Thursday, July 26, 2012

Football at Fenway

Football at Fenway - Liverpool v Roma
(Picture by "Practice Cone")
"I stand corrected", words that don't come easily for most of us, but I found myself uttering that simple phrase after attending the 2012 edition of "Football at Fenway" yesterday between Liverpool and Roma. If you are a long-time follower of the blog you might remember back two years ago when I wrote a less than positive review of the original "Fenway Experiment" where Celtic and Sporting Lisbon played. I honestly had mixed feelings going into yesterdays match as a spectator and not a reporter, but I can say those feelings are completely one-side now to the positive.

Usually I like to try and get media passes for events like this so I can get on the field, in the interview rooms, and get a little more exposure to the teams and players; but that wasn't the case with this event. My wife, who has embraced soccer like a step-child that came with our marriage, decided to buy us tickets for the match and to make a day trip to Boston so we could take it in from a fans perspective. 


McGreevy's Pub on Boylston
We arrived in the late morning marking over by the Prudential Center and spent the first few hours hitting some shops around Copley Plaza and Newbury Street before stopping to grab lunch on Boylston Street. We decided to eat at McGreevy's, a Boston icon, home of the Dropkick Murphy's and host to pre and post game meet-ups for over a century. We found several Liverpool fans as well as some USWNT supporters who were grabbing lunch and watching the Olympic match-up between the US and France. 

As we continued our trek through Boston it was more than apparent that this town bled RED; and with the Sox on the road the red in mind was that of Liverpool. I figured we would see lots of ex-pats and Brits in town to support their team, but the shear number of random Liverpool fans and families from all over the area was amazing. We saw groups from as far away as New Brunswick, CA and Pennsylvania, but I am sure some traveled even further. The other bit of a surprise was the fair number of Roma fans who had to realize they would be outnumbered in Boston that day. The maroon and orange kits could be found on several fans walking Boylston Street in the early afternoon hours. 

"You'll Never Walk Alone" Gate at Fenway
We headed over to Fenway around mid-afternoon just to take in the street carnival like atmosphere of Lansdowne Street, which had as much if not more energy than any regular season baseball game. It's no secret that Red Sox partner, John Henry, is also the primary owner of Liverpool so it was no surprise that they rolled out the red carpet for the team and it's fans. One of the coolest things we came across was a replica of the "you'll never walk alone" iron work from Liverpool's home stadium of Anfield, located just outside Gate A to Fenway. As you could imagine the line was quite long to get a picture under the gate as fans embraced and held their scarves high as if they were really in Liverpool. There was a Beatles cover band playing outside the stadium, a chance to take penalty kicks, and even an opportunity for kids to get their heads shaved like a soccer player. 

Boston Beacons v New York Generals
NASL at Fenway circa 1968
We made our way into the stadium about an hour before kick-off and proceeded to hit every possible corner of Fenway (where fans are allowed of course) to take in the field and experience. As we were making our way up to the Green Monster we came across several pictures of old Fenway including one of the first season of the NASL in 1968 where the Boston Beacons played the New York Generals in a home game. Soccer at Fenway goes way back to the 1920's and it seems fitting that for the stadiums 100 year anniversary that they brought the game back, even if only for one night. But the reason more soccer isn't played at Fenway is simply the dimensions and conditions of the field, so I was interested to see how the 2012 version turned out.

Pre-game warm-ups
from Right Field Roof Deck
We found our way to our seats in right field just past Peskey's Pole which was within about 10 feet of the corner flag. Unlike the 2010 field that looked uneven and dry, the grounds crew clearly took the time to learn from their mistakes. If it weren't for the slightly different color between the permanent grass and the temporary sod you wouldn't be able to tell the difference. During warm-ups the teams played the ball across the seams of the grass with no noticeable change to the roll or bouncing. The issue with the goals being out of level didn't seem to be as big of a problem but the net on the third base line clearly had a bit of a slope still. The width of the field was widened slightly out to a full 75 yards, however the cost was shortening the length of the field down to just 98 yards. 

The right field stands and center field bleachers were a sea of red, Liverpool fans standing for much of the match. When newly acquired USMNT midfielder Michael Bradley scored first for Roma in the second half, fans from both teams stood and cheered as chants of "USA, USA, USA" reigned down from the stands. A second quick goal from Roma changed the tone in the Liverpool sections however a late goal by the Reds brought some hope back for a late equalizer, but it was not to be. The match ended 2-1 in Roma's favor, the experience, I'm not sure that anyone who attend could complain.

As a fan I could clearly see the allure of seeing international team's play in this non-traditional soccer stadium. Sure the field has odd dimensions, the stands are oriented for baseball, and maybe you'll never get to see the best players in action. But for Liverpool fans Fenway became Anfield for 90 minutes and give them a chance to experience a match we will all truly remember... and that's coming from a Manchester City fan.



3 comments :

  1. That first photo during the game is honestly the best photo I have seen from any media source, including Liverpool's own website.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Daniel! Not too bad for a little hand held camera. I thought it looked good when I took it.

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  2. Most of the photos zoom I've seen zoom in too far on specific elements, but you lose the whole architectural effect of Fenway without the wide sweeping shots. As you now know, Fenway is not terribly big but the jagged areas add a lot of character. Your shot takes it all in and you can see every nook and cranny and how atmospheric it is when the stadium is full.

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