English Soccer Tour, Stop 1: Heathrow Customs
Here’s a re-post of my very first blog entry on my old website — from back in January 2014, when I was just starting what I then called my English soccer tour. It’s turned into a book, a consulting service, and a ticket sales business, but on this day it was just an American coming into the UK and talking a little footy. Enjoy.
Well, it didn’t take long for the first interaction of my English Soccer Tour. In fact, it happened in the customs line at Heathrow, before I had officially entered the UK.
The customs officer, about 30, asked why I was there, and I said, “To watch football games.” He smiled and said, “Don’t you mean ‘soccer’?”
I was waiting for that one: “Actually, now that I’m out of American airspace, I am calling it football — and anyway, you English made up the word ‘soccer’!” Which is true.
He smiled again and asked who I’d be seeing. I told him Arsenal first, and he shook his head; this made me think he might be a Tottenham guy. But no. “Why does everybody want to see Arsenal?” he asked. “They’re hardly even an English team anymore.”
“Well,” I said, “I follow Fulham, and they were just sold to a Pakistani.” I was showing him I know something, you see.
“Yes, and Fulham have a statue of Michael Jackson at their ground.”
“Had a statue,” I corrected him. “And they used to have about half the US National Team playing for them. That’s why I chose them. Anyway, who’s your team?”
“QPR,” he said. And, without missing a beat, I said, “Well, then I can’t talk to you anymore. But I’m afraid Fulham will be playing QPR again next year.” This was a reference to the fact that Fulham were about to be relegated to the Championship.
He leaned back in his chair and said, “That’s a safe bet — and it’s nice to see Americans come through who actually follow the game.” He stamped my passport, handed it back and said with a smile, “Enjoy your stay — and worst of luck to your Cottagers!”
“And worst of luck to your Rangers!”
In that moment, my English soccer tour was on.
Now, if you’re reading this and wondering what it’s all about*, that’s why I’m writing this book! (And I get to see a shit-ton of English soccer games!) As the Premier League gets more and more popular in the US, I think more and more Americans (like me) will want to come over and see games. And they’ll want to know more than how to get tickets and what the hell offsides is about. They’ll want to know about the clubs, their history, the stadiums, their fans and songs, and the pubs they go to before the games.
I am going to immerse myself into English soccer culture, attend a game at every Premier League ground, visit all the other league clubs around London, and produce the ultimate Americans’ guide to English soccer. Hell yes I am!
And now you’ve found my blog. Welcome!
*Quick summary: Fulham (who play in Craven Cottage and are called the Cottagers) and Queens Park Rangers are blood enemies; their stadiums are 3.1 miles apart in West London! At the time, Fulham was in the Premier League, and QPR a league below in The Championship. But Fulham was doing terribly and looked in trouble to get relegated for next year — in which case their ancient rivalry with the boys from Loftus Road will be back, twice a year. All of us in white hope that doesn’t happen! (UPDATE from 2017: It did. UPDATE from 2018: Fulham are back up, QPR are still down, so my border buddy is probably bummed.)