Our First Football* Game

Posted by sue on October 17th, 2007

On a recent trip to northern Portugal, we had just arrived in the city of Braga and were looking for a place to stay, when we came across a central square with several large cafes that have tables and chairs spilling out into the plaza. The outside tables of one of the cafes had been taken over by a bunch of very white guys wearing bright green and white, drinking beer and chanting things we didn’t understand. At first we thought they might be Irish, but quickly determined that they were in fact Swedish fans of a Stockholm football team called Hammarby, and that they had made the trip to Portugal to root on their team that very night as they played Braga.

DSCF0853.jpgWe heard that Braga had very nice, new football stadium and were generally looking for fun, so we decided to go the game and see what all the fuss was about. Here’s our first glimpse of the stadium after buying our tickets (15 Euros apiece).

DSCF0862.jpgWe sat in the “visitor” section with the Swedes (we figure we blended in with them better than with the hometown crowd), which was just one section of seats in the corner of the stadium, separated from the Braga fans by a roped-off, empty section of seats presided over by a security guard. This was our view of the field at one exciting moment.

I guess there have been too many moments in the past of European football games resulting in fights and near-riots (or even actual riots), because security at this game was weirdly tight. Maybe these Hammarby guys have a particular reputation for brawling, but it seems more likely this is just normal procedure these days. First, there was the rigid fan segregation I mentioned before. Second, there was NO BEER served in the stadium! They did have non-alcoholic beer for sale, but only as a reminder that there was no real beer to be had.

DSCF0864.jpg This, however, was the strangest part of the security protocols- at the end of the game, they kept us visitors all roped into our little section (surrounded by security guards) until every single hometown Braga fan left the stadium. A cooling-off period after the game, I guess? Or a running start for the home team fans?

DSCF0869.jpgThe game was scoreless until the second half, when Braga jumped to life and ended up winning 4-0. I guess Hammarby was the underdog by a large margin, and they were only there because of a lucky victory over Braga in Stockholm the previous week. Still, there was a melancholy to the walk back to the center of town after the game. Here’s a look back on the empty stadium.

*”Soccer” seems like such a silly term compared to a) what EVERYONE else in the world calls the sport and b) the most appropriate name for a sport involving a ball that is played mostly with one’s feet.

31 Responses to “Our First Football* Game”

  1. len Says:

    The English word “soccer” is also, quite coincidentally, almost phonetically identical to the Portuguese word meaning “loose-fitting underpants”.

  2. Heather Says:

    Yay! I’m a big fan of the “Baggy Undies” team!

  3. stacy Says:

    We experienced similar security measures at the 2 Rugby World Cup games we saw in France last month. 1) No real beer, only “sans-alcohol”; 2) each fan was patted down before entering the stadium, who needs a metal detector?; and 3) there was a really scary bathroom, with no toilet, just a hole with two small steps to stand on AND no toilet paper, paper towels or soap. I doubt that #3 has anything to do with increased security, but it freaked me out more than getting felt up in the security line.

  4. kelli Says:

    in reply to stacys #3:
    is it just me, or does that sort of thing bring to mind asituation in which a slimy tenacled thing with one huge blind eye, reaches up thru the yawning blackness of the fetid hole in the ground, as you nervously crouch above, and wraps its slimy acid-coated tenacle securely around your leg, and before you can even grunt in surprise, yanks you thru the hole, breaking all the long bones in your body, to be slowly disolved by acid and eaten alive in the noisome, vermin infested, centuries old sewer system that runs underneath europe?

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