Written by Charlie Kay, Foster undergraduate
One of my favorite parts about European culture is the fanatical devotion to football, or what we Americans call “soccer”. I’ve been playing soccer in some fashion since I was four years old. I love everything about the sport. But living in America presents a few problems to get my soccer fix on a weekly basis. Not everyone plays the sport, even fewer follow the leagues, and most of the soccer available to us is not top shelf.
But across the pond, it is an integral part of everyday life. Not a day goes by here without playing or watching a match. It is awesome. More importantly, it has allowed me to connect with so many more people. I currently play for two different recreational soccer teams, one intramural team with exchange students from my dorm, and one other team full of Czech guys that my Czech buddy is on. I’ve been playing with people from Brazil, Hong Kong, Spain, Turkey, Canada and a lot of other European countries, but we all speak the same language when we start kicking the ball around. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re from, what kind of life you have; if you can play, you can play. It’s really been amazing to see how it all works.
By far my favorite experience of this experience has been going to a soccer game. It wasn’t just any soccer game, however. It was El Clásico, Real Madrid vs. Barcelona, the biggest game in all of club soccer. This is the most heated rivalry in all of sports, bigger than UW vs. Oregon or Wazzu and bigger than Red Sox and the Yankees. The tickets were ridiculously expensive, but I would have paid anything to witness a live match between these two teams. One of my best friends from home is a casual Real fan, and as fan of Barcelona, I knew we had to experience it together. So we bought tickets, headed to Madrid for a weekend, and watched one of the best sporting events in the world. Real Madrid ended up winning 3-1, but Barcelona scored in the first 3 minutes and the place was dead silent. The atmosphere was unlike anything I had ever seen, and I highly doubt I will ever experience something like that again.