For the record, I’m an Arsenal fan (in the Premier League).
I’m a Bayern Munich fan (in the Bundesliga).
And most importantly, I’m a Barcelona fan (in La Liga).
Last Saturday, I watched the Premier League matchup between Fulham and Wigan. You can check out the game report in the previous blog I wrote. As the week progressed and the rescheduling of matches came into focus, there were two more matches I saw before hitting the plane to Munich.
On Tuesday night, there was an FA Cup redraw between Brentford (League 1) and Southend United (League 2). On tap for Wednesday night, a rescheduled Premier League matchup between Chelsea and Southampton was put into place. I got tickets for both games…
Truthfully, of the three football matches I’ve seen, the Brentford game has been the most exciting. I saw Brentford two years ago in my last trip to London in a normal League 1 regular season match. Unable to call that first game ‘exciting’, I hoped this second game had a little more energy than before. Although it was only the third round of the English FA Cup, the winner of this contest would play…Chelsea!
That’s one of the many reasons why I enjoy European Football. Every country has their top tier league, followed by weaker leagues below that. While each club is looking to win their league and be promoted to the higher league, most countries tend to have a league cup of some kind; some countries have multiple league cups. In England, there are two main cups - the Captial One Cup (use to be the Carling Cup) and the FA Cup. Bad football clubs from all leagues across England, for example, have the chance to compete in these cups against some of the best clubs in the country. Are you following along?
So, this Brentford vs Southend contest was serious business. Despite a slew of teams still fighting to see another day, the winner of this contest would host Chelsea, the victors of the UEFA Champions League, at an old stadium that most likely seats 10,000 people. Yes, there was a lot on the line…
Brentford forced the draw against Southend a couple of weeks ago to hold onto their FA Cup dreams. Bringing it back to their home stadium of Griffin Park, Brentford was on a mission to wreak hell on Southend…and that’s just what they did. However, Brentford had numerous scoring opportunities to make this game a shear blowout. Instead, the Southend defense did what they could to keep the Bees in their hive (Yes, Brentford’s mascot is the Bees). In the end, Brentford took care of Southend in a thriller 2-1.
The energy in that small, crappy stadium was an atmosphere I haven’t felt as a fan in a long-time. Fans from all sides shouting their favorite chants; fellow Brits saying some of the filthiest things to the officials when cheap shots weren’t called on the field; there were roars heard like no other when Brentford scored…even when they were just a hair off target. Whether you’re new to the sport or not, you, the fan, were part of a large cheering section family, supporting a team that you may never see again. There wasn’t a jumbo-tron telling fans to get loud or music to fire up the fans.
Walking out of the stadium after the game, I kept thinking to myself, ‘Are the Bees really going to play Chelsea, the 2012 Champions of Europe, in two weeks? At Griffin Park? This is crazy!’
Speaking of Chelsea, I bought a few tickets for the game at Stamford Bridge during the stadium tour on Monday. Stamford Bridge is one hell of a venue (can’t say it beats the Emirates, though…). Touring the locker-room, pressroom, and the field, I was impressed with everything they had to offer. It was definitely the supreme of supreme stadiums in England…but I digress.
Purchasing the tickets, I didn’t realize what section we were really sitting in. Eleven rows back to the left of the goal, I was quite impressed with where we ended up. The tickets were a little pricey – 52 pounds (about $85 give or take) per person, but you only live once, right? Anyway, there’s a rule that fans are not allowed to stand for a long duration throughout the match. Well, that went out the window, when some of the loudest Chelsea fans were all around us! Although I’ve become a serious Arsenal fan, how could I not cheer for Chelsea? Do I really want my ass kicked? I will say this – I have nothing against Chelsea as a club…yet. In the meantime, I’ll cheer for them when appropriate.
From an offensive standpoint, Chelsea dominated their side of the ball in the first half. Newly acquired striker Demba Ba put up the first score for the Blues, while midfielder Eden Hazard knocked in the second goal late in the first half. However, in the second half, Southampton battled their way back, firing in two goals to even the match. Having several opportunities to score, Chelsea came up with nothing. The match was drawn 2-2. For Chelsea, though, they need victories if they want to catch Manchester United and Manchester City for the Premier League title.
As for the city of London, it was nice to be back. Like most big cities, London has its positives and negatives. It’s one of the most universal cities in the world when it comes to ethnicity and culture; all walks of life can be found in London. There are some impoverished areas and there are some beautiful areas. The food, too, can be really good, but also a little questionable. Taking a wild guess, I would say there are tens of thousands of places to eat in London, yet I was trying to stick to the classic pubs. I’ve gotten a little picky to stay away from restaurants in shady neighborhoods as well as food served from outside vendors. Refusing to eat any of it, I stuck close to what I know best – sandwiches, pizza, beer, and fish n’ chips. However, cannot wait to eat the German food in Munich…to be continued…
Enjoying the vast amount of history London has to offer, I knew it was important to check out as much as I could. One day, we went to the Tower of London. Built close to a 1,000 years ago, the Tower of London served as the prison and protector of the riches. Inside the large castle, I saw the amazing armory, the different types of execution weapons, and the royal family’s extensive and world-famous Crown Jewels. It’s a must-see site in London.
We also took a walk around Camden Market, a large, outside shopping center with stands and booths all over the place. Things are pretty cheap there, and there are a lot of knockoffs. However, you can negotiate prices with the different store owners, and sometimes get a steal of a deal. In the end, I only bought one thing from there – a “Mind the Gap” shot glass for three pounds. And yes, I did go to Harrods with a couple of girls. Before you strip my man card, I was there to buy Mom a birthday present and to take a gander at their golf section.
Obviously, we did a walk-around of the city, seeing some of the important landmarks like Trafalgar Square, Big Ben and Parliament, Leicester Square, St. James Park, and Buckingham Palace (I caught the tale-end of the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham. That’s a site to see also!).
I’m also with a pretty good group of people. Spending the next 18 days with them, I’m not afraid to nip things in the bud if anybody starts getting on my case/out of hand. So far, things have been going well…Let’s keep it that way…
So there you have it. I’m now in Munich until Tuesday; on Saturday, we will see Bayern Munich play the worst team in the Bundesliga – Gruether Furth – at the enormous Allianz Arena.
I’ll have a game summary report in the next couple of days…Stay tuned!