My first professional game I ever attended was a mid-week night game on a cold night in Wales. The floodlights could be seen from miles away and they seemed to light up the pitch and turn the color of the grass into a different shade of green.
Throughout the years, I’ve seen plenty of professional games in person whether they’ve been late at night, early afternoon or a late afternoon kick-off. Each has its pluses and minuses. A match that kicks off at 7:30pm on a summer’s night is perfect to see the sun setting in the distance. A lunchtime kick-off has the advantage of seeming like the whole day is still ahead of you even after the final whistle blows. A late evening kick-off in the autumn or winter can make the atmosphere feel electric as the dark sky helps divert the attention to everything that’s lit up by the floodlights, from the wet ball reflecting from the electric lights to the flares and smoke that light up the night.
On television, it’s a completely different experience. If I calculated at what times I’ve seen games on the box, it would probably be kickoffs at any hour of the day from the World Cup games in the middle of the night during the summer of 2002 to the early morning kick-offs we’re accustomed to watching the Premier League and then throughout the entire day.
Having said that, there are definitely times when I’m not a big fan of watching soccer either in person or on television. I’ve experienced far too many mid-day games in-person in South Florida where the heat has killed the game both on and off the field. On television, depending on the time of the year and the weather, I’ve watched plenty of 3pm GMT kick-offs that have been ruined by the massive shadow that is cast across the pitch by the roof of the stadium. It can often be a frustrating experience trying to watch those games and it really ruins the match at times.
I also remember once watching a game on television where the match came to a halt because the floodlights failed. Luckily, the organizers were able to get the floodlights working except for one, and the game itself then carried on but it looked pretty surreal watching it because there were parts of the pitch that weren’t very visible as usual. I also remember watching the Cuba against United States game a couple of years ago when the floodlights were so poor that it made the experience pretty tough trying to watch the game. Thankfully, these are the exceptions rather than the rule
For me, I much prefer watching night games with a local kick-off time of 7:30pm. Watching games at night, there’s usually a much better atmosphere than a day game. Plus a day game can feel like it takes an eternity for it to start. You wake up and then there’s the long insufferable wait for the game to arrive. So it’s sometimes difficult to find time to go to work or do whatever you need to do during the day time because you know that the game cuts into your day somehow. With a 7:30pm kick-off time, you can get so much accomplished well ahead of the game.
As for television, my favorite time is watching a 7:45am ET game. This way, it’s the first thing I do after I get up and it starts the day on a good note. Then, after it’s done, there’s the whole day ahead of me in case I need to run errands or spend time with the family.
One of the surreal experiences for me was almost four years ago when I went to England to watch Everton play Bolton at Goodison Park. It was a 3pm GMT kick-off time. If I was home, the game would have been shown on television at 10am ET. So my experience of watching that game in England felt so different than what I would have experienced in the States. Not because one was on television and one was in person. More so because the day seemed to drag on for so long as time crept by in anticipation of the 3pm kickoff. And to make matters worse, it was late autumn in England so by the time the game was ready to kick off, it was already beginning to get dark. And when the game ended, the sky was in complete darkness.
But if you had a choice, what for you are the best kick-off times to experience the beautiful game – for both television and in-person? Share your opinions in the comment section below.