In Jamaica, it’s probably impossible to walk into someone’s home and not find a football (soccer) fan there. My home in Jamaica was no different. The English Premier League (EPL) is one of the most widely watched football leagues in the world. I grew up hearing shouting at the TV, and hands slapping the wall every weekend when games were on. The majority of my family supports Manchester United, while two of my aunts support Liverpool, and my father supports Arsenal. I didn’t really watch or play much soccer while living in Jamaica because it was considered a sport for boys. When I moved to America, I began watching the EPL every weekend as a means of staying in touch with my culture. I followed all three teams my family supported, but I felt bad that my dad was alone on the Arsenal train, so I decided I would join him as a supporter of the club.
I’d wake up early on every Saturday and Sunday to catch the games. Over time, I became a huge fan of the sport and I forgot that originally I supported Arsenal because of my dad. I began to appreciate and admire the team differently as I learned more about football. However, when I started running club track, it became harder to keep up with football matches since my track meets were on the weekends. Even though I no longer had the time to watch the sport avidly, I was still a fan, and even played two seasons in high school when I stopped running for my track club. So when I saw that an Emirates Stadium (Arsenal’s home stadium) tour was an event offered by my study abroad program, it was the first thing I put on my calendar.
When we got to the stadium I was in complete awe. I spent so many weekends watching from my living room, and now here I was right outside the actual stadium getting prepared to go in.
As we entered the stadium, each visitor was given a device resembling a smart phone and earbuds. As we moved from place to place during the tour, we learned some facts about the team’s history by listening to audio and watching videos on the device. I thought this was cool because it made the largely self-guided tour feel more interactive. A few of the spots we were able to see include the home and away changing rooms, the manager’s office, interview rooms and the press room. My favorite part was being on the touchline of the pitch ( the side of the field with no goals). It was such a surreal experience. I can’t wait to go back for a game!