When you search TripAdvisor for top things to do in (insert city), you see the top attractions. That’s cool, they’re popular for a reason.
But there are only so many museums, monuments, religious sites, walking tours, and beaches you can do. Right?
They can get repetitive, and you need something different from time to time.
What you rarely see on these lists is a mention of attending a local football match (or any sporting event).
I’m not a massive football fan but have enjoyed 10 or so football games in Eastern Europe over the last few months.
Whether you love football or not, continue reading.
Note: some of the reasons won’t apply to you.
But football fan or not, here are 10 reasons why to watch a football match on your next travel adventure.
1. Watching The Football Can Be A Budget Friendly Activity
If you’re travelling on a budget, not every football game will be within your budget. But if you’re in Asia, or Eastern Europe, you’ll rarely pay more than $5 for a ticket. For an international match in Turkey, the most expensive tickets were 20 Turkish Lira (I paid 15).
This isn’t a marketing scheme, where they charge over the top prices for food and beverages inside. Most of the options will be lacking for a start as the commercial nature of sport isn’t like you see on TV in the USA.
At the game in Turkey, I was eating sunflower seeds, and drinking a hot tea. They didn’t sell any beer!
2. You Have An Easy Way To Mix With The Locals
When you’re travelling in foreign places, it’s not always easy to start a conversation with a local. They’re usually going about their daily work day and disturbing them doesn’t go down well.
At the football, people relax (most of the time) in a social atmosphere with friends and family.
The best part, everyone is there for the same reason, and it’s incredibly easy to strike up a conversation about football when it’s top of their mind.
But the language barrier? I find people fund their best English speaking friend to translate as we all, laugh, cheer, and ride the emotions together.
Often the conversation diverts well away from football. For the non-footballers, steer the conversation to topics that interest you.
3. You Get To See Inspirational People In The Flesh
In Barcelona, I did watch a exhibition match: Barcelona FC Legends vs. Manchester United Legends.
Crowd favourite former Barcelona FC player, Ronaldinho, inspired millions, and continues to do so today. Getting to watch him play (even though he had gained some weight), was fun memorable.
4. You Can Make Your Friends Jealous (Or Attend On Their Behalf)
Let’s be honest, we don’t like someone who gets jealous. But you might like making other jealous, (in a good natured way).
At some matches, I can’t help but send a photo to football fanatic friends back home. The replies always make me happy: ‘wish I was there’, ‘JEALOUS’, ‘that looks awesome’, ‘have fun’ etc.
Depending on where you are, your friends might want you to go to a game for them. I saw this recently when a friend from Latvia watched Barcelona FC play at Camp Nou. She wasn’t a fan at all, but a few Barcelona FC crazy friends of her from home really wanted her to go, so she did!
5. You Get A Story People Can Relate Too
When you return from your travels, there are some stories that repeat over and over again. If you think about the stories you tell often, they involve people.
It’s cool to say ‘oh I went to Angkor Wat, it’s beautiful…’, but people tune out as they can’t relate to inanimate objects.
We can always relate to people thus football stories can be fun to tell, and others can relate to them.
6. Football Can Help You Understand The City/Country
Some places obsess about football (or another sport like cricket in India). In Barcelona, I couldn’t believe how many people wore Barcelona jerseys. The football season hadn’t started!
I left Barcelona before the start of the season, but will remember this story from the Camp Nou Museum that I’ll never forget.
Barcelona FC helped immigrants integrate into society. How?
Regardless of where people came from they got behind the team together (notice how it’s about people?)
You can learn a lot about a place through sport, one of the driving forces behind my blog.
7. You Can Count This As A New Experience
Never been to a football game before? Then why not make your first game overseas and cross it off the bucket list!
Sports are a great way to get immersed in the local culture. Even if you aren’t a sports fan in anyway, shape or form, count this as a new experience.
8. You Can Compare Things To Back Home
Football is definitely the sport people can relate to most wherever you are in the world. I haven’t been to many football matches back in New Zealand, but comparing a Partizan FC (Belgrade) game to a Wellington Phoenix match, I can say:
- The tickets are a lot cheaper in Belgrade
- They don’t sell alcohol at the matches in Belgrade
- The late kickoff, 9pm in Belgrade, didn’t prevent kids from attending
- The ultras are very intense
- Ultra fans stand up for the entire time (they sit down at half time)
Same sport, two completely different experiences that are culturally interesting.
9. You Can Admire The Architecture & Stadium Technology
Stadium technology is a thing, there’s even a magazine focusing on this. I’m not a massive architecture fan, but getting to witness Camp Nou was magical. The pitch doesn’t get enough sunlight all year round, so they go to extra lengths to ensure the pitch is perfect for the players.
10. You Might Be Inspired To Get Back Into Playing
Have you stopped playing football? Maybe you didn’t even play football but were competing in some form of sport? Either way, watching professionals out there doing there thing might be the spark you needed to get back involved in the game yourself. For me, seeing the fitness levels of some of the players has encouraged me to keep working on my fitness.
How Did I Do?
Did I manage to plant an idea in your brain? Will you consider going to a football match next time you’re abroad?
You don’t need to plan a whole trip around a game. When you arrive at a destination, ask a local (ideally at the tourist office) if the football team is playing in the next couple of days. If so, take a chance, head along and embrace the experience.
If you do go to a match, tag me on Instagram @tikitouringkiwi, I’d love to see your photo.
By Jub Bryant – Tiki Touring Kiwi