A Trip to Loftus Road

By Christopher Boulay

For someone who is very familiar with the English version of football, what we call ‘soccer’ in the United States, when I found out that I had the opportunity to go see a match during my trip with my British Journalism class over break, I knew that this would be special.

I have seen my beloved Liverpool F.C. play Glasgow Celtic F.C. in 2004 at Rentschler Field, as well as having seen the United States play Latvia during their “send-off match” before the 2006 World Cup. If you read The Recorder often, you probably notice that a majority of my writing is soccer-based, so it is a passion of mine.

Queens Park Rangers, a London club, played their league counterpart Derby County F.C. in the Coca Cola Championship over Spring Break. The match was big, as though both clubs are pretty much out of the race for the promotion play-off, they both still have a bit of a fight for the hope to stay afloat in the Championship. Going into the match, QPR was 17th and Derby was 18th, with only a point separating each side.

We were staying in the Bloomsbury section of London, not far from Loftus Road, QPR’s 19,000-seat stadium in the West London section of Shepherd’s Bush, and we would only be on the Underground for a short time. We got off of the tube and made our way toward the ground, and then we started to see nothing but blue scarves, kits and jackets…we had arrived.

The pubs on the street were filled with blue and white-clad supporters eating their ceremonial pies and drinking pints of what I imagined was incredible beer. Turning the corner, the city atmosphere was gone, and the feeling of a residential, tight-knit community was prevalent all around. We met up with the crowd marching toward the bright floodlights and the excitement built.

Tickets were a bit steep, £30 for an adult, and £20 for anyone 21 and under. That’s approximately $44 for an adult and $30 for anyone 21 and under. It would prove to be absolutely worth it.

Queens Park Rangers' Loftus Road

The food was very English, to say the least (not that I expected anything less). Steak and kidney pie with potato chips and a Carlsberg made for a well balanced dinner. Ironically, alcohol is sold at the ground, despite the Football Association (the governing body of English football) having a ban of alcohol at all football grounds. The actual ban isn’t the sale of the alcohol, but the prevention of being able to bring the alcohol into the stands. A weird rule to say the least, but it was definitely a cool sight to see fans line up in the tunnel around the stand to eat and get a couple drinks in before the match.

The weather was typical, driving rain. The field conditions were treacherous, but nothing that the average English footballer wasn’t already used to. The match began with a roar and loud applause for every player that marched onto the pitch. Though, despite the home crowd being much bigger, the Derby supporters came with well-rested voices, as the hour and a half train ride didn’t damper their spirits.

The Derby Rams’ faithful sang for the entire match, actually outdoing the home crowd. This wasn’t a big surprise though, as with the size of the stadium and the loudness of the local supporters, Derby had no choice. Not that they would have it any differently, though.

QPR had the majority of the first half chances, including a flurry of near goals in the first five minutes. The Rangers showed whose house it was quite well in the first half, both on the pitch and in the stands. Adel Taarabt whipped a pass to Lee Cook to get the home side on top right before the halftime whistle, which made the crowd absolutely erupt, a feeling I haven’t experienced at a match in years.

Halftime came and went, and because of the late goal, there was a buzz about the crowd, and it seemed only a matter of time before QPR got one or two more. Derby supporters were attempting to get their club back into it with the ever-familiar chant of “Come on Derby!,” which was answered with the extremely amusing response from the QPR fans: “F*ck off Derby!”

Some of the things said in both frustration and jubilation by the home crowd aren’t printable in this publication, but anyone who is a football supporter the world over, just think of some of the most amusing things you have heard while in the stands, you will know exactly what I mean.

Even a string of absolutely awful calls by the referee got the crowd very upset, going as far as chanting “The referee’s a wanker” repeatedly multiple times during the second half.

The match would turn a bit negative for QPR, as Derby was able to equalize in the 67th minute, from a nice goal from Shaun Barker. The supporters began to worry. Even a small boy behind where I was sitting was becoming impatient, yelling at every little thing that happened on the pitch.

QPR had one more quality opportunity with five minutes remaining, which everyone, including myself thought would go in. It was all for naught, as the ball sailed and struck the crossbar. The match ended 1-1, not helping either club in their attempt to finish in a respectable position in the table, but it was far from a boring match.

One thing that I realized by being in a foreign place, seeing the supporters on their home turf, is how diehard the fans are. There is something about football supporters when they are in their environment that makes them like no other. The energy is unmatched in any sport in America, and this comes from someone who is probably too much of a sports fan.

But sports fans all speak two languages: success and despair. Though the club played well, the supporters were in full-fledged panic mode. One supporter came up to me with a very worried face and said, “We are not out of the relegation battle yet.” Another I overheard saying, “I come here every match and give everything for this club, and yet they still find ways to disappoint us.”

These people absolutely love their club. There is just something very special about such a tight knit community that know no sport but their own, and no club but their own. It is incomparable to any sporting situation in America because of this. You don’t have to be a huge soccer fan like I am to enjoy an experience like this. You just get taken up by the crowd and can’t help but love it.

Liverpool may be my first love when it comes to football, but after watching this match at Loftus Road, there will always be a little place in the far corner of my heart that will be for QPR.