The last time England won the World Cup (that’s soccer, ma’am) was in 1966. As luck would have it, I was with my family in England at the time and got to see it happen. The entire country was, and is, mad for the game, and every pub and several store windows had the games on more or less constantly as England made their way to the final and then defeated what was then West Germany 4-2 for the win. Cue the pandemonium!

My birth city of Colchester has not fared well at English football, bobbing up and down between the third and fourth division for most of its existence, so they are not much of a team to support. And frankly, I can’t get behind all the moneyed teams like ManU. and Chelsea. Recently Newcastle United was bought out by the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, infamous for ordering the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. So despite having a niece in Newcastle, it is hard to get behind a team like that as well.

Moving to Horsham has given me another option. Brighton is just down the road from us and is a charming little seaside town filled with winding streets and little cafes. It also is the site of a brand-new football stadium, sponsored by American Express that hosts the Brighton team called Albion. The Seagulls, as they are called locally, have been on a tear since the stadium was built ten years ago, and sit at fourth place in the Premier Division.

Clive, with whom I work at Teach Beyond, is more of a rugby fan than a football fan, but knowing that I was interested in seeing my first ever live game, secured tickets for us for last Saturday’s game against Newcastle. They couldn’t have been better seats. Apparently by the time he booked the 30,000-seat stadium was sold out, except for disabled seating. For 30 quid ($50 CAN) he got us seats at pitch level with an unobstructed view of the entire field!

Not willing to endure the crowds on the train, I arranged to pick him up in my car and after a delightful lunch on the way down, found a parking spot a mere twenty minutes away from the stadium. As we approached, the crowds pouring in from the trains and buses began to swell. However, the stadium is well designed and could easily manage the numbers. We found our way to our seats and settled in for what proved to be a wonderful match that went mostly Brighton’s way, much to the delight of the local fans.

There has been much fuss made over the hooliganism of British football fans. I am happy to say I saw none of that in Brighton. They sang lustily on every conceivable occasion, as did the Newcastle fans, but civility was the order of the day, and the stadium staff were most courteous and helpful as well. It was a very enjoyable experience, and one that I have waited a lifetime to see in person. It will not be the last!