Football Fever

By - June 19, 2006 (Updated: November 29, 2014)

Here in Europe, you’d have to live under a rock to not notice that the World Cup is in progress, but those who live on the rocks back home in Eastern Canada aren’t even likely to know what the World Cup is all about.

Football fever has hit Europe and even though the Belgian team has failed to qualify, it’s hard to miss the buzz.

Walking down the street and peering into window displays you can see clothing, banners and even food sporting a football theme. (Chocolate soccer balls anyone?)

Back home in Canada, football isn’t even the same sport. To us, football is a bunch of beefy guys in loads of padding trying to tackle one another. European football is called soccer and it’s a sport many Canadians play in school, but few follow it on a national level — probably because we’re too busy watching Hockey Night in Canada.

The Canadian National Soccer Team has only made it to the World Cup once, back in 1986. It was quite a showing. It seems that we failed to score one goal and finished dead last.

I am assured by Wikipedia that our team has been rebuilding itself with younger players in the hopes of making it to World Cup 2010 and that we have a strong women’s team.

I’ll have to take their word for it. I confess as I’ve never been much of a sports fan. I was always one of the final kids chosen for team sports (just before the class bully and the kid who picked his nose and flung boogers at the girls — thank goodness I wasn’t last).

I may never fully understand soccer (or football for that matter), but it’s hard not to get swept up in ‘Football Fever’ here on the continent. Frankly, the fervour of the football fans fascinates me.

My first experience with European football was watching the Dutch national team, Oranje, play against the Americans, in Amsterdam.

It was like being at a convention of hunters. I have never seen so much bright orange in my life. Then there were the hats — everything from inflatable windmills to giant stuffed lion’s heads. It was impossible not to get caught up in the excitement.

Even though the Belgian team failed to qualify for the World Cup this year (for the first time in 28 years), there is no shortage of football in Brussels. Fans of every team imaginable compete for seats in pubs with big screen TVs.

Andrew and I caught the US v Czech game from a picnic table in Place Luxemburg. There was beer and BBQ and loads of competition for seats. Although there was lots of English spoken around us, the fans seemed to be cheering loudly for both teams.

Once the game was over and the English patrons started leaving, their places were quickly snapped up by Italians waiting for the next game.

I may never be a huge sports fan, but I have to admit, an outdoor pub in Brussels is a much nicer place to enjoy a game than a freezing hockey rink.

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Alison Cornford-Matheson
Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of She is the author of The Foodie Guide to Brussels: Local Tips for Restaurants, Shops, Hotels, and Activities. Alison landed in Belgium in 2005 and, over the years, has become passionate about slow and sustainable travel, in Europe and beyond. She loves to discover hidden gems - be they museums, shops, restaurants, castles, gardens or landscapes, and share them through her words and photos. She has visited 45 countries and is currently slow travelling through North America in an RV, with her husband, Andrew, and two well-travelled cats. You can also follow her work on Google+
Alison Cornford-Matheson
- 4 days ago


  1. Comment by Di

    Alison Cornford-Matheson

    Di June 20, 2006 at 18:25

    Travel safe, have fun and stock up on the stuff you need … what was it, a foaming cheese?

  2. Comment by christina

    Alison Cornford-Matheson

    christina June 22, 2006 at 20:03

    Mmm…foaming cheese.
    Hope you have a great time. We’ll be crossing the pond in four weeks time.

  3. Comment by Kim

    Alison Cornford-Matheson

    Kim June 30, 2006 at 20:00

    Hope you’re having a wonderful vacation! Mine will be the opposite of yours… first to Nova Scotia then to Toronto! (starting Aug 4)

  4. Comment by Shannon

    Alison Cornford-Matheson

    Shannon July 3, 2006 at 12:22

    Hey, I miss you… come home already!

  5. Comment by Patricia

    Alison Cornford-Matheson

    Patricia July 5, 2006 at 18:32

    Hello to Alison & Andrew!
    Michael and I had a fabulous time with you in June and cannot believe that Belgium gets any cooler than 20c!! It is a beautiful country – thank you so much for being a most welcome host and guide during our time there! We are now drinking fizzy water (found it at the Superstore!) and miss having our ‘every hour on the half hour’ cafe breaks!
    Thank you again for everything – you made our trip to Europe everything that we were hoping it to be. Unfortunately, we did not bring the nice, hot weather back with us to Nova Scotia. We are hoping July will be the month of sun here.
    Take care to you both and have a wonderful summer!
    Patricia (& Michael)

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