Following Footy the Ultimate Cultural Immersion Experience
Since moving to the UK I have become a fan of the aptly named sport of Professional Football. It has been something of a unique cultural experience to actually enjoy this sport out in the open without having to apologize for my lack of insight into other professional sports that dominate conversations and Sunday afternoon couch time throughout the US. This is great since I played football (soccer) all of my young life and was one of the few people that were genuinely thrilled during the 1994 World Cup that took place in the US. In fact, before we left to come over to the UK I found a bunch of old newspaper articles that I had carefully collected during that hallowed event along with a modest smattering of World Cup soccer cards picturing some of my favorite stars of the tournament. But I digress…..
It has been great watching my kids get involved in a sport that I also loved when I was young. Except it is extremely different for them. Rather than participating in a marginalized sport that was overshadowed by a the poorly named American helmet and padding phenomenon, my boys are partaking in a cultural milieu that shapes the very soul of this nation and (to be fair) most of the rest of the world. Here in Scotland football, the real kind where you actually use your feet to kick a ball, is THE beautiful game that people pour their passionate support into. This happens at all levels, from the school teams to the professional leagues.
Take the Aberdeen FC (Football Club) for example. It is one of the top professional teams in what is known as the Scottish Premiership, the top flight (level) of football here in Scotland. A week or so ago Aberdeen FC won the Scottish League Cup. It was their first trophy in 19 years and they deserved it by knocking out a few heavy hitters in the Scottish football world. On Sunday they held a parade in the middle of downtown where the players rode an open top bus down Union St. holding the cup for everyone to see. I took my wife and three boys knowing it was a cultural experience that we would not want to miss. The turnout was amazing! Over 70,000 screaming fans crowded the street and followed the bus on its painstakingly slow journey towards city centre. We were right there with them united by the love of this beautiful game, singing the fight songs, cheering the players, and just reveling in the moment when an entire town comes together to celebrate. It was cultural immersion at its finest and an experience that will definitely live in the memory of my family no matter where we end up next.
While I am here I will continue to enjoy the cultural phenomenon that is football. I hope it will continue to be the bridge between myself and the people I meet. Whether we are chatting about the professional version or watching our kids run around the pitch, football is a cultural experience that I am happy to be immersed in.