Friday was our last night in Dublin. We went to our first ever soccer (football) game (match). Ireland was playing Slovaks in a qualifier for the 2012 Euro Cup, which is like the world cup but without America in it. I was surprised by a number of things at this game. The stadium was a little more than half full (suck it haters, I can be an optimist). the game play was more physical than it seems on TV. These guys were really fast and hitting each other pretty hard. As a fan, what stood out the most was how much I missed even though I understand the game fairly well. There were a handful of instances where the crowd would have a slight surge in volume – probably a player getting open or a play developing away from the ball – and I didn’t know what I missed. Other times, Ireland would have a good goal scoring opportunity that they missed and it would be followed by polite applause for the good try rather than a scathing rebuke on everything about the player.
Some other things about the game were also quite surprising. We bought the tickets from ticket master and they were available at the box office for pick up. In America, the box office is part of the stadium. In Ireland, it’s not part of the stadium and only one police officer (Garda) in the whole land knows where it is. After about 70 minutes of walk-sprinting, we found the ticket booth in some hotel, conveniently located in the general vicinity of Ireland.
The hiccup picking up the tickets meant that we got into the stadium just as the game was about to start. We were the only sober people in the whole country at this moment, and the fans walking through the gates had a rowdiness and excitedness that usually leads to hooliganism. I knew that after one beer, I would be in the same inebriated state. I was looking forward to a nice half pint from the beer stand or vendor in the stadium. And maybe a tasty snack.
The stadium did not serve beer. I repeat. THE STADIUM DID NOT SERVE BEER. Of all the surprising things that happen in the world, this was the most surprising. A soccer stadium hosting a game of the national team in a country with a thriving commemorative key chain bar industry did not serve beer. Also, there wasn’t even a shake shack.
Some not surprising things happened at the game as well:
No one scored
It ended in a tie
My U-S-A chant went over very poorly