Off The Ball

Matchday traditions around the world

Portland Timbers mascot 'Timber Joey'
© Getty Images

Whether it is a goal celebration, shirt swapping after the final whistle or taking home the match ball after netting a hat-trick, there are many common matchday traditions that are shared across the world. But despite being a global game, football customs still differ from country to country, and what might seem standard in one place can seem entirely alien to another. celebrates the diversity of matchday experiences across the globe, showcasing the many ways in which we choose to enjoy the beautiful game.

The tastes of football
Getting a bite to eat is a staple part of the matchday experience, but where you are in the world will ultimately decide what kind of snack you are tucking into. Go to Argentina and you will find a plethora of vendors selling Choripan, a chorizo-style sausage cooked on a flaming grill, whereas neighbours in Uruguay enjoy a popular gameday delicacy known as Chivito – a sandwich laden with sliced beef and mozzarella.

After the final whistle in Spain, you will find copious remains of sunflower seeds, known locally as pipas. This healthy snack is frequently consumed inside the stadium, with Juventus and Spain striker Alvaro Morata recalling: "When I was a kid I loved to watch football eating sunflower seeds!"

A world away from healthy sunflower seeds, in Britain it is more common to indulge in a pie and Bovril – a salty, meat-extract hot drink. When Ryan Giggs opened his restaurant Cafe Football in London earlier this year, the former Manchester United star wanted to bring the taste of the terraces to his enterprise. Giggs said: “I remember wolfing down pies and Bovril on the Stretford End terraces. We wanted people to taste that matchday atmosphere.”

Managing expectations
Having briefly served as interim manager at Manchester United after the departure of David Moyes, Giggs is familiar with the English custom of meeting with the opposing manager for a post-game chat and a glass of wine on matchday. But as former United boss Moyes quickly found when managing Real Sociedad in Spain, this is one tradition that is unique to England.

Speaking during his reign at La Real, he said: "I asked a few managers, like we do in the Premier League, to go for a glass of wine or a beer after a game. In the Premier League, managers spend 20 minutes having a chat, and it's not always about football. At the moment, there's nobody coming to join me. Communication between managers here is very limited.”

Rival managers discussing tactics with one another after matches in England may seem unusual in other countries, but it is common for coaches worldwide to give a post-game breakdown to the media. In Korea Republic, however, journalists frequently visit the dressing room before kick-off to chat with the respective managers ahead of the game.

While coaches worldwide are generally secretive regarding team tactics on matchday, Seo Jung-Won, manager of K-League side Suwon Bluewings, has made it a common occurrence to present an in-depth presentation of his team’s plan just hours before kick-off. The 87-time Korea Republic international jots his pre-game tactics on a chalkboard for journalists, who never leak the information until the final whistle is blown.

Weird and wonderful
Timber Joey – the mascot of MLS side Portland Timbers – is truly one of a kind. Equipped with a chainsaw, the lumberjack cuts into a giant log behind the goal and presents a slab of wood to the goalscorer – or goalscorers – after the match. “Everyone’s got their own thing, mine’s running around with a chainsaw!” he told Vice Sports.

But Portland Timbers are not the only team to have a unique mascot entertaining the crowd on matchday. In fact, Portugal’s Benfica have two. Victory and Glory are two eagles that act as living symbols of the club’s crest, and prior to kick-off on matchday, Victory soars across the stadium to rouse the home support, before landing on top of a perch in the centre circle as the players enter the pitch. While the iconic scene is captured in many photos and YouTube clips, getting up close and personal with the bird can be a daunting experience.

“I was fascinated to learn about the eagle flying ceremony that precedes every home match when the eagle creates a live version of the club's emblem,” admitted Indian film actress and model Rakul Preet Singh. “I wanted take a picture, but was afraid to go near it. It was huge, and I was scared to see it from close quarters. I eventually had to take the picture in the club's canteen. My face looks smaller than her beak, which is so sharp and her claws are bigger than my palm!”

Have Your Say
What is matchday like where you’re from? Leave a comment to share your experiences with football fans from around the world.

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