Yesterday, I headed to my very first UK soccer game–by myself. In retrospect, that wasn’t such a smart idea, but it ended up alright in the end.
I got on my train at around 10 and started my way toward the football match (soccer game) in Stoke-on-Trent. Turns out I was on a train that split and I was on the wrong half… Thankfully, that was easy enough to fix once I figured it out.
I slept most of the way there on account that there wasn’t really much else to do. But when I woke up, I knew I wasn’t in London or anywhere near because there were cows and horses–everywhere. It kinda made me feel a little at home.
When I got off the train I started heading in a direction on account that my google-maps directions weren’t so spectecular. I stopped and asked directions from this cute little old man with an awesome beard.
“I’m sorry sir, but do you know where the Britannia Stadium is?”
“No. I’ve never been here before in my life, but there are a dozen police officers at the train station that I’m sure do know.”
“Thank you. Sorry to bother you.”
“I really like your hat.”
It was an interesting conversation to say the least, but I headed back toward the police station to ask a police officer. He told me that it was a 25 minute walk if I walked along the canal. So I headed toward the canal he had mentioned and realized that there wasn’t a walking path along the canal. So I crossed over into the town of Stoke.
This is where I get a little confused as to how exactly it happened, but I passed by this amazingly beautiful old church with a fantastic grave yard (wish I had taken pictures but I was trying to get to the stadium and I was focused) and ended up in this residential area.
So here I am, at least 30 mins after asking the policeman for directions and the stadium is no where in site. I texted one of my GLSers, Kerri, telling her I was lost and that I was going to be late for the tour. She told me to get a taxi… Only problem is I hadn’t seen one since the station. So I kept wandering. Praying that, as I thought, I was walking along the canal and the right direction.
Eventually, I asked directions again from these car washers. He told me that I was headed the right direction but it was at least a 45 minute walk from there. With no other options, I figured I would just head that way. So I continued walking, all the while starting to panic. Thinking that I was lost in a city, in a country, that I knew only 25 people. It was NOT a pretty feeling.
But eventually I saw some people decked out in red (Stoke City’s team is the Potter’s and their colors are red and white). So I followed them and eventually ended up seeing the giant sign of Britannia stadium. I walked up this crazy long drive way and immediately called Kerri. She answered saying that they were in the gift shop, but before she even said it I spotted Cris and I literally started running.
It was so nice to see a familiar face. Kyle later said I looked like a crazy person when I ran into the gift shop, but I like to think that’s also attributed to the crazy wind that was occurring.
Safely back with my group, we waited for the game to start inside this fans only little pub connected to the stadium. We chatted and they talked about their tour and showed me pictures while I shared my wonderful adventure.
Then it was time for the game to start. The stadium filled up in 15 minutes and it was packed. People screaming and cheering, chants and gestures. It was so much crazier than a UT football game in my opinion. There were cops everywhere seemingly to protect the home fans from the away fans AND vice-versa.
It was freezing and windy, but I immediately jumped into the game. I was screaming at them telling the team what they could or couldn’t do. I felt like I was back on the field. But the important part was that I totally fit in with the two British guys next to me who were doing the same thing.
***Side note: I know I was not very good at soccer and I’m not trying to say I was. Although, I was the most improved player on my team. But I attribute that mostly to the fact that I started as the worst player on the team and ended slightly better, but still the worst. I still love soccer and get highly competitive when I watch it.***
And to think about how hard these guys had to be kicking the ball or even run as fast as they were was kinda mind-blowing. That field was massive and it seemed like they could clear the ball right over the whole length of it. It was crazy.
During half time, we were losing 0-1, which was sad, but I quickly fixed my sadness and my freezing cold hands, but grabbing a cup of tea, some chips (french fries) and a lovely meat pie. The chips were fantastic, still not quite sure about that meat pie, but I felt like I should have a traditional British meal. Only thing about traditional British meal is that it seems to be synonymous with not-that-appetizing/flavorful (one of the BIG things I miss about America).
In the second half, we were tied 1-1. The crowd went wild and starting singing a tune very similar to “Swing Low,Sweet Chariot”. That shut the Away crowd up until literally, the last 15 seconds of the game, their forward took a shot at our keeper and the keeper missed. Then the Away crowd went BONKERS! Screaming like crazy and cheering. One guy was escorted away by cops (I’m not sure what he did exactly, but he was still spitting mad as the cops were taking him away from the field).
Needless to say, this whole thing was a crazy, but wonderful experience. I throughly enjoyed every minute of the game and the overall atmosphere.
After the game we all headed back to the train station (didn’t get lost this time cause I had others/ better directions). And waited their for each of our trains to arrive and depart. It was some lovely bonding time for the few of us that were there. And I ended up getting to ride back with a group of people instead of on my own (which again was SO NICE).
On the train we met this wonderful young lady. Get this. She is from Mississippi. No joke. I met a girl from Tupelo, Mississippi on a train into London, England. She also had this amazingly adorable dog (apparently they allow dogs on trains) named Maverick. Maverick got a LOT of love from the GLSers on the train on account we haven’t seen our own dogs for at least 18 days. I personally miss mine terribly (which is why I really loved on Maverick).
But we talked to her about the differences between America and England. She was so nice and so easy going, apparently her husband is from here so she moved here to be with him, but they met in Pennsylvania. It is CRAZY how small the world is.
Anyways, I am getting along quite alright. Settling in more and more each day. I have discovered that in fact my Netflix does work, which is a really nice little taste of home when I need it. But I miss my family and friends so much. Not to mention my little furry creatures. It’s hard to sleep without a little blob of warmth sitting on me.
But London has so much to offer, and so much more that I haven’t even happened upon yet. So I guess I had better get started… 🙂