Experiencing football matches worldwide

Football is a part of culture all over the world, albeit prevailing in some countries more than others.

As an exciting way of experiencing new culture I try to watch a live football match in each new country I visit. Here is a summary of the matches that I’ve attended across 6 continents.

I’ve rated each match against three parameters:

  1. Quality of football
  2. Atmosphere
  3. Value for money

Each parameter is given a score out of 5, with 5 being the best.

South America

Pasto, Colombia – Deportivo Pasto 2-1 América de Cali

  • ⚽ – Quality of football
  • ⚽ – Atmosphere
  • ⚽⚽ – Value for money

The setting for this rivalry was one of the most awesome locations for a football stadium – the mountainous background and open air roof made for a great experience. It was also an extremely colourful affair, with bright powder, huge flags and enormous banners.

Check out that view!

Florianópolis, Brazil – Avaí 1-1 Luverdense

  • ⚽ – Quality of football
  • ⚽ – Atmosphere
  • ⚽ – Value for money

Probably the most ‘average’ football match I’ve been to – the quality was good but in the end a penalty shootout consigned Avaí to defeat. The atmosphere was nothing to shout about and nor was the price.

Before the penalty shootout…

North America

Kansas, USA – Sporting KC 1-1 Houston Dynamo

  • ⚽ – Quality of football
  • ⚽⚽ – Atmosphere
  • ⚽⚽ – Value for money

In typically American style there was a firework display prior to the commencement of the match! The fantastic atmosphere was thanks to a section of hardcore fans who played drums, horns and chanted throughout.

Amongst the loud fans

Australia (Oceania)

Sydney, Australia – Sydney FC 2-1 Guangzhou Evergrande FC

  • ⚽⚽⚽ – Quality of football
  • ⚽⚽ – Atmosphere
  • ⚽⚽⚽ – Value for money

A very poor quality of football considering the status of the competition – the Asian Champions League is simply dwarfed by its European counterpart. Overall a boring match and quiet atmosphere.

Good stadium, poor match

Africa

Mbeya, Tanzania – Mbeya City 2-0 Simba

  • ⚽ – Quality of football
  • ⚽⚽⚽ – Atmosphere
  • ⚽⚽⚽⚽⚽ – Value for money

This match wins the prize for the most basic stadium – no turnstiles, no seats and certainly no roof! Just a large curved bank of stone steps to sit on and mountains to admire in the distance. The poor quality of football was made up for by some crazy goal celebrations and insane value for money (I forget what I paid…).

An unforgettable experience!

Asia

Mumbai, India – Mumbai City 3-2 NorthEast United

  • ⚽⚽ – Quality of football
  • ⚽⚽⚽⚽ – Atmosphere
  • ⚽⚽⚽⚽⚽ – Value for money

Another great value for money match (what else would you expect in India?)! We got invited into the supporters club fan zone; a noisy crowd and small stadium combined to make a decent atmosphere.

In the ‘hardcore’ fan zone again

Europe

Maribor, Slovenia – NK Maribor 2-0 FK Partizani

  • ⚽⚽ – Quality of football
  • ⚽⚽⚽⚽ – Atmosphere
  • ⚽⚽⚽ – Value for money

I was shocked at how many fans were at this match; the stadium is quite big for such a small city but they packed out the stand that I was sitting in. Chants, claps and drums lasted for virtually the entire game – certainly one of the better atmospheres that I’ve been part of. They also let off flares towards the end of the match.

Prices were reasonable, but I certainly wouldn’t want to pay any higher for the distinctly average quality of football.

A typically European atmosphere

Bratislava, Slovakia – ŠK Bratislava 3-0 FK Podbrezová

  • ⚽⚽ – Quality of football
  • ⚽⚽ – Atmosphere
  • ⚽⚽⚽⚽ – Value for money

This one reaaaaally took me by surprise. It was so dead when we arrived – literally nobody around – but in the end turned out to be an enjoyable experience. It was a small stadium and the fans were quite family oriented, both of which made it an intimate affair.

The football itself wasn’t great (what do you expect for the Slovakian league) and the atmosphere very quiet, but super cheap tickets made it all okay (I paid €4/£3.6/US$4.6 in 2018). 

Nice clouds…oh wait, there’s a football match?

