Watching Soccer in Europe, a Raucous Great Time

Between the World Cup, Euro Cup, Champions League or a big national game, watching soccer in Europe is great fun. Throughout the centuries, borders in Europe have frequently changed. This fuels rivalries that can be heated at times. But ultimately, sports are a way to bring people together. So enjoy watching football during European travels like we have!

Watching the World Cup Final in the Netherlands

We happened to live in Amsterdam in 2010. Along with 100,000 others dressed in orange, we anxiously watched the Dutch lose the World Cup Final to Spain in the in the Museumplein Square, with the historic Rijksmuseum in the background. The heartbreaker went to extra time. We’ve never seen so many colorful orange clad people go home so quiet.

A few days later the Dutch still held a huge canal parade to honor their nations second place finish, to a few Dutch people’s dismay. It was one of several memorable moments watching soccer in Europe during our six year residency on the continent.

Netherlands 2010 World Cup Viewing
Dutch Light Flares Watching World Cup
Museumplein World Cup 2010
Dutch Lose World Cup 2010 Final
Dutch in Orange on Canal Bridge
Amsterdam Orange
Amsterdam Canals World Cup

Watching an English Premier League Match in the UK

Another fantastic moment watching soccer in Europe came during an English Premier League match at Fulham’s Craven Cottage. I bought seats in the oldest football stand in the world, the Johny Haynes stand, which dates back to 1905.

On match day, the current captain of the American team, Clint Dempsey, scored the only 2 goals in a 2-0 home win over Wigan, of course drawing some sparse chants of U-S-A!! U-S-A!! I wrote an article on Craven Cottage, leading me to become a lifelong Fulham and Clint Dempsey fan (also very pertinent to the 2014 World Cup as he scored 30 seconds into the Ghana match).

Fulham Corner Kick at Craven Cottage
Johnny Haynes Stand at Craven Cottage
Craven Cottage, home of Fulham FC

Champions League Matches

I’ve never been a big fan of paying a lot of money to watch a sporting event, so when a friends boss bailed on attending a Champions League match while living in Amsterdam, I jumped at the chance to take his ticket for free. Ajax Amsterdam took on French team Auxerre in front of a raucous sellout crowd of 53,000 at Amsterdam Arena.

We drank heavily before the match since it was a dry event. I got caught up in the mob mentality and started banging the panel boards on the metro train en route. I stopped when a 70+ year old Dutchman scolded me for my behavior.

Friendly Between National Teams in Ireland

Our only time attending a national game came while living in Dublin in 2013. On a cold February night Poland came to town to play Ireland in a friendly at Aviva Stadium in front of a frenzied sellout crowd of around 51,700. Since the game was a “friendly,” our mobile provider, who was a sponsor of the Irish National team, Three, offered us super cheap tickets for 10 ($14) a few weeks ahead of time via text message.

We jumped at the chance to attend the match. There are many Polish immigrants in Ireland, so we were amazed at the sea of red and white that filled the Aviva Stadium. Ireland had to whether a huge early storm by Poland to eventually gain control and win 2-0. There were flares thrown and fiery moments by the Polish crowd. Perhaps the word “friendly” was not the best terminology. But no major incidents occurred.

Irish National Soccer, Aviva Stadium
Ireland vs Poland football
European football flares

Tips on Watching Soccer in Europe

1) Just do it! It’s a hell of a lot of fun!

2) Don’t just focus on the biggest clubs because tickets can be hard to come by sometimes. Research big market soccer countries like England, France, Spain, Germany or Italy during your travels. Before visiting big cities like London, Barcelona, Madrid or Rome, check their respective league websites to see if lesser known clubs are playing too.

You may be able to buy tickets to watch a smaller club. Sometimes the larger clubs are either away or their match is sold out. These major cities have multiple teams, and this has worked in our favor in both Barcelona and definitely in London, as mentioned.

3) If you want to watch a big national game at a bar during the World Cup (and you should!) arrive early to get seats and make sure someone is always at the table to hold them once the bar becomes inevitably packed. Bathrooms can be an issue so order stronger beers, wine or spirits to avoid more frequent trips! Luckily very strong beers are extremely prevalent in countries like the Netherlands, Belgium and France. And if you’re drinking coke, just remember that you won’t be getting any free refills, anywhere in Europe.

4) For major matches involving a European country playing a knockout game, particularly if they’re planning in the World Cup or European Cup Final, they’ll be a major viewing area in a square to watch the game. Do check it out if you get the chance, just as long as you’re not claustrophobic!

Have any tips or memorable moments of watching soccer in Europe that you want to share? Please do so!


  • Alex&Bell

    Alex and Bell originally met while solo traveling after finishing university in 2002, in Brugge, Belgium. Alex grew up in the USA and Bell hails from Australia. During our nearly 20 year marriage we've lived around the world, including spending six years living in the Netherlands and Ireland. We have traveled to nearly 70 countries and enjoy giving readers authentic and quality travel tips. Alex is an award winning travel journalist and travel planner, who also freelances for other outlets. Bell is an award winning PhD scientist who currently works for a non-profit lung cancer advocacy research organization called Lungevity. Happy travels and if you have any questions leave a comment or drop an email!

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6 thoughts on “Watching Soccer in Europe, a Raucous Great Time

  1. Alex, you’re just making me miss being back and watching my home team Aston Villa in the UK, especially after watching England drop out so meekly and after watching Italy do so terribly last night, I need to see some top class football!

    1. Hey Dale, I’ll miss catching soccer matches in Europe too! Sorry about England and Italy, World Cup 2014 wasn’t lucky to them (and maybe the Brazilian rainforest got to them too). What a shock Spain dropping out was as well. Columbia and Costa Rica have been surprises the other way. I watched Greece win that stunner over Ivory Coast from a packed bar in Washington DC and I was the only one celebrating after Samaras buried the PK winner to advance. Wow, did that game make my blood pressure rise! Super thrilled that one of my countries advanced, now I’ll be rooting hard for my other country of citizenship, the USA over Germany…I’m certain the 2016 Euro Cup will fair better for either England or Italy (or both!), in the meantime happy travels! 🙂

    1. The Dutch are soccer mad! Shame Australia didn’t do better this World Cup- we were of course both rooting hard for Bell’s home country!

  2. That must’ve been so much fun! I was shocked at Spain’s losses and was really impressed with the Netherlands. Can’t wait to see how they keep going, I have a feeling they will be in Brazil for the long haul!

    1. Spain’s performance was indeed surprising, too bad they picked things up against Australia. We tend to root for the underdogs so while we love visiting Spain and find the people generally friendly and accommodating, we’re happy to see someone new win. We supported the Netherlands last World Cup as we believe in supporting where you live but we’d like to see new teams in the final to be honest. Go USA and Greece!! (Alex’s two citizenships and it would a stunning event to see either in the final). Enjoy watching the games, Samantha!

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