Soccer is the world’s game and with the help of streaming, it seems to be getting more popular over here in the State. The US Women’s national team has certainly helped matters as has Hershey, Pennsylvania’s finest Christian Pulisic. Seeing American players in the big leagues like the English Premier League and La Liga is important in growing the game in the US.
I started watching during the pandemic and I seemed to have consorted over the years with Liverpool fans which has made me more open to the game. I still don’t get some of the rules, but I’m starting to learn and have warmed up to some—offsides, especially. I think they should scrap it or tweak it so that more scoring happens, but really it’s because I’ll sit there for 45 minutes and the one time I get up to do something, I seem to always miss a goal. This is also my issue with hockey, and makes for a frustrating watch most of the time.
So, me being the soccer expert that I am now, and becoming somewhat familiar with the game everybody seems to love besides Americans, I jumped on the opportunity to travel to Manchester to catch a match at Old Trafford courtesy of the good folks over at the Marriott Bonvoy as they celebrate Marriott International’s partnership with Manchester United. I watched the match from the Suite of Dreams where one lucky Man U fan will be the first ever to wake up at Old Trafford on a match day, in a hospitality suite that will be transformed into a Marriott Hotels bedroom for one night only. Anyway, here’s what I learned about myself, soccer, and Manchester on my trip.
Manchester Has a Healthy Graffiti Scene
One of the first things that catches my attention when traveling abroad is the graffiti scene and Manchester has some solid stuff. I’m not talking street art, I’m talking tags, throwies, and pieces all showcasing a variety of hand styles. This tells me hip-hop has seeped into the youth and it informs my way of approaching an unfamiliar place. They even played a UK rap song or two at Old Trafford as the players warmed up before the game. I was pleasantly surprised, to say the least.
Baked Beans for Breakfast are Good
Listen, I too, was skeptical of baked beans for breakfast. Whenever I saw a picture online of an English breakfast I would cringe, ignorant to ways across the pond. During my stay, I decided to try a full English breakfast and I can’t lie folks, it kinda slapped. It also helped that the beans didn’t taste like American baked beans which are sometimes more on the sweeter side than the savory. A full English breakfast is perfect hangover food. I get it now, pardon my ignorance.
You Can’t Drink at Soccer Games
This blew my mind. Not only can you not drink, but if you’re in a suite, they have people come around and pull the shades down once play begins, so you can’t even watch unless you’re outside of the suite. This wasn’t that big of a deal, I just had no clue this was a thing and apparently that has been the case since 1985? What I also found interesting was that there’s a separate section for fans of the visiting club and they have an army of security standing on the stairs to make sure nothing goes down. Aside from getting used to cars driving on the other side of the street and hot dog beans for breakfast, this was the biggest culture shock.
Ronaldo is the Greatest
I always feel lost when it comes to the Cristiano Ronaldo vs. Lionel Messi debates because I don’t watch the games like some of my friends and co-workers. However, I’m ready to say that Ronaldo is the greatest. My first ever soccer game and CR7 gives me a hat-trick at Old Trafford? He’s goated in my book and going in knowing the history of that pitch made this a special moment for me. We also got to watch Man U practice a bit at the Trafford Training Centre and we made eye contact, he winked, and smiled as if I was the only person there. Maybe there’s a man crush there or maybe the dude is just that magnetic. This cat was so inspiring during the match, that my arch-nemesis Tom Brady decided to not only follow me across the pond, he came out of retirement! Either way, getting to watch one of the greatest goal scorers to ever live score not one, not two, but three goals is something I’ll never forget. It’s right up there with me seeing Michael Jordan and Dražen Petrović go at it during the infamous Carl Lewis national anthem game.
I’m a Soccer Expert
I read the Old Trafford and Man U wikipedia pages a couple of times and I can say now with the utmost confidence that I am now a soccer expert. I’ve watched more soccer this past week than I ever did in my entire life. Honestly, I learned so much on this trip. Hopefully I’ll know how to reply when everyone says “cheers” to me. Not sure why, but I froze up each time and just gave a cool and nonchalant head-nod.
And maybe next time I can sing a song with the lads over at the Stretford End, they had the place jumpin’, controlling the crowd like puppet masters. I’m not sure if I’ll ever pick a squad, though. It’s too heartbreaking. I’ve seen grown adults cry like they lost a loved one over a regular-season loss. I’m already a Knicks fan, I can’t take on anymore despair. Football is in a good place and will continue to only get more popular here in the States. MLB should take heed in how the EPL and the rest of the big European soccer leagues promote their players.