Sports Tourism – Getting to Know a Country Via its Fans

Sports Tourism - Getting to Know a Country Via Its FansTravel traditions, do you have one? I have a few, such as trying McDonald’s when traveling abroad or going on an annual trip during Thanksgiving break. In addition to those traditions, each year I go on a “sports-themed” trip with my friends. I find it is one the best ways to immerse myself in the local culture.

Why a sports game?

My love of sports came at an early age, being from St. Louis, Missouri you are born into fandom. The city has one of the biggest fan bases around. I’ve rooted for the St. Louis Cardinals (baseball) and Blues (hockey) since I was in the womb. Even now that I no longer live in St. Louis I see die hard fans rocking memorabilia around the world and it doesn’t matter where I am I will call out to these fans with a friendly (but mostly shocking) “Go Cards!” or “Let’s Go Blues!” What I love most is I usually get a “hell yea!” or “BLUUUUES!” yelled back at me.

STL Sports Teams
Busch Stadium home of the St. Louis Cardinals & The Dome at America’s Center, home of the St. Louis Blues

There is something about seeing someone representing your team in a country miles from home, you have an instant connection with that person.

See more than the tourist sites

Sports arenas usually don’t make it on the “Top 10 Tourist Attractions in ________” list. Sometimes they can be off the beaten path and take you into new neighborhoods that you wouldn’t have found. You know what is usually by stadiums? Sports bars. And we all know what sports bars have…BEER! You know who loves beer (aside from me)? Most everyone. Grab a drink before heading to the game and watch as the home and away team fan converge before the match.

Coors Field, Denver, CO
Coors Field, Denver, CO

Feel the ups and the downs with the fans

In 2007, I lived in France during the Rugby World Cup. That year France hosted the exhibition and the French citizens were rugby crazed. Viewing screens would be set up in city squares to broadcast the games. With the mixture of warm beer, enthusiastic sports commentators, and an ever growing crowd, the usually reserved French came out of their shell and became animated, slightly rowdy, and more welcoming. With every play of the game, you could feel how much a win would mean to the French.

Chat with the locals

When visiting Japan last April my travel buddy and I went to a baseball game. Japan is known for loving baseball. Guess who else loves baseball? ME! We took a day trip from Tokyo to Yokohama to watch the BayStars home-opener. After settling in our seats a young kid, all of 11, sat in an open seat next to us. Glove in hand, he was there by himself to watch his favorite game. This was the most well-behaved boy I’ve ever met, he was polite and eager to speak English. Throughout the game, we chatted about his school life and his love of baseball.

Yokohama Baseball Game 2016
Yokohama, Japan

Learn local chats and sports traditions

While walking the streets of New Orleans you will notice the city’s love for their football team, the Saints. The black and gold fleur des lys Saints’ logo is plastered everywhere. This city loves their football team. The fans in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome are THE loudest I’ve ever heard, it might have something to do with the massive amounts of concrete used in the stadium that echo the chants. When they cheer on their team it is deafening. Do as the locals do and cheer as loud as you can!

“Who dat? Who dat? Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints?”

New Orleans Saints Game 2015
The Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, LA

Stadium food, it’s not all hot dogs and nachos

There is something about woofing down a foot-long dog while watching a sports game. Even if I am not hungry the smell of those glorious wieners gets my tummy grumbling. I feel like sports and stadium food goes hand in hand. I can’t have one without the other. Make sure you check out the local cuisine being offered at the concession stands; the Saints sell seafood nachos, in Japan, you can get a bento box full of sushi and veggie tempura, and one of my favorites is the phallic looking chocolate dipped strawberries on a stick that is sold at Coors Field in Denver.

Next time you are traveling check out the local sports scene and head to a game!

Have you been to any sporting matches while traveling? What did you find to be unique about your experience? I’d love to know!

Baseball tradition in Japan Japan Baseball Baseball in Japan Yokohama Baseball Game

21 thoughts on “Sports Tourism – Getting to Know a Country Via its Fans”

  1. My son went to a baseball game in Japan, too, and had the best time! You’re right that you can learn a lot about a culture by attending a sporting event. It’s so interesting to see the different customs and food!

  2. I’m not such a sports fan and I’ve never watched a game in another country but I definitely get your points. You clearly meet people in a match and get to know the culture better! I would surely watch a sumo match while eating some sushi!

  3. I love this idea! I’m not the biggest sports fan but when I was living in Budapest, I went to check out a local football match and watched the football craze during the Euro cup that year. It was a lot of fun to get caught up in the hype with them!

    1. That sounds like a blast! It is fun to get caught in the hype even if maybe the sport isn’t your favorite.

  4. Ironically enough we went to a local ball game while in Japan! My husband and I enjoy experience all aspects of travel including sports. A rugby game in Australia is next on our list!

  5. Sports tourism is something that is emerging in the recent days times . I think it is a great concept to combine travel and sports. Both have their own excitement quotient which gels well with travelers. For me, the ultimate dream is to visit an Olympics event 🙂

  6. I’m a sports lover!! My favorite one is football, I am italian but I love everything that regards sport in general. When I travel I always visit the most important sport structures, how to resist? – Paolo

  7. When I visited Seattle last year, I love seeing how the locals support their football game. It was like everyone going for it when the game is on. Eventhough I am not really into sport games but I could feel the spirit of the locals. Happening! 😀

  8. That is a great idea for seeing a place and experiencing the local culture/customs and interacting with locals. I know when we went to England we wanted to check out a football/soccer game but somehow we never got around to it. They were quite expensive but maybe if we had a bigger budget. Stadium food can also be pretty good these days.

  9. Loved this post! I always try to fit in a sports event when travelling too … one of my first was a St. Louis double-header (Rams, Blues) while visiting my sister & brother-in-law 🙂

  10. I don’t think I have that kind of a travel tradition, but I am definitely open for experiencing different events in different countries. Sports go well to trips in USA and I have been to NBA and NHL games. Hopefully someday I can also experience a soccer game in Europe, that would be pretty cool.

  11. I never realised sports tourism was a thing but, I guess with two olympics under my belt and my eye on Tokyo 2020, I think I might be a sports tourist! I watched a lot of Rugby while I was in NZ too. I really enjoyed reading this post.

    1. Two Olympics under your belt? Awesome! I have yet to go to an Olympics myself, but was eyeing Tokyo 2020 until I realized Paris and Los Angeles would be the next cities to host the Summer Games. I will most likely go to Euro Cup 2020 instead as a result.

      But, I have also met people who have been to multiple World Cup tournaments and went to Brazil in 2014 as a result of their influence. Sports tourism is very much a burgeoning movement! But I just love the passion and interaction with other fans as you no doubt would probably have said about your Olympics experiences.

  12. I almost always incorporate sporting events into my travels. From catching one of the last games at Old Yankee Stadium to watching the Los Angeles Kings 10 rows up from behind their net at the same price it would cost me to sit in the nosebleed section for a Toronto Maple Leafs game; from catching the Belizean Premiere Soccer League Final in a dilapidated stadium to watching France draw Ecuador to a nil-nil draw at Maracana Stadium during World Cup 2014.

    But my most memorable sporting experience came in Indianapolis when I met a guy from England who was traveling to every single NFL stadium during the 2015 NFL Season. We met at this hostel we were staying at about a half hour from the stadium. He encouraged me to come down with him the next morning before the game to see if I could scalp a ticket from one of the tailgate parties. I ended up getting a free ticket from a season ticket holder who just happened to be the Chief of the Indianapolis Fire Department. What I learned from him is that people are willing to be gracious to those who are humble and genuine. I have since paid the favour forward, but will never forget this lesson!

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