Vienna, Austria – SK Rapid Wien 1-1 SC Altach

  • ⚽⚽⚽ – Quality of football
  • ⚽⚽⚽⚽⚽ – Atmosphere
  • ⚽⚽⚽⚽ – Value for money

Apart from watching my own team at Wembley (see below), the atmosphere at this match was the best I’ve ever experienced. Rapid Wien fans sure do know how to support their team! Not only did they sing throughout but there was also obvious pain when they conceded a goal – something that doesn’t always show on the faces of other team’s fans. That was refreshing to see.

I bought a ticket for the safe-standing zone (where all the hardcore fans were) and it was the best decision ever; they were chanting, shouting, clapping, waving giant flags around – awesome stuff! They even had 2 guys at the front of the stand orchestrating the chants with megaphones and speakers! Tickets were averagely priced (€21/£19/US$24 in 2018) but the epic atmosphere made this match decent value for money.

Fan-zoned!

Salzburg, Austria – FC Red Bull Salzburg 2-0 FK Austria Wien

  • ⚽⚽⚽ – Quality of football
  • ⚽⚽ – Atmosphere
  • ⚽⚽ – Value for money

Thoroughly disappointed. The actual football was some of the best I’d seen on my central Europe trip, but the effect that Red Bull has had on this club is profound. The whole experience was extremely commercialised – understandable considering we’re talking about Red Bull but I wasn’t prepared for it to be on such an extreme scale. The stadium was half empty, the atmosphere was disjointed and ticket prices were overpriced in my opinion.

In protest against the Red Bull takeover, Salzburg’s life-long traditional fans decided to abandon this new team and form their own club in the classic violet and white colours of former SV Austria Salzburg. The fact that Red Bull has effectively forced this to happen is so upsetting. I certainly won’t be coming to an RB Salzburg match again – or any of the other Red Bull franchises for that matter.

Half empty and kids everywhere – not my idea of a decent footy match!

Barcelona, Spain – FC Barcelona 5-0 RCD Espanyol

  • ⚽⚽⚽⚽⚽ – Quality of football
  • ⚽⚽⚽⚽ – Atmosphere
  • ⚽⚽⚽⚽ – Value for money

The Camp Nou – in my opinion, the best stadium in the world (comment below with alternative suggestions). Messi was sublime, the whole team were incredible, tickets not too expensive (if bought in advance) and atmosphere up there with the best (just a few too many tourists for my liking – including myself)! 

(I lost all my photos from inside the stadium when I drowned my phone – read about that here – so here’s a pic from way back in 2013 when I only saw the outside of the stadium).

Proudly wearing my Reading shirt outside the Nou Camp

Madrid, Spain– Real Madrid 2-0 RCD Espanyol

  • ⚽⚽⚽⚽⚽ – Quality of football
  • ⚽⚽⚽ – Atmosphere
  • ⚽⚽⚽ – Value for money

Another epic stadium, another epic match. Unfortunately Ronaldo had a bad game but luckily Isco had his shooting boots on. Even more tourists meant a slightly worse atmosphere than in Barcelona, and the tickets were dearer too.

The mighty Santiago Bernabéu

London, England (Wembley stadium) – Reading 0-0 Huddersfield

  • ⚽⚽⚽ – Quality of football
  • ⚽⚽⚽⚽⚽ – Atmosphere
  • ⚽⚽⚽⚽⚽ – Value for money

I’m a Reading supporter so these ratings may be slightly biased. However, the Championship play-off final is arguably the most important match in world football, with the prize being a place in the EPL. I’ve been twice (both times seeing Reading lose – the other a 4-3 defeat to Swansea) but the atmosphere is always electric and the whole match day experience at Wembley is unrivalled. See below for a general overview of an average Reading game.

There’s nothing quite like watching your team at Wembley

Reading, England – various opponents, average ratings

  • ⚽⚽⚽ – Quality of football
  • ⚽⚽ – Atmosphere
  • ⚽⚽⚽ – Value for money

At the Madejski – Reading’s home stadium – matches are rarely an exciting affair; even if there are plenty of goals the atmosphere is usually quiet. The quality of football varies season by season but cheap tickets mean a fairly good value for money experience.

The ‘mighty’ Madejski

 

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