Noth­ing like the thrill of be­ing there

It takes some­thing spe­cial to give a per­son goose­bumps for more than 90 min­utes, but at­tend a foot­ball game in Eng­land and you might share that ex­pe­ri­ence, says re­porter Ben Strang.

Kapi-Mana News - - FEATURE -

Sim­ply walk­ing in to some of the most fa­mous sta­di­ums in Europe and Amer­ica can make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up as you re­alise where you are.

On a re­cent whirl­wind trip to the north­ern hemi­sphere I vis­ited as many sports games as my wal­let would al­low – foot­ball matches in Ger­many and Eng­land, bas­ket­ball and base­ball in New York.

The first event was a Bay­ern Mu­nich foot­ball match at Mu­nich’s Al­lianz Arena.

The € 350 mil­lion ( NZ$ 630m) sta­dium is cov­ered in in­flated foam sheets, which al­lows it to be lit in red, blue, or white, to suit the home team.

About 66,000 peo­ple can cram in to the three-tiered sta­dium, which is nearly dou­ble the size of Welling­ton’s West­pac Sta­dium, and that cre­ates an in­cred­i­ble at­mos­phere.

I watched Bay­ern de­feat Borus­sia Monchenglad­bach there in April, and the home fans’ chant­ing was deaf­en­ing af­ter the goal was scored.

Hard­core sup­port­ers sit be­hind each goal, and yell the team name back and forth at one an­other to spur the team on.

The sta­dium is state-of-the-art, in con­trast to my next ex­pe­ri­ence, a foot­ball game at Liver­pool’s An­field Sta­dium.

Af­ter trav­el­ling to the other side of the world I was not go­ing to miss my beloved Liver­pool play a home match, and forked out € 220 ( NZ$ 400) to watch them play Manch­ester City.

There are no large en­try gates into An­field, which was con­structed in 1884, and you have to search for the small en­try turn­stiles.

Walk­ing up four flights of nar­row, dimly-lit stairs to get to the seat­ing, I won­dered how a team that is fol­lowed world­wide could have such an old and small sta­dium.

I walked down to my third row seats where, un­like New Zealand sports sta­di­ums, I was sitting roughly five me­tres from the play­ing sur­face. New Zealand sports grounds are more spacious to sit in, but can­not com­pare with the at­mos­phere and emo­tion of English foot­ball.

With Liver­pool scor­ing three goals in 30 min­utes the fans were in rap­tures, and the chant­ing and singing stepped up a gear.

As the home team coasted to vic­tory, the club’s song, You’ll Never Walk Alone was sung by all but the small trav­el­ling con­tin­gent, giv­ing me chills all over.

By the end of the game I had no voice, could not shake the goose­bumps and had a cheesy grin smeared across my face.

About 24 hours later I was stand­ing out­side Madi­son Square Gar­den, where the New York Knicks were host­ing their sec­ond-to-last game of the NBA reg­u­lar sea­son against league-top­ping Chicago Bulls, who boast the league’s best player, Der­rick Rose.

Think a Welling­ton Saints game on steroids.

Al­most 20,000 peo­ple cram into the multi-pur­pose arena for bas­ket­ball matches, cre­at­ing what some com­men­ta­tors call the best at­mos­phere in the sport.

To add to the vibe, the Knicks had just se­cured their spot in the NBA fi­nals for the first time since 2002.

The Bulls wiped off some of the good feel­ing dur­ing the game, thanks mainly to Rose, but what hap­pened next is vir­tu­ally un­heard of in New Zealand sport – Rose was fully ap­pre­ci­ated for his tal­ent.

Rather than bag­ging the player for out­class­ing their team, the New York fans got be­hind him, and a chant of MVP even rang out across the crowd.

Fans are also happy to share their knowl­edge with any­one un­fa­mil­iar with the sport.

A Knicks fan sitting next to me would turn to me ev­ery 20 sec­onds to tell me in­ter­est­ing facts about the team, and com­men­tate on the game.

It was the same at a New York Yan­kees base­ball game at Yan­kee Sta­dium in The Bronx, New York.

Base­ball is the big­gest sport in the United States, with Ma­jor League Base­ball earn­ing bil­lions of dol­lars each year through tele­vi­sion rights alone.

The Yan­kees are the most suc­cess­ful team in his­tory, win­ning 27 World Se­ries ti­tles since 1913.

As a keen Amer­i­can sports fan, I know the rules to base­ball, but the fans sitting next to me went on to ex­plain the game in full de­tail.

Stars such as Derek Jeter and Alex Ro­driguez, bet­ter known to some New Zealan­ders for dat­ing Madonna, were pointed out to me when­ever they walked on to the field.

The at­mos­phere was sim­i­lar to that of an in­ter­na­tional Twenty20 match at West­pac Sta­dium, un­til the nail-bit­ing con­clu­sion where the Yan­kees won in an ex­tra in­nings.

My ex­pe­ri­ence showed me over­seas sports fans put them­selves into their team more than Ki­wis, who seem more re­served.

By get­ting into the games and risk­ing em­bar­rass­ing my­self in the process I have cre­ated mem­o­ries I will never for­get.

Tick­ets to the games ranged be­tween NZ$150 for base­ball, to NZ$400 for foot­ball in Eng­land, but it was worth ev­ery penny.

Photo: REUTERS

De­nied: Chicago Bulls for­ward Luol Deng, and guard Der­rick Rose block

the way for New York Knicks guard Toney Dou­glas dur­ing an NBA game

at Madi­son Square Gar­den.

Photo: REUTERS

Red pas­sion: Liver­pool’s Dirk Kuyt, left, cel­e­brates his goal against Manch­ester City with Andy Car­roll, cen­tre, and Martin Skr­tel dur­ing their English Premier League soc­cer match at An­field.

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