Slightly closer to a proper football (i.e., soccer) match

This weekend, I attended a soccer match between Chelsea FC and Celtic FC at Seahawks Stadium Qwest Field. The game was the opener of the 2004 ChampionsWorld Series, wherein some of the top soccer teams from Europe tour North America to give us yanks a chance to see how football is done for real.

From reading the team's web sites before the match, you'd think that Chelsea had already thrown in the towel, because even before the game started, they were making excuses, blaming jet lag for their loss. The excuses weren't necessary, though, because Chelsea dominated the match and ultimately won 4–2.

It was interesting comparing the two teams' styles. When Chelsea scored a goal, you could watch it develop. A through ball, a man open, a pass or two, and the ball is in the back of the net. Celtic's goals were more of a "And he's got the ball, and... hey, how'd he score?" It all happened so fast it was over before it began.

Attendance was 30,000, only half the capacity of Seahawks Stadium Qwest Field, but a decent turnout I think for a sport that is still considered fringe here in the States.

Here's Raymond's checklist comparing the match to what he figures a "proper" British football match to be like.

A Proper
Segregated cheering sections
"Neutral" cheering section ?
Post-game riot  
Alcohol sold during match  
Police officers around pitch  
Streaker interrupts match

One aspect of the British football divisions that I find fascinating is relegation, wherein the worst teams of the year are demoted to the next lower league, replaced by the top teams of that next lower league. This doesn't happen in U.S. sports leagues (at least not any of the major ones). In fact, in U.S. sports leagues, the team that has the worst record is rewarded with an early draft pick! How's that for reverse incentive.

Comments (25)
  1. Cooney says:

    Post-game riot

    The riot is optional in the states. Airfare from England is too high for most soccer hooligans to make the flight for just one game, so they instituted the rule as a nod to economic realities.

  2. Miles Archer says:

    Since I only have two data points on English Football (two trips to Old Trafford ten years apart) I may not be recalling correctly. But, It seems to me that you can buy a pint there, but you just can’t drink it in sight of the pitch.

    I also love the idea of relegation. I wish they had it in baseball. The whole nonsense with the Expos would be gone and they would be just another AAA team.

  3. Ross says:

    I bet the singing was ever so slightly different from the singing you tend to get at UK football matches.

    My favourite quote ..

    "Football is a gentleman’s game, played by hooligans; Rugby is a game of hooligans, played by gentlemen".

  4. Sam says:

    An early draft and the coach is usually fired, thats usually enough incentive for the coach…

    I really hate the idea of drafts. I mean its good for the sport, but it hasn’t stopped the NY Yankees from dominating.

    I think Salary caps are more useful.

  5. Duncan says:

    As a Grimsby Town fan the whole area of relegation is too fresh in my memory to be anything but blindingly painful.

    However, I can say that the Irish league version (where the top team of the lower division and the bottom team of the upper division play a once off match to decide whether or not they swap divisions) is a good deal more heartbreaking.

  6. Robert Moir says:

    I don’t think we have the riots any more, at least not like we used to, nor do we really have neutral cheering sections at "league" matches, just varying degrees of fan lunacy.

    Besides that, seems about right to me.

    Relegation is harsh but is a fact of life for us (well not me personally, I support the current English Champions). Often a club’s manager will be sacked for this regardless of whether or not its their fault, and to take a more positive spin on things, and I guess this gives people something to play for in all parts of a league table, a fight to survive at the bottom of the league can be every bit as intense as a championship decider at the top of the league.

  7. Aarrgghh says:

    …of course, baseball is still the most boring activity known to modern science.

  8. Daniel Jin says:

    In fact, in U.S. sports leagues, the team that has the worst record is rewarded with an early draft pick! How’s that for reverse incentive.

    yeah, we run our sports leagues like a bunch of commies, creating an artificial competition through draft and salary cap rules. bad teams are rewarded and good teams punished.

  9. Mike Dunn says:

    Mal Ross> Since soccer isn’t a popular sport here, about the only time soccer gets any mainstream news exposure is when there is a riot. As a result, some people get the impression that many matches end up in riots.

  10. ATZ Man says:

    I love it when American assoc. football fans complain that NASCAR is boring: "All they do is draft each other and crash."

  11. Anonymous Coward says:

    You are also unlikely to get the full English chants. Football players are well written about in the gossip section of the media. The chants frequently call into question the sexuality of the players, their wives and girlfriends as well as other characteristics I won’t mention.

  12. "Post-game riot"

    The American riots are actually pre-game.

    They’ve noticed that in scheduling the riots after the game, the outcome has already… come out… and thus the riots become more of a temper tantrum in wishing the results of the match were different.

    However, in scheduling the riots pre-game, the riots have the following potential effects on the actual game’s conclusion:

    (1) With more fans from either side injured and/or dead, that specific side would have a disadvantage in the ability to cheer for their given team.

