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For the Sport of it…

October 19, 2009


Few things can bring together communities, regions, or even a whole nations and continents.  Most often this sense of kinship derives from dire circumstances such as war, famine or recession.  Just look at the common American identity – rooted in ideals molded from the Great Depression and World War II – when national pride and the concept of the “American Dream” reached its crescendo, motivating our nation to lift itself out of an economic downturn through self-sacrifice and service.  It is in that type of moment that one can witness the true values, beliefs and passion of a culture and an unmatched camaraderie amongst its people, something I strive to experience as a traveler.  While I do not suggest trekking through a war torn country to achieve this, I do recommened engaging in the next closest thing where you can find this type of semblance – sport.

The Olympic games are a perfect – and quite possibly the largest – example of fellowship amongst a culture, especially for the host nation.  Same goes for the FIFA World Cup, an event that has long gone dismissed by mainstream America but is revered by almost every other country on the planet.  While these two events are the biggest examples in terms of range and recognition, there is no reason why you can’t find the same sense of pride in a smaller, more refined scale amongst communities and their associated teams.

My first Chelsea match in 2005

My first Chelsea match in 2005

My personal experience of this came from my time studying abroad in London, England, where I lived a stone’s throw away from Stamford Bridge, home of Chelsea Football Club.  A fan of the team before my arrival, going to their games and sharing the passion, suspense and outcome of the day’s match gave me my first true feeling of being a part of the Southwest London community in which I lived; however, I felt I bonded with my neighbors even more so outside of the stadium, watching games in crowded pubs while sharing a pint.  We won together, we lost together (hopefully not too often), but most importantly we experienced the match together instead of as an American and an Englishman.  This is a feeling that no museum or landmark could ever provide; the difference being that Westminster Abbey or Parliament conjures up national pride to the English that it does not provoke in me.  While I respect their purpose, to me they are nothing more than interesting buildings, rich in history that is not mine.  I do not share the historical significance and feelings associated with these landmarks as those from England do, and I am not going to try and pretend that I do; however, I did share the up’s and down’s from that day’s game and rather than trying to adopt a history that I merely know about from textbooks, instead I actually participated in history… even if it was just a Sunday afternoon derby.

Team photo in 2009

Team photo in 2009

Right before a game winning goal in the 94' (2009)

Right before a game winning goal in the 94' (2009)

My experience was with soccer but yours may be with cricket, hockey, sumo wrestling or rugby.  Whatever the sport, spend part of your next trip cheering on a team and you’ll discover that for few hours you were more than just a fan at a game but a fellow countryman.

Don’t know what sports are popular in what countries?  Here are some links to help…
3 Comments leave one →
  1. October 19, 2009 1:04 PM

    I agree. Though I planned my trip to Europe around the Real Madrid vs Barcelona derby, ultimately it was too expensive to go to (by expensive I mean $500 tickets for not so great seats). Therefore, I settled for the next most-Spanish thing I could think of: bullfighting. Though I don’t condone it, I have to say it was one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had.

  2. darrenbrazil permalink*
    October 19, 2009 8:34 PM

    Even though Real Madrid v. Barca would’ve been amazing, I think it’s awesome you saw a sport that is less mainstream although still immensely popular in Spain. I know I want to do the same in other countries, for example seeing sumo in Japan.

  3. jonmarcotte permalink
    October 22, 2009 4:32 AM

    I actually went to a lot of bullfights in Spain, I didn’t care for it at first but after I learned about it, I gained a new outlook and even enjoyed it. I plan to write about it sometime. Read a Hemmingway book, lots of info about bullfights and fighters. I also went to a lot of Real games, crazy to be part of 100k fans. The only down side to Real games is there is no alcohol served at the game, so bring it.

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