Americans call it soccer; Europeans call it football. Either way, it’s a huge sport overseas, so much that London alone has five teams in the Premier League and nine in the Football League. I grew up playing soccer, and thought it’d be fun to go behind the scenes of one of my favorite European teams, Arsenal. Emirates Stadium is home to this team and a quick tube ride north of the city.
When you get to the stadium, you can elect to see just the museum (£8) or go on the tour experience which includes entrance to the museum (£20). I decided on the later to get the most out of the experience. I started with the self-guided tour, which starts in the massive team store. They give you headphones you can keep and an audio set that tells you which number to press to the corresponding area of the stadium you’re in.
The tour starts in the underground parking lot, which isn’t that exciting to be honest. However, you’re soon led up the stairs to the quite elegant dining areas. I’m not sure who you have to know to get in here during game day, but this room had fine dining with a view of the field. Many trophies lined the room, including the famed FA cup below. One of the rooms were for certain members of the press.
Inside: Dining Room/Press Room
On the Field
I’ve been to many soccer games in Seattle before, but have never stood on the field. The viewpoint is pretty crazy, especially when you try to imagine the stands completely packed. With capacity at 60,260, it’s safe to say it gets loud in here during game days. I watch a lot of games on TV, and even then it can be hard to hear the commentators over the roar of the crowd. While you can’t walk on the field, you can sit in the players’ actual seats (including some that are heated!).
Inside: Home team locker room
The tour then takes you into the locker room, which was unlike anything I had seen. Not only was it spacious, but it had a physical therapy/massage room and multiple Jacuzzi tubs with metal bars that rotate to massage the players when they come in after a tough game. You could see where your favorite player’s locker was with their jersey hanging over it and sit down, imagining you were about to play a game (although I didn’t because I figured the benches were pretty sweat-covered).
After the tour (which took about 2 hours, my pictures don’t do it justice at all), I walked over to the museum. I love history and had a blast seeing some keepsakes from the past. A lot of it was videos you could watch or old jerseys, so I don’t have too many pictures from the museum.
A few facts about Arsenal that I learned during the experience:
- first team to have floodlights for games at nights so they could be broadcast on TV
- first team to play with a white soccer ball
- nickname is “The Gunners,” which derives from being formed by a group of cannon makers at the Woolwich Arsenal
- a hawk is released every month to circle the stadium and discourage pesky creatures from nesting
- match against Sheffield United in 1927 was the first English League match to be broadcast live on radio
Whether you’re a soccer/football lover or just curious to take a behind the scenes look at a sports stadium, this is a fun way to fill up half a day next time you’re in London!
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