Monday, March 23, 2009

Dallas


I was excited to get to Dallas, to experience my first taste of live soccer action in the United States.

Upon boarding the devil of American transport (aka the Greyhound bus) in Kansas City, I had been hoping to forget my surroundings and sleep through most of the 12 hour overnight trip to Dallas. Alas, it was not meant to be....

Having slotted in to what little space was afforded to me, I was soon shifting to make room for a new passenger. When he asked if he could sit down, I told him 'of course', but warned that there was very little space. This, he told me, was not a problem as he had 'not had much space for the past three years'.

I suppose I should really have guessed what this meant straight away, but before I had time to process the thought he asked me: 'are you nervous 'sitting next to a convict?' As it turned out, it seems that I was.

So arriving in Dallas at 7am, having slept barely an hour, I could probably have done with a little shut-eye. But once again, it was not meant to be, as I was whisked off to the St Patrick's Day parade on Greenville, a beer forced in to my hand before it had even hit 9am.

That evening, after what seemed like an eternity of green beads, beer and anything remotely Irish, FC Dallas were in action against Brazilian side Ateltico Paranaense at Pizza Hut Park.

It was not only my first opportunity to experience a US soccer match, but also my first taste of the American tradition of tailgaiting. Fans of the team congregate near the stadium prior to the match, have a few drinks and build up some anticipation with their fellow supporters.

The game was a pre-season friendly, and the FC Dallas 'Inferno' supporters group reminded me that it was not necessarily a fair reflection of a typical Dallas MLS game. But it was an enjoyable experience nonetheless, and n eye-opener in many respects.

The tailgait was fun, and the Inferno even had a Scottish beer in reserve for me. Enjoying the company of so many fellow soccer fans was something I had missed since leaving the UK, and it was great to gain an insight in to what these fans talk about before a game.

In all honesty, it turned out to be very similar to pre-game drinks in the UK, but instead of meeting in the pub they meet in the car park!

Once inside the stadium, however, you start to notice some subtle differences between the American experience compared to the British.

The Inferno fans were as vibrant and vocal as you might expect from a supporters group, singing, shouting and generally giving encouragement to the players for the full 90 minutes.

But the rest of the fans, outwith the supporters groups, were noticably subdued. Whether it was the fact the game was a friendly, or some other reason, there was a distinctly different atmosphere due to the lack of an away support.

After the game, which FC Dallas won 1-0 courtesy of a Jeff Cunningham goal, the scores were level on aggregate due to a 4-3 victory for Ateltico in the first leg, in Brazil. Atletico went on to win the shoot-out, securing the USA-Brazil Challenge trophy.

There was still time for post-game drinks and bit of match analysis with the Inferno crowd, before finally getting some much-needed sleep. And not a convict in sight...



3 comments:

  1. It was a pleasure having you here. I only wish you'd been able to come to Saturday's game instead of last week's game. We started tailgating at 7:30 pm on Friday night and continued through the kick-off at 7:30 pm on Saturday night. Much beer was consumed. Several fans pitched tents and slept in our regular tailgating location, a few slept in their cars, and the more wimpy of us (myself included) went home and came back the next morning. The final result wasn't what we'd hoped. We lost 3-1, but we definitely kept up the cheering and singing for the full 90.

    I hope you'll be able to visit us again sometime.

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  2. Hey Mike, I'm a British guy who watched the US play Guatemala back in 06 at Pizza Hut Park. Parking was dreadful at that stadium. Nice facilities though. Are the giant inflatable Budweiser cans still behind the goal?

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