8 Distinctions between EU soccer vs US sports games

We’ve all heard the stereotypes about soccer fans: in a negative light, their aggression, violence and crazy antics; in a positive light, their energy, loudness, and undying loyalty. Well, I’ve witnessed the latter to be true.

Yesterday’s Fiorentina vs Cesena soccer game is one of the most cultural experiences I’ve encountered while in Florence. Sure, there are plenty of similarities between professional American sports fans and these European soccer fans: wearing the team’s gear, tailgating before the game, cheering and heckling. But these soccer fans are just so much cooler!

Anyway, here are some of the overall key distinctions I found between this pro Italian soccer game I attended versus pro football and baseball games I’ve attended in the United States (Note: This is only based on my impressions of this one game I’ve attended! So some observations might not be a great representation):

Credit: zimbio.com

  1. More affordable entry. I don’t know if prices skyrocket towards the end of the season, but the soccer ticket prices I saw here seemed really affordable to me. Mine was 7 Euro, not for a bad spot either. I suppose some prices of the best seats can be somewhat comparable to baseball price tickets, but they still seemed mostly cheaper overall.
  2. More hardcore entry process. There were several steps to enter the stadium. Along with the typical procedure of entering at your gate and having purses checked, we had to get our tickets stamped and enter through a barred gate one by one then show identification to match our ticket (passport, license, etc). I was a little nervous when my bag was being checked, because I got pulled over to the side thanks to my little bag with make-up and feminine products. Apparently that security guard found lipstick and tampons to be suspicious? The female guard was called over and helped me out, though.
  3. Lack of cameras. Fans are not allowed to bring cameras into the stadium. I don’t know if it was this Firenze stadium in particular, or if this is a standard, but I was intrigued. At first, I found it kind of disappointing, unnecessary and fascist. But in the end, it was kind of nice. The crowd was all about experiencing the game rather than documenting it. Also, there were barely any TV/broadcasting cameras recording the game, which is also very different from what you’d see at pro (and even college) games in the US.
  4. No one cares about your seat number. At least in our section, the only people who bothered to seek out their row and seat number were the American students who had clearly never been to a game like this before. People just sat anywhere in the section, and a substantial amount of people preferred to just stand behind or sit up on the railings. I ended up standing up there for a bit too…it was a very casual atmosphere.
  5. Eat/drink before the game. Like at American sports games, tons of people were outside drinking beers and eating outside the stadium before the game (except replace grilling burgers with buying gelato and panini). Then during the game, I observed very few people buying food or drinks inside. At the start of the game, there were some men I saw drinking beer, but then that was it. It was very different from American games, which constantly have people getting up and down to grab food and drinks. Only one drink vendor came around only one time, too.
  6. Undying energy of the crowd. Going along with the notion of no eating/drinking during the game, the Fiorentina fans were just so incredibly energetic. At US sports games, sure we cheer, we heckle, we chant now and then…but we often wait for the queue of a song or a digital banner to tell us to do so, and still it isn’t always loud and clear. Too many people are just quietly sitting and eating their hotdogs. But this crowd was AWESOME. There was a nonstop energy of flag-waving, cheering, ridiculously unified chanting instigated by one section of a crowd and carried out throughout the stadium, and even unified motions like jumping to them. I’ll admit that I have sometimes seen this at some sections of NFL or college basketball games, and that maybe those pro American sports games just have so many more people that you could never except such a massive energy…but man, was that cool!
  7. Ghetto bathrooms. When I entered the stall, I wondered if I accidentally entered the guys’ room, because I swear there was basically a urinal below me. A low, sink-like thing with no toilet seat. Not sure if this is relatively standard or just a Firenze stadium thing, but I felt compelled to include this nonetheless.
  8. Noticeably unbalanced gender ratio. There seemed to be a significantly greater number of males at the game than females. Lots of groups of guys–both young and old–and lots of fathers/uncles with sons/nephews. The nice thing is, they are all so ridiculously focused on the game and their bro experience that they didn’t seem to hit on the girls like you’d expect at least a few creepy Italian men to do! 😛
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