Soccer & Travel: Our 5 Most Thrilling, Exciting, and Hair Raising Moments

In honour of the 2014 World Cup kicking off this week in Brazil,  Travis and I are sharing five of our most exciting, awkward, and downright ridiculous soccer related travel moments. With Travis being a huge fan of the game, we try to catch as many matches as possible while traveling. There’s no better way to get a sense for the culture of a city or country than to catch a match surrounded by hardcore fans.

And taking in a match doesn’t always mean attending in person. From bars and hole-in-the-wall restaurants to enormous stadiums, riot police in full garb, and freezing winter temperatures, here are some of our top five soccer moments from our travels.

Travis with a poster of Zola

Travis with a poster of Gianfranco Zola – one of his favourite players

Quepos, Costa Rica Bar

During one of our first trips together Travis and I took some time away from the beaches of Manuel Antonio to catch the Champions League Final between Manchester United and Barcelona. After taking the bus into the nearby town of Quepos, we wandered for a bit until we found a near deserted bar showing the game. There was a row of eight mismatched chairs lined up in front of the television, of which the two middle chairs were quickly vacated and offered to Travis and I. As the only female in the bar, I felt a bit out of place at first, however after a couple pints and a few great tackles we settled in and enjoyed the game with our new friends. PLus they served hot dogs – what more could you ask for?

Chelsea FC in London

Watching Travis’ beloved Chelsea FC live at Stamford Bridge is a travel moment we won’t soon forget. Sitting just off the kickoff line, we had great seats to watch Chelsea defeat Reading FC 4-2 in  a fantastic match. Add in a pre-game snack of classic English Fish and Chips and a pint of lager, and the day couldn’t have been more perfect.

The East Stand entrance at Stamford Bridge

The East Stand entrance at Stamford Bridge

Madrid, Spain

While in Madrid, we knew we wanted to catch a game but we were a week to early to see the El Classico between Real Madrid and Barcelona. So instead, we found a couple cheap tickets to the (then) up and coming Atletico Madrid match. Memorable moments from this game include sitting next to a cranky looking elderly woman who cursed like a sailor and reminded Travis of his Nonna, and discovering pictures of Real Madrid players used as targets in the men’s urinals.

Ljubljana, Slovenia

While in Slovenia we opted to watch a European basketball game instead of a football match, but that didn’t stop us from taking in the pregame celebrations in downtown Ljubljana. Celebrating pre-match, hundreds of fanatical ultras crowded around the quaint cobblestone streets along the city’s canals to chant, sing, set off smoke bombs and release flares into the street. The police were present to ensure the festivities didn’t get out of hand and the entire thing made for some great pictures.


Smoke and flares and full face masks in Slovenia

Belgrade, Serbia

When Travis told me we were going to see one of soccer’s greatest rivalries – The Eternal Derby between Red Star Belgrade and Partizan FC – I was not prepared for what was about to unfold. From a bonfire in the stands, during which Partizan fans removed their shirts to stoke the flames, to a temporary delay and near cancellation of the game due to thick smoke caused by flares thrown onto the field, to thousands of riot police dispensed into the stadium (along with a water cannon) and then lining the deserted freeway and we walked post-apocalypse style back into town, this game was intense. It’s also still one of our favorite travel stories to tell at parties.

Fires in the stadium in Belgrade

Fires in the stadium in Belgrade

And there you have it, five of our most awkward, intimidating, and humorous soccer-related travel moments. As for the World Cup, while we couldn’t make it to Brazil we will definitely be following along from the comfort of our living room. For anyone looking to better their understanding of the controversy behind the World Cup and unfaltering dedication of its fans – or those just looking for a good laugh – check out this humorous yet accurate monologue by John Oliver. The perfect lead into a month of great soccer competition.

This post is part of the #SundayTraveler Link-up…if you haven’t checked it out click below to see all of this week’s amazing contributions!

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