In late August of 2010 while travelling to Adelaide, Australia, I had the opportunity to attend an Australian rules football (footy) match. Knowing that the Aussie passion of the sport rivals that of the Canadian obsession with hockey, I wanted to experience this unique cultural event first hand. Everywhere I had been while travelling in Australia I had seen young people playing, practising, or just horsing around with a football. I had seen the sport played on television occasionally and been intrigued by the rough nature of the game and the seemingly bizarre rules associated with it that I could never quite figure out on my own.
For the occasion of my introduction to the sport I purchased my ticket in Adelaide on the day before the match at the downtown AFL (Australian Football League) store. One of my local hosts expressed surprise at my ability even purchase a ticket to the match as they are usually sold out events.
Considering myself fortunate for having procured a ticket, I learned that it entitled me to a free ride to the stadium on the Footy Express bus outside of my hotel in the downtown. Not wanting to miss a moment of the game I elected to take the earlier bus and explore the venue beforehand.
On arrival I discovered a carnival atmosphere outside of the AAMI stadium as families gathered around their parked cars for good old fashioned tailgate parties, children enjoyed climbing walls or just playing around with a football on the grass.
I found my seat and enjoyed the pre-match games being played by local junior clubs on the field before the start of the professional match up between the Adelaide Crows and the St. Kilda Saints. My seat was next to an elderly lady who, it turned out, never missed a game and held season’s tickets. She was kind enough to explain the finer points of the game to me and to demystify some of the things I had previously observed that had confused me, such as when it was and was not appropriate to tackle your opponent. With my newfound knowledge and my enthusiastic seat mate I proceeded to enjoy the next two and a half hours greatly.
Attending a footy match in Australia was definitely an experience comparable to attending a NHL game in a Canadian city. Every fan has played the game or watched it all of their lives and so is one of 51,000 coaches rooting, critiquing and keeping a critical eye on the play on the field. If you ever get a chance to attend a footy match, I encourage you to do so. You will enjoy yourself.
How about it? Have you ever enjoyed a strange sport in a foreign country? Tell us about it in the comments below.
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