When it comes to travelling, there are several great reasons for doing it. One of the least discussed and often most undervalued is the experience of going to a sports game whilst on your travels, or perhaps even taking the plunge and heading abroad purely for the purpose of watching a match.
Here are my top five sporting experiences:
As an avid football (or soccer if you are from the USA) fan, I have had a few rather odd experiences watching football games abroad. From watching Djurgårdens in Sweden to watching a local match between rival towns in Madagascar, local football games can provide an amazing atmosphere as you blend in with the locals. The best version of this I have experienced was a slightly mixed one as I watched my football team get crushed in the magnificent San Siro stadium in Milan. I watched 60,000+ Milanese folks jumping up and down and chanting in a truly incredible display of passion, which kind of made up for the poor result for my team!
Baseball is often derided in the UK as being boring and impossible to understand. However, when you are sitting in a crowd of passionate baseball fans with cow bells ringing at deafening levels while chowing down on an enormous plate of nachos and holding an obscene beer in your other hand, you might start to have a bit more of an open mind!
With the crowd essentially entirely partisan (unless they are playing a nationwide brand like the New York Yankees) and with the chance to walk away with a home run ball, baseball can be a great bit of fun if you head to it open minded!
Sadly I haven’t quite taken part in a surfing competition and it is true that I only saw the build up to one during my time in Peru, but watching surfing (and I don’t mean on a cold, windy day from Newquay beach!) can be incredible if the surfers are up to the mark! With the added bonus that you can have a go as well, surfing is a wonderful sport to watch and take part in when you are lying on a warm beach or surfing in a nice warm ocean.
2) Horse racing
I have watched horse racing once abroad, and it is quite possible that I hit the high point on my first go after watching an evening of races at Happy Valley racecourse in Hong Kong.
Filled with 80,000 fans, costing mere pennies to enter, and with a wonderful mix of ex pats and locals filling the place to the rafters, this is perhaps one of the most exciting sporting experiences I have ever had! Sure, you can do the silly thing and make huge bets and leave crying or you can place a small amount of money on a race or two, have a drink (or even bring your own as we did) and enjoy some food and have a wonderfully unique night out in the middle of a very different culture!
1) Ice Hockey
Of all the sports to watch in North America, and there are a few, ice hockey has to have the craziest and best atmosphere! With the sport itself only slowing down to allow for period breaks and fighting, this is not a sport for the fainthearted! Add into the mix the fact that when the home team scores there will be an almighty din (at the Ottawa Senators it was the sound of a train horn) and the fact that most of the chants are fairly easy to pick up and you can have an amazing time. If you want to get up close, bloody and very personal, pay the big bucks and get as close to the action as you can. If you just want to see what on earth this sport is like (or were inspired by the Mighty Ducks!) then get a cheap seat at the back!
One final point: if you are lucky enough to be about when it is play-off season, the atmosphere is even more electric and the games even more intense, making it all the better as we found out when watching the Tampa Bay Lightning a couple of years ago!
Categories: Travel Tips