It’s so easy to get spoiled by watching English football games on television each week. Without thinking about it, you always have the best seat in the stadium. And you have the luxury of seeing close-ups, action replays, slow-motion, different camera angles and more.
So when you do physically go to the stadium to see a match, you sometimes feel disappointed. I know I did when I visited England a few years ago to see several matches in 10 days. Sure, the atmosphere was wonderful, the football brilliant and the sensation of seeing football live in the flesh was incredible. But you sometimes feel left down especially if you’re used to watching the sport on television.
A big factor in what your football match experience is like depends on where you sit (or stand) in the stadium. Your perspective on the game can change completely depending how close or far you are from the pitch, and high up or low down you are. I’ve been to plenty of matches before where I would change seats during a game and move to a completely different part of the stadium and see the game with a whole new set of eyes.
Growing up in Wales, my experience watching football games began on the terraces watching Swansea City play at Vetch Field, which is now derelict. From age 10 to 12, I stood on the North Bank, which ran alongside the touchline. I couldn’t see everything but I could watch the major incidents in the game and see the players close up behind the steel fence. Between 12 and 14 years of age, I “graduated” to the East Stand which was behind the goal at Swansea’s ground and stood on the terracing. The view was completely different and allowed me to see the goalmouth action up close near the end I was standing at, but it meant I could hardly see anything that was going on at the other end of the ground and had to rely on the sounds of the supporters to determine whether the ball found its way into the back of the net or not.
After moving to the States, I watched plenty of Fort Lauderdale Strikers and Miami Fusion games at Lockhart Stadium and sat in almost every conceivable part of the ground including the press box, so I was able to get a good sense of where the optimal place to sit, or stand, was. But even though the best place was on the sidelines, I chose to stand in the middle of the Afusionados, the passionate and sometimes troublemaking set of Miami Fusion supporters who were always the loudest part of the crowd.
I’ve been to several other grounds around England and Wales and have had the fortune of seeing games including Goodison Park (from the cramped press box), Old Trafford (a perfect seat in the South Stand), Ewood Park (sitting amongst the Rovers fans in the Blackburn End), Emirates Stadium (where every seat seems ideal) and Craven Cottage (along the halfway line in the majestic Johnny Haynes Stand).
Where I sit or stand in a football stadium all depends on what I want to get out of the game. If it’s to join in the singing and standing next to passionate fans, it’s typically behind the goal where the seats are cheaper, the view is much worse but the passion is explosive. When I’ve sat along the sidelines in posh seats, I can watch the game much more closely but I often feel I’m missing a bit of the aggro and often find myself looking at the mad supporters having all of the fun behind the goal.
What about you? What football stadiums have you visited around the world and which parts of the ground did you stand or sit in, and how was your view? Where do you typically try to sit or stand given the choice? Share your stories in the comments section below.