toronto, Seattle & Portland all have great supporters. But you need to go abroad to get the full football experience. My son is a diehard Chelsea fan, and after a recent trip, I solidified that for life.

Getting tickets: Elite teams

The first thing to do before you go is plan. Club tickets usually are not released until six weeks before the game, and for the elite clubs it is necessary to purchase a membership for each person going. In the case of Chelsea, it is £30 for international members, which entitles you to buy tickets, but you are not guaranteed tickets as it is based on a loyalty point scheme. There is also, however, a ticket exchange, where you can buy tickets from season ticket holders.

This year, I received great benefits:

  1. 4th row behind the net for Manchester City (£45)
  2. away tickets with the Chelsea fans @ Arsenal (£70)
  3. 2nd row long side vs. QPR (£30)
  4. away tickets to Barcelona for Champions League semi-final (£65)

But all of that took a bit of planning and the opportunity was there because of the membership. [Ed note: Holy cow! You weren’t kidding, that’s a lot of football!]

Getting tickets: Other teams

When it comes to other clubs, outside the elite ones and in less-populated areas, it becomes much easier. You still have to join memberships, but they are free so it’s not a big deal and tickets tend to be relatively available unless an elite club is in town. We visited Leicester City (“lester,” not “liester”) and we went to the notoriously rough Millwall. Also, back on the Chelsea vein, there was a youth game at Stamford Bridge, and it was a great opportunity to get in the stadium for only £5.

Getting tickets: Alternative sites

There are also other ways to get tickets if you are crazy. I have used 1st4footlballtickets.com a few times and always been pleased tickets are delivered to your hotel the day before the game. In the case of Tottenham visiting QPR, 2 London teams playing each other in the tiny Loftus Rd, this the only way to secure tickets at £145.

There are also international games between national squads which can be secured through the national football associations; I once saw a German game in Kaiserslautern that was so much fun.

Fitting in

Now some basics on supporting and fitting in:

  • Be ready to hear some swearing
  • Be ready to sing. All the entertainment is fan-provided, no “Rock Me Like a Hurricane” piped through the speakers
  • Not all stadiums allow beer in the stands, and, in the case of Scotland, no beer sold on site
  • You can show your support by buying team scarf, and it is always safe to wear black so you are neutral when walking the streets
  • Remember the fans are spirited. Fans of Team A sit in one area and fans from Team B sit in another
  • There is always a local pub nearby that is a great place to go pregame to get in the spirit
  • Eat beforehand – you are bound to burn calories
  • Behind the nets is the place to be if you want the full-on crazy experience
  • You are not going to get hurt. In most cases, it’s asshole-on-asshole

There are lots of friendlies of European clubs every year in North America, as well as international games. http://www.epltalk.com/2012-summer-tour-schedule-for-premier-league-clubs-visiting-usa-and-canada-42941 has a link of English clubs coming to North America this summer. Your truly is going to Boston to see Liverpool vs. Roma but the long sides are labeled as neutral support. I will be in the Roma section for the shear purpose of ripping on Liverpool. [Ed. note: I don’t know what that sentence means, but it sounds like fun.]

If you happen to be somewhere else where football is king I suggest you go. Then, you will come back and look snobbishly on how tame our sports fans are.

Do you have tips for security football tickets, or how to make the most of the game? Fire away in the comments!

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