SPORTS is perhaps the most dramatic, exciting and emotional rollercoaster ride one can indulge in. Sports has all the elements to produce heroes and make villains; create history or send an entire nation in shock; bring tears to the eyes of the millions or produce sheer madness and ecstatic celebrations.
Football World Cups are the most loved and admired events on our planet; Olympics create new champions every four years and the madness of Cricket World Cups across the cricket playing nations is beyond words. Sports is also a great purpose to travel and explore the planet with a genuine motto of supporting your country or to simply revel in the greatest drama of our world.
If you have a desire to revel in the legendary sporting obsession and want to experience the sheer madness, excitement, passion; then you must visit the following destinations once in your life:
“Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it’s much more serious than that”. – Bill Shankly
Brazil (Football): The South American Country is the 5-time world cup winner and is the birthplace of legendary stars like Pele, Socrates, Zico, Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Kaka, Ronaldinho, Cafu, Dida, Roberto Carlos and the current crop of international stars like Neymar, David Luis, Thiago Silva and many more. Football is Brazil and vice versa! Be it the narrow favelas, beaches, rainforests, colonial cities and country side, everywhere football reigns supreme!
Experience: Catch a glimpse of Brazil’s rich football history and the national heartbreak with a tour of the iconic Maracana Stadium. Catch the fierce rivalry of Corinthians and São Paulo clubs. Indulge in the obsession of football with the highly skilled locals at the narrow favelas of Rio, urban spaces of Sao Paulo and on the beautiful beaches.
England (Football): England is considered the birthplace of the game of football, even though China argues that the game began years ago and has claimed the title officially from FIFA, but its England and always England which started the game for factory workers and glammed-up the game. The country has one of the oldest associations, clubs and the oldest running domestic cup competition in the world. Even though, the typical aristocratic, traditional, rigid English football has won the world cup only once but they have the best professional football league in the world.
Experience: Enjoy a tour of the Wembley Stadium, the iconic setting for the Three Lions’s international matches. Catch a tour of the FA National Football Museum in Manchester and check out the Theatre of Dream, the legendary Old Trafford Stadium of Manchester United. Catch the fierce London Derby featuring Chelsea and Arsenal or simply enjoy the ecstatic atmosphere of a Manchester United – Liverpool game. Make yourself comfortable in any bar or pub of London and enjoy the collective ‘ooos’ and ‘aahs’ while supporting your favourite team.
“A gun is no more dangerous than a cricket bat in the hands of a madman”. – Prince Philip
India (Cricket): India, the land of diversity is surprisingly bound by the love of cricket which is not even the national sport of the country but albeit, the most successful one in the recent times. The two time world champions are the leading nation in the cricket world and has one of the most influential boards, a highly structured domestic league and a passion of the game which is evident in the entire country. Cricket influences the national mood, GDP, economy and foreign policy of India. Here, a retirement of a legend stopped the nation on its track and a world cup victory in 2011 created amazing scenes.
Experience: Catch a game of cricket with the local kids at any of the parks, narrow lanes and streets and enjoy the quintessential Indian experience. Watch a match of Indian Cricket Team at any stadium in Indian cities. Make a trip to Mumbai’s famed Shivaji Park, the nursery of Indian cricket. Catch the month-long event of IPL at any of the country’s restaurant, pubs and bars.
“You only live once but if you play Hockey, once is enough”.
Netherlands (Hockey): The small, western European nation of Netherlands has a rich history of football and broken dreams in repeated world cups but when it comes to field hockey, they are simply one of the best in the world. Netherlands have bagged 3 Hockey World Cups, 8 Champions Trophy, 3 European Championships and 2 Olympics Gold medal in the sport, which requires tremendous skills, speed and great tactical discipline. Netherlands also have the best structured local hockey leagues which produces some of the best talents and coaches in the game.
Experience: Catch a local league game of hockey and enjoy the highly electric and vociferous crowd support. Revel in the game of speed, skills and some powerful drag flicks. Play a game with the local kids and test your stick work and stamina.
“Keep your eye on the ball, even when it’s in the referee’s pocket”. – Christy Ring
Ireland (Hurling): Hurling is the national sport of Ireland and is one of the most peculiar sports around the planet. The game involves a bit of football, cricket, hockey, basketball and rugby is an amazing package which includes high velocity, end-to-end stuff with a typical Irish flavour, making it arguably the world’s fastest sport. The excitement is relentless and physical fitness needs to be prime to sustain the game which lasts till 70 minutes.
