Editor’s note: World Soccer Talk writer Oliver Huddlestone is currently traveling throughout Asia and is sharing travelogues with us from the countries he visits. So far, he’s shared his observations regarding trying to watch or play soccer from Hong Kong and Malaysia. Today’s post is on Bali.
Bali quickly found its way into my heart as my favorite place in Asia for three main reasons. First, the water. Whether seeing dolphins at Lovina beach in the north, the marine life around the Gili Islands or the waves of Kuta, being in the water was always exhilarating.
Second was the chance to escape real life in the rain forest town of Ubud, where all day long you relax in tranquillity and soak in the jungle wildlife surrounding you.
Last and most important of all was the accessibility to soccer, and all sport for that matter, in the lively areas of Kuta and Seminyak.
Kuta is many people’s worst nightmare but every lad’s dream with cheap booze, music blaring all night long and a long stretch of bars and clubs showing nearly every sporting event imaginable.
It was the last point that impressed me the most. No matter what time the match was on, I was able to find every game I wanted to watch, which mostly involved the big guns.
Contrary to reports I read before coming out, I felt safe thanks to the locals of the area. I had read on TripAdvisor that Bali and Kuta were dangerous, and that western tourists had to be careful. In my experience however, the Balinese were very accommodating, helpful and some of the nicest people I have met.
Kuta was quite strange to me as an English soccer fan because it catered more to Australians. The bars showed Aussie Rules matches. There were many ‘Oz style’ BBQs and shops that sold Australian rugby (both union and league) jerseys.
Throughout the USA, Europe and most of Asia, I was used to sports stores selling Manchester United and Chelsea jerseys or Lakers and Bulls jerseys, so it was strange seeing all these different teams I had never seen before.
However, in the back of the stores were European soccer and NBA jerseys. Not long ago, you would struggle to find a jersey that wasn’t United, Chelsea, Real Madrid, Barcelona or Juventus (at a push).
Alongside these so-called ‘top teams’ were Borussia Dortmund, Southampton, Napoli, Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain. Who would have wanted a Manchester City top five years ago when Thaksin Shinawatra was chairman and they were getting beat 8-1 at Middlesbrough?