When European football (soccer) came to LA

July 22, 2019

Last Wednesday – July 17th 2019 – marked the silver jubilee of the final of the 1994 FIFA World Cup. Football (known here as soccer, but I’ll refer to it as to football in this article) was a relatively new and unknown thing to most Americans in the 90s, and there were numerous other sports such as American football, baseball and basketball to take its place. However, football is the most popular sport in the world and FIFA – its governing body – decided to award the 1994 World Cup to the US to grow football in this part of the world. The tournament was a success and the final was played right here in LA at the Rose Bowl. Since then, football has grown by leaps and bounds in the US, with the MLS being launched in 1995, the USMNT qualifying for every World Cup since then barring 2018, the USWNT winning the Women’s World Cup several times, and the US along with Canada and Mexico being awarded the hosting rights to the Men’s World Cup again in 2026. However, when it comes to popularity and talent, Europe is still ahead of America in terms of men’s football. So it is quite a big occasion when a couple of big European clubs lock horns in LA. Which is what happened last Wednesday.

The football season in Europe runs from August to May, so this period is the summer break. In order to get warmed up and work out kinks prior to starting a new season, several football clubs take part in the International Champions Cup (ICC) in July. This is typically held in several countries around the world. Los Angeles has been regularly used as a venue for the ICC, with European super clubs such as Barcelona, Chelsea and Liverpool having visited the City of Angels in previous years. This time, it was the turn of Arsenal from London to play Bayern Munich from Munich at the Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson – home of LA Galaxy – on July 17th. I was fortunate enough to be a spectator, and even more fortunate to get a seat close to the players’ tunnel so as to catch a closer glimpse of the stars as they entered and exited, as you can see from the picture below. To see some of the most famous footballers from this close felt, to put it mildly, very special. The occasion was even more special for my friend Lakshya, who is a long-time die-hard Arsenal fan and had come all the way down from San Francisco just to watch this match!

The match got underway a little past 8 pm to a packed house of nearly 27,000 fans – most of them rooting for Arsenal. Despite it being a pre-season friendly encounter (with rules altered to allow experimentation, such as more than the usual three substitutes being allowed), the match was a feisty battle with both sides looking to attack aggressively.

The first half ended goalless, but things kicked up several gears in the second half. Arsenal got an early lead via an own goal, but then Robert Lewandowski – one of the talismans for Bayern Munich – equalized with an excellent header. See the red number 9 in the center of the picture below? That’s him! But it was Arsenal who had the last laugh, with a goal from Eddie Nketiah in the 88th minute which proved to be the winner and earned Nketiah the man of the match award. Arsenal ended up winning 2-1.

It was a truly special occasion to watch two big European clubs representing the cream of football battling it out in Los Angeles only a few meters away from where I was sitting. For $70 worth, the tickets were excellent. I am definitely looking forward to the next time I go to a football stadium!

Published on July 22nd, 2019

Last updated on July 22nd, 2019