Photo: Staci Klemmer
Let’s talk about European soccer and the fan experience.
I am blessed to have a sister who lives in Europe. My husband and I travelled to Verona, Italy for our honeymoon in 1997 to hang out with her and her husband. As part of the trip, we did a little driving tour around the area and ended up in Parma on game day.
Neither my sister nor her husband had ever been to a soccer game so, on a lark, we talked them into going. It was Parma vs AC Milan. We were AC Milan fans only because our favorite MetroStars player, Roberto Donadoni, was a former player.
Imagine four Americans wandering in to an Italian soccer match — late. We desperately tried to find our seats, though later we realized there weren’t actually assigned seats, you just plopped down wherever your mates were. The old Italian guys started screaming at us to sit down because we were blocking their view. My sister and her husband speak fluent Italian so we did, cramming four of us into a space for two.
As the game went on, there was lots of yelling, some of it phrases that my sister had never heard before, including something involving pigs and cows. Not really sure what it meant, but you get the jist.
Since my husband and I at the time were season ticket holders for the MetroStars, we thought we had an idea of what the crowd would be like at the match.
And then this happened:
I’m looking around the stadium. I notice in the stands near one of the goals there seems to be a section that is fenced off with fans inside. Hmm.
I then see there are a group of them all huddled around something off to the edge of the enclosure.
And then all hell breaks loose because they have set fire to all the programs that they have collected. Flames and smoke are billowing everywhere as all of the fans in that section run as far away as possible and end up crammed in the farthest corner of the section.
We wait and watch. No water, no fire extinguisher, no police — nothing. The game goes on and eventually the fire burns out and everybody goes back to their seats.
I have no memory of who won on that day, but I do remember on the way out seeing a line of policemen had formed a tunnel so AC Milan fans could leave the stadium without being attacked by the home support.
I share this because I am on my way back to Germany for Thanksgiving to visit my sister and I realized I might be able to catch a Bundesliga game while I’m there. She lives in Monchengladbach so I had a few choices. Being that I’m a huge Christian Pulisic fan, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see him in person. I naively thought I could go online to the club website and buy tickets. $60 in scalper fees later…well, at least I have tickets to see Dortmund vs. Eintracht Frankfurt. I’m a little nervous about buying the tickets from a third party, but they looked reputable and I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
Hoping my sister had connections, I also wanted to see Borussia Monchengladbach vs. Man City in the Champions League, but it was going to be $200 for a single ticket and I so had to pass on that.
I am assuming that the Germans will be a little more mellow than the Italians, but I’d love to hear any stories that you have from your travels.