European football: A beginner’s guide

European football: A beginner’s guide

by Stacy Roman
Stripes Europe

Fall in Europe is beautiful. Cool, crisp mornings, leaves turning brilliant shades of copper and burgundy, and of course, plenty of football. Not just American football, but European as well. European football (or soccer in the States) has plenty of drama and theatrics. Expensive athletes, epic rivalries and rowdy fans all in the name of a 90-minute match. New to the sport? It can be a little daunting, as there are few more rules and a lot more jargon than your kid’s recreation team. To help make it a little easier, here’s a crash course in one of Europe’s favorite sports.

The basics

A few years back, comedian Jason Sudekis created a skit about an American football coach hired to train an English Premier League (EPL) team. “Ted Lasso” hilariously bumbles his way through the lingo, rules and coaching. Here are a few basics to avoid becoming like Coach Lasso.

  • Common terminology: Match = game, fixture = scheduled match, pitch = field, kit = uniform, promotion = moving up a league, relegation = moving down a league, VAR = video assistant referee.
  • Football matches are generally 90-minutes long, separated into two 45-minute halves. Depending on the amount of penalties and fouls during the half, the head referee will usually add a few minutes of make-up time at the end of each half.
  • There are three referees – one center ref and two line judges on either side of the pitch. If a decision is challenged, or if the referee is unsure of the correct call, VAR is used. VAR is essentially the same as instant replay during NFL games.

Tickets to professional matches

Scoring tickets to top-tier team matches is almost a science. Who is playing, location, venue, membership status, number of tickets needed and even plain geography can affect whether or not there are seats available. For example, we recently tried to buy tickets to Sheffield United vs. Leicester City. Because we weren’t members of either club, and since the clubs are near each other, there was no general sales seat release. Here are some things to consider when buying tickets.

  • Are you a die-hard fan of a particular team? Consider purchasing an annual club membership. Members often have access to tickets before the general public. Just be warned that tickets are often sold individually, which means each person wanting tickets will need their own membership.
  • Buying multiple tickets doesn’t mean you’ll sit with your party. My husband and son went to a Tottenham vs. FC Barcelona match and had seats two rows apart. Luckily, people volunteered to switch seats so they could sit together.
  • Hospitality packages can be worth it depending on the match and time of year. As the season progresses, team placement and seeding becomes more stable. Hospitality often includes decent seats in a dedicated section, pre- and/or post-game food and beverages.
  • Know your logistics before purchasing tickets. Some stadiums are on the outskirts of town and may not have public transportation readily available. Many fans tailgate at local pubs or bars ahead of time, so plan your time of arrival accordingly.
  • Stadium size can have a direct impact on ticket availability. Huge venues such as Wembley Stadium, Camp Nou, and Allianz Arena may afford a better opportunity for tickets as opposed to smaller stadiums such as King Power Stadium and Volkswagen Area.
  • Does the team matter? If you’re catching a match for love of the game, considering popping down to one of the lower leagues. Local matches (such as 1. FC Kaiserslautern, Peterborough United, Cambridge United, etc.) can be just as exciting for a lot less money.

It’s match day
All right, you’ve got your tickets in hand and you’ve brushed up on your terminology and rules. Here are some things to know before you go.

  • Know your team colors. Do NOT wear any colors resembling the visiting team, unless you scored seats in that section.
  • No alcohol allowed at the seat. No plastic bottle caps or glass containers are allowed in the seating area.
  • Depending on your seat location, you may be sitting or standing the whole time.
  • No anthems are played unless it’s a nation vs. nation event such as a Cup championship or international friendly.
  • Feel free to cheer loudly for your team, but remember to be respectful.
  • Security is tight. You’ll notice an increased presence in security near halftime and at the end of the match.

So grab your scarf, don your favorite kit and head to the stadium to enjoy your new-found love of football. Cheers!

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