Experience: Hurling is a part of the national Irish consciousness and it’s widely accepted and played in the Ireland’s schools, colleges, universities, villages, towns and cities. Catch a game of the Allianz National Hurling League and All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship. Experience the amazing spectacle which is rated 2nd by CNN in the best sporting spectacle of the planet after the Olympics.
“I went to a fight the other night, and a hockey game broke out”. – Rodney Dangerfield
Canada (Ice Hockey): Ice Hockey is perhaps the ideal sport for Canada which is bound by stunning natural beauty, mountains, lakes and snow. Ice Hockey also challenges the general perception of the polite, tender and gentle Canadians as the game is aggressive and also leads to heavy punches, tackles and penalty bins. The Canadians have performed well in Ice Hockey by winning 9 gold medals in the Winter Olympics, 24 World Championships and 1 Ice Hockey World Cup. Ice Hockey is also the national sport of Canada and has a fierce rivalry with next door neighbour, USA and Russia.
Experience: Catch a league match of NHL, the most exciting Ice Hockey league in the world and opt for a game featuring a Canadian side and an American side to enjoy the patriotic feelings and distinguished crowd support by the local Americans and Canadians.
Basketball, Baseball and American Football
“There is no such thing as a perfect basketball player, and I don’t believe there is only one greatest player either”. – Michael Jordan
USA (Basketball, Baseball and American Football): No country on the planet comes close to the USA for their penchant to create highly successful professional leagues, star players and sports marketing. Be it the National Basketball League (NBA), Major League Baseball (MLB), National Football League (NFL) and the growing stature of one of the most promising and highly growing Major League Soccer (MLS), USA is certainly the best country to enjoy the sporting obsession of the sports which are typical American and forms a key part in the country’s consciousness.
Experience: Check out the fan following and support of the local teams when they feature in MLS, MLB, NLF or NBA. Enjoy a game of basketball with the locals which is evident in each and every American cities along with baseball. Enjoy the high school and college countrywide competition of American Football which looks like a mixture of rugby with heavy impact and physical contact.
“Rugby is great. The players don’t wear helmets or padding; they just beat the living daylights out of each other and then go for a beer. I love that”. – Joe Theismann
New Zealand (Rugby): Rugby, the national sports of New Zealand also forms a key psyche of the nation. The Black Caps are the reigning champions of the sport, especially after winning the highly charged-up Rugby World Cup in 2011. The aggressive and traditional ‘Hakka’ war dance performed by the Kiwis before the start of the game is one of the amazing spectacles to enjoy. The Hakka is also a great respect to the aboriginal population of the New Zealand known as ‘Maori people’. Rugby and Haka are the testimony to the effective integration of the native Maori population with the mainstream population.
Experience: Learn the traditional Maori war dance of Hakka, enjoy a game of rugby with the locals and catch the famed Black Caps in action against their arch-rivals Australia. Admire their passion for rugby, which define New Zealand.
“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers”. – Nelson Mandela
South Africa (Outdoors): The Rainbow Nation has a great penchant for outdoors and sports. Swimming, Cricket, Football, Hockey, Athletics and plenty of adventure sports. South Africans have a great competitive streak and have an undying craving for the outdoors. Trekking, hiking, surfing are the added charm along with the regular sports. South Africa rose to the limelight with the famous success of the Springboks, the National Rugby Team’s success. The country also hosted one of the most colourful and eventful Football World Cup in 2010 and has been a major force in the cricket world.
Experience: Join the locals and simply revel in their love of sports and outdoors. Catch a local football match with the natives, Enjoy a game of cricket featuring the Proteas, the National Cricket Team. You can also enjoy the world class water sports and adventure activities.
“I think it’s better to attempt something and fail than it is to not even attempt it, so I’m glad that I’ve been prepared to put myself on the line there”. – Ian Thorpe
Australia (Sporting Culture): Australia has a highly determined competitive sporting streak, be it on the field of cricket or in the unfamiliar territory of the Football World Cup, The Aussies just don’t want to lose any game. The never say die attitude of field coupled with a world class sporting infrastructure and training has propelled Australia to greater heights in the field of sports. The Baggy Greens have won 5 World Cups in cricket, Asian football championship, Hockey World Cups and have been consistent performers in the Olympics. Australians have a penchant for sports and an undying love to represent the country and making the nation proud.
Experience: Catch the Australian Cricket Team in action in Sydney or Melbourne. Enjoy the hottest tennis Grand Slam, the Australian Open. Enjoy the buzzing and newly resurging A-League, which is one of the fastest growing football Leagues of Asia/ Oceania. Enjoy the sport of rowing and waters sports in Yarra River, surfing in the Bondi beaches and compete with the local Aussies and simply experience the amazing competitive streak.