On the eve of the World cup, I am very please to introduce a guest post, written by a friend of mine who travels the world following the England Football team. This is not only fuelled by a love of sport, but a love of travel. Liam has just returned from Miami where England played a friendly warm-up to the biggest competition in the sport. He is home, in England for a few days before flying to Brazil to embrace all of the excitement South America has to offer. Now, ladies and gents, I give you Liam Newman, Football and Sport writer and personal friend.
When my opening gambit is to inform you that I’m an England football supporter who follows his country over the world with a group of about 20 lads, you probably have a preconceived idea of what that entails. Don’t you? Well, erase that image from your head; long gone are the days of hooliganism shaming a sport, a nation and humanity. I, like many others, follow England driven by a love of two things – the beautiful game, and the beautiful planet. As a group most of our trips see us visiting European cities for just a few short nights, but, sometimes this commitment to the beautiful game is rewarded with a long-haul trip to a more appealing, more exotic destination. Last week was one of those rare occasions, as I finally got to visit America for the first time in my life. I absolutely loved it, I’m already itching to return.
To the untrained eye, football would appear to be the reason that fans travel across the world, however, it really isn’t the main reason, it’s more of an excuse than anything else. What better justification for meeting up with friends from around the country than a week in Miami to watch your country play a game you love? Football is merely a backdrop to the adventure. My adventure started easily, within an hour of getting through customs, I found myself on South Beach with one of my best mates. At home I reside in Southend-on-Sea, Essex, which means that I’m accustomed to sea life, however, this was a far cry from the Thames; it was utter perfection.
Like many other visitors to other countries I absolutely adore sightseeing and throwing myself into a different culture, but sometimes you simply have to enjoy the calmness and tranquillity of laying in the sun as the waves crash on the shore. However, you can take the lad out of England, but you can’t take England out of the lad, I made the critical error that a pale-skinned, ginger kid from Essex should never do: forgot the suncream! Ouch!
(Note from Hannah; as Liams friend, I find this hilarious, yet disturbing.
What are those shorts?!)
Nevertheless, that perfect Sunday of lounging around on the beach was definitely a great day, it isn’t hard to see why so many tourists flock to Miami every year; As far as beaches go, from my experiences South Beach is up there with Copacobana; however, like Rio, there is a lot more to Miami life than a beach. As an outsider, I’ve always thought of America as a country that breathes sport – this trip did nothing to alter that opinion. Football (or rather soccer) may have been the focus for the 800 England fans who had descended on Florida, but for the locals there were much more pressing matters at hand. On the Tuesday night, I got my first taste of live American sport by visiting Marlins Park to see a Major League Baseball clash between the Miami Marlins and Tampa Bay Rays. Up until now, my only experience of live American sport was an NFL match at Wembley Stadium. However, nothing quite compares to watching the action unfold in its natural habitat – in front of fans who live and breathe the game, with all the lights, music and pajazz that could only ever take place in the United States. The action on the field was nothing to write home about, which probably wasn’t helped by the low 1-0 scoreline, but for me the atmosphere is what made the night.
Nevertheless, it would be advised that if you ever get a chance to watch a sporting event whilst in America then you should grab that opportunity with open arms; the atmosphere is something quite electric. While baseball is a big sport in its own right, the whole city lives and breathes NFL and NBA. Luck would have it that Miami Heat, the city’s basketball heroes, were playing in the NBA finals – which to the uneducated is the biggest game in the sport. They play the series over seven matches and unfortunately the first game whilst I was there was taking place in San Antonio, however, I got to experience the next best thing by watching the action live on the big screen from inside the Miami stadium. Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect as it was only the equivalent of going to a cinema to watch a big sporting event. However, the atmosphere was electric! The noise generated every time their heroes scored was deafening and a blind man could’ve sworn the game was actually taking place in that stadium rather than 1400 miles to the west. On the court, Miami pulled out all the stops with cheerleaders, fire displays and huge prize giveaways, it was absolutely amazing, I cannot begin to fathom how incredible it must be a gameday at the American Airlines arena. I have just become aware that I am a football fan writing for a website that has no affiliation with any sport, I tried my best to refrain from writing too much about it, however, it is almost impossible to live a day in Miami without it having some sort of impact on your life. The city breathes sport from its every pore. Sport in Miami is around every corner, at dinner one night, we ended up in at a restaurant called ‘Shula’s’, it is owned by the former Dolphins coach Don Shula – who famously led the team in the undefeated Super Bowl winning season of 1972, it was decorated exclusively in Miami Dolphins memorabilia. This sounds tacky, but honestly, it had a charm about it, it had even featured on the TV show Man Vs Food. To reiterate the fact this was a reputable restaurant, dinner for two cost us over $200, that was without any alcoholic beverages! As I say, a classy place in spite of the connotations connected with a restaurant being kitted out in sports gear; the food was amazing, my friend even completed the 48oz Steak challenge, despite my growing belly, I could not. However, Shula’s is not the easiest place in the world to find, It is located within a huge, classy hotel and can be difficult to locate for a Miami virgin, unfortunately for us, we found this out the hard way. Picture the scene: you’re 13; celebrating your Barmitzvah with all of your family and friends, this is one of the biggest days in your life and you and everybody you know are enjoying a fantastic night in a beautiful hotel. Then bam! The door flies open and in stride two sunburnt English lads who are kitted out as if they’re ready to step out onto centre court. You could’ve cut the tension with a knife. On the off chance that 13-year-old ever reads this… sincerest apologies, mate. Perhaps the best highlight of the trip, though, was the trip to the Everglades. It was a genuinely great trip and one that I would recommend to anyone who is fascinated by mother earth and nature.
The trip itself only lasts a couple of hours, but that is plenty of time to enjoy it. Within that time you get to fly across the marshland on a propeller boat and are virtually guaranteed to see a host of wildlife – including turtles and alligators during the adventure. Once off the boat, there is a small wildlife museum that ends with an alligator demonstration, For those who want to get up close and personal with wildlife, there is also the opportunity to take a photo with a baby alligator. I won’t lie and say it is the best excursion I’ve ever done, but if you’re ever in Miami then you’d be foolish to pass up the opportunity. Once back to the main part of the city there are probably two key places of interest. One is downtown, which is actually quite a lovely little area. You will find a number of franchises such as Hard Rock Cafe, Bubba Gump’s and Hooters, but you can equally find some quieter and unique places to wine and dine while looking out at the water. There are also city boat tours available from this area. Although, the backdrop of sunlight beaming over skyscrapers onto the water is more than enough to keep most satisfied. The other, is Ocean Drive just off of South Beach. This area is a tourist hub and there is constantly something going on there. The nightlife is fantastic and Miami offered another first as I regularly frequented a bar that essentially became an outside nightclub after 9PM.
As you can imagine, a group of 20 lads have some great stories to tell from that one. Unfortunately, a lot of them aren’t suitable for print. Back to the purpose of my trip, the football was predictably disappointing. However, I did get my hands on the World Cup trophy! (Replica).
Next up on this football fan’s adventure: Brazil for the FIFA World Cup!
I love following Liams adventures through his twitter account: @thatliamnewman
Show him some love over there, if we’re nice enough, he might even share his adventures from the beautiful Brazil. Go England! Score goals. (I really don’t know football).