    (2) Sometimes in riots, the rioters are given luck when actual football players will join the riot. Injuring or killing one of these players would dramatically change the course of the game. However, the rioters must take caution when dealing with one of these super-humans, or else their attempt to give that team a disadvantage might result in the player kicking their face off.

    (3) 95% of surveyed doctors (population sample of 2 amateur doctors) agree that getting the aggression out before the match will lessen the potential risk of heart failure during the match (provided that they survive the initial riot).

    Ed ‘word’ Price

  13. RatArsed says:

    It lasted for what seemed like several hours. At the end, a sepulchral BBC-announcer voice intoned, "Londonnnn… nilll. Biihhhming’m… nilllll."

    Now of course, neither of those two cities has just one team…

    Why would you have a neutral section? It’s much more fun to cheer for your team in the wrong end ;)

    Similarly, not sure how manditory the streaker is…

  14. A pedantic irritating Brit says:

    It lasted for what seemed like several hours. At the end, a sepulchral BBC-announcer voice intoned, "Londonnnn… nilll. Biihhhming’m… nilllll."

    Now of course, neither of those two cities has just one team…

    Well, they both have lots of teams. However there is just one Birmingham team that goes by the name Birmingham. That team is Birmingham City – the blues. Another well known team from Brum is Aston Villa.

    There are no teams in the English leagues (prem, D1,2,3, conference etc.) whose name begins with London.

    By the way, I’m a great fan of the American Basketball team the Washington Redskins and a huge fan of the Baseball team the Miami Dolphins.

  15. Eric Brown says:

    Actually, the reverse draft is intentional – the goal is to create a football league where at any given time, any given team has a reasonably good chance to defeat any other given team.

    Makes for better emotional tie-ins if your home team actually has a shot at winning.

    Of course, in Seattle’s case, the draft picks get traded away for mediocrities….

  16. Gareth Lewin says:

    You forgot one issue on your checklist, in England there are no people standing outside with signs that say "YOU HAVE SIN" and "JESUS DIED FOR YOUR SINS".

    For example, this was taken when we were at the game:

  17. Guido D. says:

    The relegation system is used here, in Argentina, as well. In fact, if I am not mistaken, it’s used in most of European and Latin American soccer leagues.

  18. Aarrgghh says:

    A pedantic irritating Brit: Uck! It’s been 15-20 years; so much for my long-term memory.

    Gareth Lewin: That’s because Jesus died for OUR sins, not yours. Dunno if that’s because our sins require heavier artillery, or what…

    Eric Brown: "Better emotional tie-ins if your home team actually has a shot at winning"? Huh huh, he said "Boston", huh huh huh…

  19. Mal Ross says:

    Does British football *really* still have the image of rioting and hooliganism in the States or was that bullet just a flippant/playful jab in the Brits’ direction? Such things have been pretty much eliminated in the domestic game for years now. It’s sad that we should still be tarred by it.

    As for international games, that’s another matter. Some idiots (whose interest in football is incidental) view international games as a chance to go on holiday and give Johnny Foreigner a good kicking at the same time. It’s not just the Brits either – every country has its lunatic minority.

    Also, on the alcohol thing, I can confirm that beer is available at most matches, but can’t be taken into the stands. One exception is European games (by that, I mean club games against European opposition, not international games or games on the continent), where UEFA apply stricter controls and all alcohol’s banned within the ground.

    Anyway, hope you enjoyed the game. :)

  20. Aarrgghh says:

    I saw a UK soccer^Wfootball^Wwhatever game on TV once here in the States.

    There was one camera, mounted on the roof of a neighboring building. A number of tiny, distant men ran around on a field for a long time, in deep, meditative silence. There was a little white thing that they often seemed to be chasing.

    It lasted for what seemed like several hours. At the end, a sepulchral BBC-announcer voice intoned, "Londonnnn… nilll. Biihhhming’m… nilllll."

    Riveting. Absolutely riveting.

    I suspect the booze and the riots are a necessity; presented that way, even bass fishing might be fun. Or (*shudder*) golf.

  21. Ben Hutchings says:

    Gareth: Never seen the "3:16" signs? (Referring to a well-known verse in the gospel of John if I remember correctly.)

  22. Ross says:


    If you could make the image a little bigger next time? That one was at risk of fitting on my screen :)

  23. Gareth Lewin says:

    Nope, never seen the 3:16 signs, isn’t that Stone Cold Steve Austin’s number? :)

    I’m Jewish anyway, so I’m sure he didn’t die for MY sins, be hey, the guy with the sign said he did!

    And that’s the quality you get from a Nikon D70….

  24. Ale says:

    3:16 signs were made popular by the rainbow hair man. Somme crazy hippy who dedicated his life to living in his car, and going to sporting events and getting on camera with his john 3:16 signs. Trying to convert people..

    Hes in jail serving 3 life sentences now. Woops.

  25. Real Madrid takes a trip across the pond.

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