The final whistle has blown, heroes have become villians and vice versa, and another page has been written in sporting history. Another Super Bowl has come and gone and it is another major sporting event we have watched from around the world.
I love watching great sport events and love keeping up with my favourite sports while I travel. Over the years I have sourced out the only bar in town showing a particular sport, often involving getting up at ridiculous times of the night or getting home at all hours (like last night) after staying up to watch something.
When an important game is on, no matter where in the world you are, you can almost guarantee you will meet a passionate supporter of one of the teams. Watching a major event half a world away is also a totally different experience to watching it where it is being played. It brings travellers and locals together and also shows you just how small the world really is.
It is almost impossible these days to travel through a country and not see a small child wearing an English football shirt, whether it be Manchester United, Chelsea or whoever. When we were travelling through India by train as soon as fellow passengers realised I was from Australia then talk inevitably turned to cricket. Not surprisingly their faces lit up as they recounted momentous moments in India vs. Australia cricket history.
I have been lucky enough to watch the AFL (Australian Rules Football – my favourite sport) Grand Final up a mountain in Switzerland, in several pubs across London and indeed across Europe. In Brazil one year I was crammed into a ramshakle little bar (if you could call it that) to watch the final race of the Formula One season. Local hero Felipe Massa had the chance to become world champion and this corrugated iron-shed-come-bar in the small border town was about the only place that you could watch it. It seemed like nearly the whole town was packed in tight, all holding their breath hoping and praying their man would win (sadly he didn’t).
Working in Europe also means I have been lucky enough to watch World Cup soccer matches in capital cities as the national sides were playing, including being in Germany for last years World Cup win. Finally this year, arguably the grand daddy of them all, the Super Bowl was watched with a great group of mates here in London at the original Hard Rock Cafe.
Probably one of our more unique locations was when we were in Mongolia. We were lucky enough to experience an incredible home stay with an elderly nomadic family in the middle of the Semi Gobi desert. Each night the couple were glued to their old television set (powered by a tiny generator – their only luxury) watching one of the country’s national sports, wrestling. While we had no idea what was going on it was fascinating watching the couple get so excited with what was going on.
Not only do I enjoy watching various sports but given the chance we both enjoy going to see local sporting events. Getting involved with whatever sport, wherever you are in the world really gives you a chance to see what makes the locals tick and get involved in the passions and excitement. It is also interesting to see how similar sports are organised around the world.
When I was in Calgary Canada the hostel had tickets for the Ice Hockey. I had no idea what was going on, cheering every time either side scored and generally having a great time. However as the away team started to take control a group of locals behind me tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘Dude we know you are not from around here but if you keep cheering for the away team we are going to have to kill you’. They were joking, or at least I hope they were. We were also lucky enough to go to the ice hockey in St Petersburg Russia and managed to get incredibly cheap tickets. When we arrived we realised why, we were sitting next to the heavily policed ‘away team’ section but also had a great time, even though I still have no idea what is going on!
We have both managed to make it to football / soccer matches around the world, and watching Brazil play Ecuador at the famous Maracanã stadium in Rio de Janeiro is something I will never forget. The atmosphere of the near 100,000 spectators was indescribable, and the party feeling inside the stadium is unlike anything I had previously experienced or experienced since. Next year with the Olympics in Rio, if you haven’t booked your trip their yet it may be time to get on to it.
Visiting a local sporting match or going to watch your favourite sport in a different country can really add to the travelling experience.