It was a night of firsts. For the first time ever, I went to the Amsterdam Arena and finally got to see it from the inside. It was the night of my birthday, and since my partner gave no inkling of a plan that evening, I decided it was going to be an Arena-worthy game of soccer with my work friends. The U.S. team was in town to play against World Cup semi-finalist Netherlands (which for some odd reason the predominantly Dutch crowd was shouting as Holland) for a non-title match. Despite the length of time I’ve spent here, I already knew where my allegiance was — and it only became even more evident when the national anthems started playing.
It was also the first time since I moved here that I saw a live match of any kind. Despite my aversion to huge crowds, it was hard not to get into the spirit – the excitement was just electric. I couldn’t help but compare it to the few times I watched games in the States and thought that, while the venue may have been smaller, the crowd was far less rowdy and made for a more enjoyable experience. The lack of alcohol, though a bit disappointing, and the presence of tons of soccer-loving pre-teens I’m pretty sure had a lot to do with it. For this match I was almost sure the U.S. was an underdog, even more so in this case given the lack of a home court advantage. When the score reached 3-1 by halftime, I was certain it was insurmountable and was just about the perfect time to head on out. Surprise surprise, even with the lack of marquee players, the underdogs came back not only to even the score but to actually win. My European colleagues could only do so much to hide their surprise at the turnaround and their mild annoyance at my ecstatic display of approval.
Fun as it was, I’m not partial to doing it again. Given the cost of the ticket and the humongous effort to get there, it’s bound to be a long while before I’m back. Well, maybe if they start doing halftime shows.