Each year, our graduate students have the option of enrolling in European Model of Sport, an elective which features a trip abroad to meet with sports organizations, learn from sports professionals and tour world class venues and arenas in Western Europe. This year’s trip includes stops in Dublin, Liverpool, London and Paris. Our students are blogging about their experience.
by Andy Lohman
As a sports fan, this trip to Europe has given me experiences I will never forget.
After learning about the history of the Gaelic games from our great Croke Park tour guide Rory, we had the opportunity to participate in Gaelic football at Ireland’s National Sport Campus on the outskirts of Dublin. Not only was this an opportunity to run around and have fun, it was an immersive experience in the games that are such an integral part of the Irish culture.
Our Anfield tour guide Gary showed us why Liverpool Football Club is a point of pride for the city. His passion for his club and its beautiful stadium almost turned this ardent Arsenal supporter into a Liverpool fan for a moment.
Touring the grounds of Wimbledon in London was incredible, as we got to walk through some of the greatest moments in tennis history, from John Isner’s three-day victory over Nicolas Mahut to Rodger Federer’s dominance of grass courts.
Witnessing Paris Saint-Germain claim the French national handball championship was one of the most surprisingly fun moments of the trip. We were treated to the atmosphere of an NBA game, with the supporters’ groups of a top-flight soccer league, and some of the best handball players in the world.
While the sporting experiences stand out, some of my favorite moments of the trip had nothing to do with sports. Listening to live music at the Cavern Club (the venue made famous by Liverpool’s own The Beatles) and relaxing on the lawn of the Eiffel Tower with my classmates who I’ve worked so hard with all year long was an amazingly rewarding way to end the year.
One thing that stood out to me throughout this trip was how each city’s sports culture reflected its personality. Dublin is a delightful juxtaposition of a city with historical landmarks at every street corner intertwined with a modern European metropolis with a booming tech industry. Irish sports span this spectrum too. From the Gaelic Athletic Association that administers traditional Irish games and holds its blue-collar, community focus in the utmost regard, to the sparkling AVIVA Stadium that houses the national soccer and rugby teams, Irish sports are a reflection of the Irish people.
The River Mersey has been vital to Liverpool’s place on the global stage in culture and commerce. The grassroots Liverpool Sailing Club keeps alive the love for water sport on this iconic English waterway. The “scousers” of Liverpool are nothing if not proud of where they’re from. The comprehensive fan culture of Liverpool Football Club showcases this pride. From poetic banners and songs, to fans packing “The Kop” stand, to the ubiquitous liver birds across the city, Liverpool Football Club runs through the veins of the city.
London is a world-class city with iconic landmarks, powerful world leaders, and millions upon millions of people creating a thriving metropolis. London’s sports reflect that excellence. As our lecturer Ben Swann noted, Wimbledon is one of the very few sporting events that is instantly recognizable. When you see tennis players in all white on grass, you think Wimbledon and you think excellence. Touring Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park highlighted why the London 2012 Games have one of the best legacies of a modern Olympics. Beyond just a shiny new home for West Ham United, the project turned an industrial wasteland into a beautiful place to live, work, shop, and participate in sport.
Finally, the sports of Paris reflected the cosmopolitan vibe of French capital. It’s only fitting that a city with the famous Champs Elysees, lined with luxury stores, is also the home to Paris Saint-Germain football club and Stade de France rugby club, two teams that aren’t afraid to flash their checkbooks to create stacked rosters and fill huge stadiums. In Paris, sports team’s competitors aren’t their counterparts in their respective leagues, they are every entertainment option in the city of lights. This means that sports in Paris is guaranteed to always be a show.
I might be in the minority on this, but my absolute favorite moment of the trip was watching the Paris FC game. A half-full stadium made of concrete, rowdy supporters’ groups that sing the entire game, delicious local food, an exciting game despite average on-field talent. It felt exactly like a D.C. United game at RFK Stadium, one of my favorite sporting experiences. That’s why sports are the best: they show that even though we live in different worlds, at the end of the day we have way more in common than we have differences.