If there is one thing that can bring the English together in a rare display of patriotism and then quickly tear them apart into barbaric factions, it’s football.

Football players are basically national heroes (unlike in America where we pretty much just know David Beckham and that’s likely because he poses in a lot of places in his underwear). Premiership matches bring out tens of thousands of supporters to the venues, and the World Cup is an excuse to not work for two weeks.

I had the chance to go to an England match at Wembley Stadium, so I thought it was probably time for:

An American Girl’s Guide to English Football

When first walking towards the stadium, you are swept up in a sea of fans and a few bored-looking girlfriends making their way to the entrance. How are all these people going to fit into the stadium, you ask yourself. Is this a fire hazard? Has the rest of the country shut down so every man, woman, and child can show up tonight?

wembleycrowded

Once you’ve climbed the never-ending steps and made a pact with your wheezing self to lay off the Freddos, you then walk about six miles around the outside of the venue to find your block.

wembleyturnstiles
Finally, the promised land.

footballturnstile
Wait, sorry, is this the entrance or a torture chamber? Are you supposed to contortion yourself in there? What if you get stuck in mid rotation and have to spend the rest of the night in a metal cage and OKAY, OKAY, I’M GOING THROUGH.

Right before kickoff, the teams will come out on the field with some small children in tow and sing national anthems. I don’t really understand this part, but it’s the cutest part of the game so PAY ATTENTION and don’t say “Aww” too loud or your seatmates will immediately judge you. This is not from past experience.

godsavethequeen

During the match, it’s best to just follow the lead of the crowd and cheer/boo as appropriate. If the referee makes call that is at all questionable, you should mutter various obscenities under your breath and complain to the person next to you that this is the worst call you’ve ever seen. Keep repeating at various points when your team is losing. For the sake of the ritual, it doesn’t actually matter if it’s really the worst call you’ve ever seen.

When your team scores, feel free to do the knee-jerk leap into the air with your hands up like you just don’t care. Then quickly sit back down because this is England and dramatic displays of emotion are only allowed to last 10 seconds or less. I think it’s a law.

goalscore
The most important reaction to memorize is the “my team almost scored, but messed it up at the end” reaction. When it looks like your team is doing well, cheer them on and shout words of encouragement. Clap as they get closer and closer to the goal. Then–and this is important–when their kick gets blocked or they pass to the wrong person or the plan otherwise fails, instantly shout insults their way. Berate them for their mistakes and remember that you are the football expert, not them. Just because they get paid or otherwise recruited to be on that field doesn’t mean you couldn’t do the same. You were on a recreational team from the ages of 9-11 and you scored THREE goals in your career, so, really, they should be begging you for advice.

wembley-england-belgium
At half time, there will likely be some sort of announcer, a “brand new car” and 5-10 audience members on the field looking lost. Perhaps they will have to answer a trivia question or kick a ball into a net that is far enough away that no one will win, or maybe they will have to run around the field wearing a ridiculous costume. You aren’t obligated to pay attention, but feel free to laugh along and/or be grateful that you are not currently embarrassing yourself in front of 50,000 people.

wembleyhalftime
The end of the match is a tricky one. If your team wins, you may jump up and cheer for your maximum allotted 10 seconds, and then you must instantly make a negative comment about your team so they don’t think too much of themselves. If your team loses, skip to the negative comment and then suggest to your seatmate that you head to the local pub to drink away the pain. If it’s a draw, you are free to make negative comments about a)your team, b)the other team, c)how much money you paid to get in, d)how much time you have wasted watching a game with an unsatisfying outcome.

You are then allowed to ask when the next match is, because obviously you wouldn’t miss it for the world.

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