A Beggar For Good Soccer: Back On The Road

Jessica returns to Europe

As soon as I quit my job in April, I started planning my spring trip. Because I had already been to matches in England and Germany, I barred myself from going back to either of those countries – I needed to branch out. But while I was on that trip I had one eye on Europe and the UK, knowing deep down that I would come back before I rejoined the working world

I decided to start my trip during the September international break, which allowed me to visit Ireland, Northern Ireland and Wales in addition to catching the opening weekend of the Women’s Super League in England.

I started with the Ireland vs Montenegro Women’s Euro 2021 qualifier at Tallaght stadium in the Dublin suburbs, a match which Ireland’s President Michael D. Higgins also attended, shaking hands with each player prior to kickoff. Ireland won 2-0.

I took a train north to Belfast, Northern Ireland, the next day. Whereas Ireland had seemed more focused on Gaelic football and rugby, Belfast was clearly more focused on Association football. Tributes to George Best were prominent, as were Glasgow Rangers flags. Northern Ireland’s Men’s national team were sitting at the top of their Euro 2020 qualifying group when I went to Windsor Park for their friendly against Luxembourg, which they won 1-0 as they prepared for their upcoming Euro Qualifier against Germany.

When the FA announced that the opening weekend of the Women’s Super League would feature matches at Etihad Stadium and Stamford Bridge, I knew I had to be there.

As soon as the £7 tickets for Manchester City Women vs Manchester United Women went on sale at the beginning of July, I secured mine and booked a flight from Belfast to Manchester. A crowd of 31,213 would show up on the day to watch as City beat the WSL Debutants 1-0.

The next morning, I took the train south to London for the Chelsea Women vs Tottenham Hotspur Women match at Stamford Bridge. All of the free tickets for the match had been claimed. Chelsea took an early lead and would hold on to win 1-0 in front of 24,564 people.

With a few days remaining in the international break, I headed west to Wales. The men’s national team had just secured a big win over Azerbaijan in Euro qualifying, but I would be attending their friendly against Belarus at Cardiff City Stadium. Daniel James scored a belter in the home of the Bluebirds and Wales won 1-0.

Follow Jessica’s travels in real time at @jessicamalone85.