September 26, 2010

game on

I've always wanted to go to a football (soccer) game in Europe, but for whatever reason, just never have; so I was determined to make sure I did on this trip. As usual, if anything, my only regret is not doing it sooner. Soon after getting to Munich, I discovered that FC Bayern wasn't their only team; and most people turned up their nose when I mentioned them (I heard the word "spoiled" a few times.) It seems FC Bayern is the rich team for people who live outside of Munich, while TSV 1860 is the local scrappy working-man underdog team. Maybe similar to a Yankees/Mets, except with the animosity toward each other of the Yankees/RedSox. I really had hopes of finding someone to go to one of two FC Bayern or one 1860 games while here, but by yesterday I still couldn't get anyone to, so that days FC Bayern game was my last chance. I knew the game was sold out but hoped to just scalp a ticket, though not sure how easy that would be with my feeble German. The U-Bahn ride there was nuts. I expected crowds, but this was sardines - and for a long time. But I got there and tried to survey the scene of how tickets were being sold. There didn't seem to be many; I gave up with the few at the pedestrian bridge and walked toward the stadium and ran across an older man holding one ticket. I stopped him and he named a price - I could see it was in an area I wanted to be in so I just went for it. To anyone used to European football/soccer, this will sound silly - but the biggest thing I noticed was the lack of any announcer during the game. And no music interludes during play stoppages and no commercials either. The crowd took care of the energy, with the center section of the S├╝dkurve singing non-stop the entire game. In fact, the lack of advertising really surprised me - the walls along the field were covered in ads, and there were some amazing looking ads on the field in forced perspective that when viewed by a camera must appear to be the product logos in normal perspective, but to the eye in person it was just a strange trapezoid of color. Otherwise, all the advertising in the arena was just the Allianz logo. Even the jumbotrons were fairly small with no sponsor ads around them, and only saw one sponsored message on them. Another interesting thing I havent seen (yet) in the US is that you buy a credit card in order to purchase food and drink - I'm sure the stadium ends up winning on this one, because I didn't see any way to get refunded credit left on your card after the game. On the other hand, transactions were fast and easy because no cash ever traded hands at the food counters. The big difference I appreciated most was that after the game, there was no push by ushers to get you to leave. Food and beer stands were still open and selling (and selling plenty). People lingered in their seats or in common areas and there was no mad crush to exit the stadium. The crowd was still huge at the U-Bahn even by the time I got to the train - go figure that letting the crowd take care of itself ends up being a more orderly and controlled exit. Overall, it was a great experience and am only sorry I took so long to make it happen, but now I have some background for next time, which I hope there will be.

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