Growing up, I had always played sports, whether it be diving for the community swim and dive team, shooting baskets or hitting balls for my local school district’s athletic association. I found a love for basketball in particular and have enjoyed spending time with my mom watching her Big Ten alma mater, University of Illinois, play each basketball season.
I have never found a love of soccer or, as the Europeans call it, Fußball. However, my distaste for the sport did not stop me from experiencing what a true European Fußball event is all about.
I was able to come across a free ticket to the Feb. 21 soccer game because Preston, my boyfriend, has a German professor who happens to be a professional photographer for the team, which gives him the opportunity to receive free tickets.
Preston and I biked to UPC-Arena, the Fußball stadium. Upon arriving, I was overcome with surprise as I looked around at the grand amount of people standing outside the stadium pre-gaming and listening to a band play. It was nearly impossible to move through the streets and search for a place to lock up our bikes.
After locking up our bikes and picking up our tickets from the professor, we followed the crowd into the stadium, passing through minimal security and found our seats, waiting for the game to start.
I wish that I had the words to describe the excitement of the crowd as the countdown to the game was quickly decreasing. To my right behind the goal was a giant group of black painted faces and dark colored shirts, sporting the team’s colors. Out of the darkness of the crowd came flashes of red fireworks followed by smoke as I did a double-take, not believing what I was seeing. At sporting events back in St. Louis, specifically baseball games, security is very strict about what can and cannot enter the stadium, so I could not believe that fireworks were being shot from the stands. After the initial flame, dozens more began firing and the crowd’s chants and roars loudened, leading into a near Fourth of July-like fireworks occasion.
As the celebration was coming to an end, the players stormed the field, causing more of an uproar. The two teams greeted each other in the center of the field before taking their positions to begin the game. The fireworks stopped and smoked continued to creep onto the field as the first play of the game began.
The Fußball game itself was nothing exciting. Graz is not known for their Fußball team and ended up losing to Vienna, but the reactions and involvement of the crowd made up for the poor game play.
Although Fußball is not the first sport to watch on my list, I greatly enjoyed seeing what a true European Fußball match was like and I look forward to experiencing many more sporting events while I am here.