Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Arsenal v. Newcastle United

Despite all the football craziness, I never made it to a football match in Istanbul. In fact, I am about 99.99% sure I have never made it to a professional football match in my life (do they even have footyball in Texas)?

We were supposed to go to the Arsenal match on Paul's birthday as a celebration. Then comes the tube strike and the game is postponed. I chalked it down as a loss and figured I probably would never get to go t a match while I was here.

Then, as Paul was browsing ESPN or some other such sport night, we realised there was a game on a weekend, this past weekend in fact.  Arsenal versus Newcastle United - we were going to be there

The stadium is very easy to get to - it's almost in the city center, just take the Picadilly line up to Zone 2. From there, we just followed the crowds to the stadium. I feel so bad for people who live on that walk up. Even though we got there 5 minutes before the start, there were still hundreds of people making their way to the stadium, not the best for entering/exiting your place of residence!

One of the many pop-up stores on the road to the stadium. The
scarves are very Harry Potter-esque to me
The fact that this was my first professional match tells you a bit about my level of soccer knowledge - basic. I couldn't tell you the exact rules for off-sides, or hand ball, so I spent a lot of the first half of the game asking Paul questions like "what was that flag for?" or "can you empty the net like in hockey?". The fact that it was a slow first half probably didn't help. It was in a tie - at 1 to 1.

The stadium - too bad they couldn't bring a little bit of the Middle East
heat from the UAE to the stadium. While it is roofed, it isn't closed,
and therefore not heated. Brrrrr
The second half though is where it got interesting. There were back and forth goals to tie up the game at 3-3. Then with about 20 minutes left, Arsenal exploded. They scored 3 goals within 5 minutes and ended up winning the game 7 to 3. It was an experience like nothing else. Throughout the whole game, people were chanting along to songs, cheering them on. Perhaps a bit like college (american) football, but more organised. For next time, I'll have to learn a few chants so I can sing along!

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