Tuesday 31 May, 2011

Champions League Final in London

Champions League Final
I just checked last night’s baseball scores and notice that my team lost. I follow the Chicago Cubs and they lost to the Boston Red Sox, who I am also supposed to like as I lived there and EF operate from just across the water in Cambridge and I used to go to Fenway Park. I also have a t-shirt given to me by a group that has ‘Cardinals’ emblazoned upon it, they’re a baseball team too and I quite like the t-shirt, so I guess I like the team. However, Wikipedia has just informed me that the Cubs and the Cardinals are rivals. I am not really much of a baseball fan if the truth be told. 

So, why do I like the Cubs (Red Sox, Cardinals)? Well, a couple of friends are Cubs fans and they follow my soccer team in England, Arsenal, so it is a mutual arrangement. I trust in their total support as Arsenal stumble through the season and, once every two months I look at mlb.com and carry on with my diluted fandom of the Cubs.

When I first moved to Boston, in 1993, I went to watch the Patriots play American football (the English got there first and use a foot to kick the ball, so we claim football as one-word for a sport). Anyway, they lost 6-0 to the Jets and it rained the whole game. The season ended 5-11 and I thought this is a good team for me, under-achievers, I liked that. In turn, being in Boston, I took up a liking for the Celtics and Red Sox. In subsequent years all three teams won their respective championships, I feel that I did my part and will happily visit your town if you have an under-achieving franchise.

Arsenal Stadium So, why do I mention this? Well, last Saturday was the Champions League Final in London. Football….Soccer. The European final is a big deal and this year it pitted Manchester United against Barcelona. I am writing this before the game so I don’t know who won but I am hoping that, in a first for the sport, both teams lost and the title was just forgotten about until next year. You might find the result here or here, or you might not. A lot of students travelling on tour this summer will want to buy Manchester United or Barcelona stuff, they are popular teams, probably due to their, frankly, over-rated habit of winning.

Some travellers, however, will come to Europe without a football team to follow but, fear not, we are here to help. Having a team is a vital part of following any sport. Being neutral has its benefits, naturally, but, if you are to persist then you need to have a team whose results you can look for. Maybe not for Curling, definitely not for Curling – Curling fans can remain sleepily neutral forever.

I have a string of teams that I follow in various football leagues around Europe. I only support one, Arsenal, but I look for the results of many others. It is fun and the reasons I follow them are memories of trips made (SK Brann in Norway), people met (Napoli in Italy) or just names I like such as RWD Molenbeek in Belgium (currently playing in the hothouse of Brabant provincial Division 1 after going bankrupt a decade ago and re-forming) or everyone’s favourite team in Malawi.

My advice then is to chat with the locals, pick up on their love for a team and see what exotic names and strange coloured merchandise you can take back.

(Curling is, of course, a thrilling and exciting sport worthy of its Olympic status. If only it were icy today I would be outside playing etc., etc.) 

Flickr photo via americanistadechiapas

(Editor’s note: Paul Mattesini’s posts appear Tuesdays on Following the Equator. If you have a travel question for our resident expert tour director, or an idea for a blog post topic, you can email Paul here, and he will answer readers’ questions in future posts.)