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Phil's Travels - Rugby v Soccer (03-0415)


Phil's Travels - Rugby v Soccer (03-0415)

In the space of 14 days I was fortunate enough to be invited to two major sporting events: England v France in the final and championship deciding match of the Six Nations; and Arsenal v Liverpool in a top-four-finish decider in the English Premier League (EPL). I thought it would be fun to compare and contrast these two very different experiences.

Firstly, massive thank you's are due to Peter and the team for the rugby, and to Klaus and family for the footie.

The experiences started with two very different culinary intakes for lunch. At the rugby, nine of us enjoyed a delicious and fragrant Thai near Twickenham with a few Tiger beers. The burger from a supposedly reputable kiosk near The Emirates (my son's recommendation) was definitely not of the same standard and stayed with me for the rest of the day and into most of the next. Definitely Rugby 1 - 0 Soccer.

In walking around the stadia and soaking up the atmosphere, the mood around The Emirates was far more tangible and set your nerves tingling. The football also appeared to attract many more kids and ladies compared to the rugby (1-1). That said, rugby wins on the drink front, whereby one can enjoy the match with the warming comfort of a proper beverage (such as Guinness, 2-1). In soccer, no alcohol is permitted within sight of the pitch, so even the executive boxes have to be screened off like a row of inanimate white teeth all around the ground. Why don't they at least decorate the blinds with some logos or images, or something to enliven the space?

The quality of the seats was a tie. For the rugby we sat directly behind the posts (at the end where France scored their tries in the first half and England in the second) and for the soccer we sat near the left hand corner flag behind the goal. Both sets of seats were high up, but The Emirates design lets in far more natural light (Twickenham was very dark by comparison, see photos below, 2-2).

 Phil's Travels - Rugby v Soccer (03-0415)

Twickenham wins the build-up hands down, with flame throwers, a great sound system and marching bands. The sound system at The Emirates is pathetic by comparison and there are no flames (3-2). However, what The Emirates missed in technical wizardry, it more than made up for in human atmosphere. The singing, chanting, cheering, stamping, banging, foul language and emotion were of a far higher quality (3-3). They even sang "Cheerio" when Can was sent off. No such politeness was afforded to Haskell when he saw yellow at Twickenham.

The sporting action was of the highest quality at Twickenham, where the French Coques were out-kicked and out-tried by the rampant Roses of England (Eng 55 - 35 Fra). At The Emirates, the lame Red Men from the north were embarrassingly out-gunned by an on-song Red Army of the south (Ars 4 - 1 Liv) (4-3, for superior all-round quality action at Twickenham).

The after-match experiences could not be more different. Getting from Twickenham home required a couple of hours of Guinness Time before attempting the endeavour, but even with this time delay, the queues and trains back to the centre were still a slow and squashy affair. I know that Twickenham sits 82,000 and The Emirates 60,300, but the crowds had all but disappeared within 45 minutes at The Emirates, with transport well able to handle the departing masses (4-4).

With a final score-draw (Rugby 4 - 4 Soccer), there are plenty of differences, but little to separate each experience. Despite both my teams being severely mullered, both experiences were magical and well worth the effort. So, if you get the chance to go to either international rugby or an EPL match, don't hesitate, go for it. My single lasting memory of the two experiences? Read on…

In getting to our seats at The Emirates we had to pass by an elderly couple, with the mild mannered sexagenarian accountant (grey hair, grey glasses, grey jacket and quiet demeanour) being my neighbour for the match and his long-haired, blue-rinsed, better half sitting on his other side. Within seconds of kick-off the air turned blue as someone nearby launched into a foul mouthed tirade against his own team and the referee for the duration of the match. It took my son and me a good 10 minutes to identify the source. It turned out that my (and my son's) gender identifier had malfunctioned again (see Phil's Travel Blog - Berlin 0315). The source was none other than the not so better half of the mild mannered accountant, who in reality turned out to be a very grumpy old man with no facial hair. Although I did not notice any, I am sure that the elderly ladies of Twickenham are not so hard to sextify and are far better spoken.

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