A Guide to Premier League Football (or Soccer)

Note: This is one of seven articles on my time in England, United Kingdom from December 2016 to January 2017. Not every one of them follows what I did during that particular day, but also follows the culture, lifestyles, and interest in the area. Articles will be published twice a week until complete.

Disclaimer: I am bias. In my mind, Arsenal is by far the greatest soccer team in the Premier League and in the world.

In 2017, I was lucky enough to see not one, but two Premier League games. The first was in Emirates Stadium in London (Arsenal v. Crystal Palace) and in Dean Court in Bournemouth (Bournemouth v. Arsenal). To summarize, it was the best sporting experience I have ever had (even though joining a street parade in Lima, Peru after a World Cup game in 2018 was rather entertaining). It is a different atmosphere than sports in the United States and a much better one at that. Even if you don’t like soccer, I would recommend going and here’s what you need to know:

Blurry picture, but my dad and I at Emirates Stadium

First of all, the Premier League is based in England. These teams are not the same as the World Cup teams, even though most of the players do play for their country in the World Cup. The Premier League is a club league, meaning that players can be recruited internationally and switch between teams throughout their career. The league has 20 membership clubs, but the clubs aren’t the same each season. Lower tier clubs from the English Football League compete for one of three places in the league, causing a minor change in each year. For the 2018-19 season, this includes Cardiff City, Fulham, and Wolverhampton Wanderers. There are six teams that have been exceptionally talented since the league was formed in 1992, including Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal (the best!), Chelsea, Tottenham, and Liverpool.

Rules are shaped by the Premier League teams, partners such as Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA), and European and English laws. Each game is 90 minutes with two 45 minute halves. There is a half time and can potentially be overtime (usually four minutes). There are also championship games at the end of the season. The top five times progress to the finals to compete for the league title.

Ranks are determined by a score. 3 points are given for a win, 1 for a tie, and 0 for a loss. At the end of the season, the teams with the most points progresses to finals. If there is a tie, the order goes to goal difference (also known as points difference) and then to amount of goals scored.

Also, because it might be confusing, British and American English have different terms for soccer and the things involved.

American EnglishBritish English
soccerfootball
fieldpitch
gamematch
tiedraw
zeronil

For more detailed information on the league structure visit:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Premier_League

https://www.premierleague.com

A panorama of Emirates Stadium

Getting to the stadiums for a game is fairly easy. Most are located directly in the city, making it close to public transportation, whether that be the underground or a bus. Many of them are massive, such as Emirates Stadium that houses 60,000 people. However, others are just over 10,000 and can be equally as fun. These stadiums typically have multiple entrances and can be confusing, but are well directed and signed, similar to airports. Some concessions are offered as well.

Tickets can be a bit more complicated as they have to be purchased from individual clubs. Everything depends on where the game is, what league, how far in advance, and what kind of game it is. The best way to obtain this information is from the clubs themselves or the Premier League site.

Before you go to the game, I would definitely eat something. Try going to one of England’s many fantastic pubs for some snacks or even dinnern(be careful, some are very exclusive to the home team on game nights!). Depending on the season, I would dress appropriately, but wear the team’s colors for sure! If you don’t have anything, there are often stores outside or near the stadium full of awesome jerseys, hats, scarves, shirt, sweaters, gifts, and more. Team scarves are a must! If you have time on the trip over, look over some cheers because it can be hard to distinguish the words in a large crowd.

Shad, Leila, and I on the pitch of Emirates Stadium after a game

My own experience with Premier League games was absolutely phenomenal. Luckily, a family friend of ours Shad Forsythe, is the Head of Performance for Arsenal, so our interaction with the team was different.

We were fortunate enough to attend two games, one on January 1st and one on January 3rd of 2017 during our time in England.

The first of the two was Arsenal against Crystal Palace. At this time, Arsène Wenger was the manager and Alexis Sanchez and Olivier Giroud were still playing on the team. It was in the home stadium and the whole structure was packed with people. We were with the home team seats in the top corner, where we had a clear and full view of the game. During the game, two goals were scored, one by Iwobi and one by Giroud, which just so happened to be the Goal of 2017. It was a scorpion goal, kicked from the back heel and the most impressive act I have ever seen in any sporting event. The crowd went absolutely wild and Arsenal cheers rang throughout.

Shad, Özil, Mertesacker, and Mustafi with the FA Cup of 2017/18 season

Our second game was in Bournemouth, a city about 3 1/2 hours away from London by train and on the coast of the English Channel. To get there, we took the route from Waterloo and arrived a few hours before the game. During our free time, we explored and spent time around the stadium. Dean Court is comparatively a much smaller stadium than Emirates and only houses 12,000 people, but the atmosphere was completely different.

It felt a lot more personal since the players were so close and all the fans were a lot more passionate than at the home game. According to Shad, this is usually the case because the away fans are the more dedicated ones and travel from game to game. To add to this, it was much more rowdy as well. No one sat during the game and to say the least, I can’t write out much of the dialogue in this article due to the profanity of them. It was incredibly entertaining though and provided me with an opportunity to join in and shout with the others. However at the half, Arsenal was down with a score of 3-0. At this point, the diehard Arsenal fans started cheering “this is an embarrassment” and sure enough, the team turned the game around, scored three goals, and finished with a tie.

Arsenal at Dean Court

I think one of the best examples of how much people care about Arsenal and the Premier League in general was a man that we met at the bus stop on the way back. He was from Indonesia and flew all the way to London to watch some of the games and to specifically watch Özil. His sheer dedication was so impressive and it was easily obvious how much he cared about the sport and the team. Just by talking to him, you could see how he was so excited, even if he didn’t get to see his favorite player.

After the game, I realized how similar I felt to the man. I was engulfed in the soccer culture and it has become something I enjoy and look forward to. In fact, I hope to go back to London for more games soon as well or perhaps to a World Cup game! And as always, Come on ya Gunners!


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