Today I went to a football match at Wembley Stadium! The two teams that were set to play were Côte d’Ivoire and England. Entering the stadium was one of the most fascinating things to witness. It was extremely busy on the Tube (the subway used to travel throughout London) . Though surprisingly, not many people were wearing jerseys. I remember speaking with my friend as we both wondered if everyone on the tube was headed to the match.
Though, when we finally entered Wembley Stadium, it was much easier to tell who was a fan of who. There were flags for England, flags for Côte d’Ivoire, and it would not be a football match without the scarves that have the flags and names of both teams on it! I was surprised to see just how many children were at the match. I even spotted a group of a dozen school kids in neon yellow vests. What a cool school field trip! A night at a home football match!
The walk to our seats was extremely long. I guess it makes sense given we were seated so high up. Prior to the game, there were many people outside buying food from the carts. There were chips (French fries), crispy chicken fingers, and even burgers for sale. Once we arrived at the entrance to the stadium, we scanned our tickets to enter. The mechanism for entry was quite interesting. The door trap would only open after you scanned your ticket but once you entered, it would shut behind you. It was quite secure! Once we arrived, our bags were checked, and we made our way to our seats where we sat eagerly waiting for the game to commence. I could hear the chatters of small conversations all around us.
Suddenly the announcer comes on. At first, I was surprised that there was no national anthem. Then, suddenly the score for “God Save the Queen” came on and everyone stood up and sang along. Though, unlike in America, there was no flag waved, nor was there a hand placed to the heart. Everyone simply stood, sang, then sat down.
After the players were announced, the game began. It was a bit slow at first. I think Côte d’Ivoire struggled to keep the ball away from their goal post, which made it easy for England to score. When the first score happened, I must have blinked. It was so quick! Then, suddenly, I just hear an arousing cheer. A group of 5 boys were in front of me and it was very clear they were rooting for England. It was so funny to see how gleeful they were. Throughout the match, they sang, stood, and cheered. This differs greatly from American sports. Usually, American sports have cheerleaders that stand near the players to do the cheers. Though, these boys were not cheerleaders. They were simply fans in the audience. They knew so many songs that I had never even heard of. My favorite song I heard from them was “England ‘till I die! I’m England ‘till I die!”. Another one they sang was “it’s coming home, it’s coming home!”. An honorable mention was “Sweet Caroline!”. The chants from the group of English fans before me was at times more entertaining than the football game. I really liked watching their sportsmanship.
Throughout the match, I noticed many people were throwing paper planes. It was rather peculiar but interesting, nonetheless. I guess it is tradition to fold the stadium tickets and throw them at the grass where the players were. During half time, staff had to clear dozens of planes from the grass, but they did not seem too bothered by it. Even when they cleared them, more kept coming. The players did not seem too distracted by it either.
The final score was England 2, and Côte d’Ivoire 0. I was a neutral party in the game, but it was still an entertaining experience. I would definitely go to another football match in the future. Before then, I will memorize my chants and work on my paper plane folding skills :) .