Whoever is in China for the ongoing Beijing Olympic Games is having the thrill of their life.
Before my trip to China’s capital, Beijing, I was very green about the ecstasy of watching a game in an effervescent arena because I had only watched one big live game in a stadium.
If I remember correctly, that particular game pitted Rwanda’s soccer giants APR against title pretenders Kiyovu in last year’s Peace Cup at Amahoro stadium.
APR won the tie and also went on to win the Cup.
Well, in Beijing, I got the honor of going to the Tianjin Olympic Center stadium, which is located in the city of Tianjin, one of the co-host cities of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
After spending the entire day (August 19) touring Tianjin, which is 120km from Beijing, I was finally headed for the stadium to watch a Group E game between China and Canada ladies’ teams.
Because the Chinese ladies’ soccer team had received massive hype in the papers that day, somehow I had been engulfed in the whole excitement.
My first glance at the stadium brought back memories of Arsenal’s emirates stadium. It was that sparkling and just couldn’t wait to get inside.
It took me five minutes to find my way in. I’ve never felt an environment quite like that.
The sparkling Tianjin Stadium began to buzz an hour before kickoff. The 60,000 seater was packed to capacity with Chinese fans eating up over 98% of the seats.
But it didn’t feel like much of a home stadium for the Chinese. The Chinese had no answer for the pressure Canada frequently created upfront. However, the hosts thrived on the home support that time and again left the stadium shaking.
I had never experienced anything like that. The excitement of it, the anxiety of it and the anticipation was just crazy.
The game ended in a 1-1 draw to put China in a good position of topping their group that also features Sweden and Argentina.
I now know why home teams time and again bank on home support. But that support will be put to test today when China get tested by Brazil in the final group C game in the men’s category.