Allison Casally studied abroad in the UConn in London program during the spring semester, 2011.
Of the many events organized by the UConn in London program, one of my favorites was the Premier League football match. It featured a trip via Underground to Hammersmith to see the Fulham Football Club in action, and to experience English football (soccer) fervor firsthand.
While I had heard about the intensity of English football matches, it would have been impossible for me to anticipate the true intensity of the experience. It might be described as the level of passion involved in every major American sport all rolled into one. Our seats behind one of the goals offered a fantastic vantage point from which to watch the crowd rise, gesture, and shout in unison to the rhythms of the game. On one occasion, I watched an entire section rise in anger against a referee who failed to call a foul; they seemed to feel a duty to gesture as exuberantly as possible in order to alert the rest of the stadium to the offense. The other sections dutifully joined the protest.
My favorite aspect of the match was the organization of both fan bases. My only experience with fan bases was a sort of friendliness to people wearing the same colors, or casual conversation about the team or the game. These supporters shared a depth of passion that immediately endeared them to each other. Each club had its own anthem and songs, sung with delight by the supporters. These renditions turned into competitions between the home and away sections, and Fulham had no trouble drowning out the small but proud section supporting the opposing team. Clint Dempsey’s two goals and a Fulham victory made for a cheerful atmosphere and capped the experience beautifully.