It is a rare thing now for me to watch a major football tournament in my home country. Watching sport from abroad is a different experience from the switch on the TV and there’s the game comfortable sofa slump that can be indulged in at home.
The World Cup finals in 2002 were spent ordering beers at 6am from the bar staff of the highest Irish pub in the world in Cusco (though Rosie O’Gradys a couple of blocks away at the same altitude must surely share the prize) until Ronaldinho lobbed David Seaman from the halfway line to send us home to begin our day in disappointment.
Four years later we were living in Corfu Town where large screen TV screens were pleasantly absent from the bars and restaurants in the town. Pleasant that is until I wanted to watch 22 chaps chase around after a ball. Though we could watch Greek TV in our room the lairy resort of Kavos – at the bottom end of the island – is an hour’s bus ride away to provide the noisy partisan atmosphere that makes watching Peter Crouch pull a Trinidadian’s dreadlocks to score all the more enjoyable.
The last three tournaments we have lived in Turkey. While I have wiped World Cup 2010 from memory, England’s absence from the 2008 European Championships was eased by having a ready-made team to support as Turkey enjoyed an exciting journey to the semi-finals.
Though they ultimately lost Turkish fans celebrated their unexpected progress in the tournament by packing themselves inside (and outside) of their cars, driving up and down the town’s main road to honk their horns and maniacally wave Turkish flags.
None of us travel to sit in front of the TV and understand that on a long trip a large chunk of the sports season is going to be missed. Nevertheless there are times when, no matter what, we must find a way to watch the big game.
Here are five ways to watch sport abroad:
On your TV
Should you wish to call the players sons of a thousand bitches and shout at the screen that they go make the kangaroo mimic inside their sister’s pussy then it might be best to do it privately in front of your own TV. Expats are likely to have their own but many cheap hotel rooms will also have one. The commentary is likely to be in the local language but this can be part of the fun: goal, goal, goal, goal, goal…
TV in a bar
It isn’t difficult to find a large screen TV in backpacker areas and holiday resorts. Most major cities will also have at least one expat bar. Time zone variations may make run of the mill games difficult to catch but many bars will open in the small hours for major tournaments if it is good for business. Again football will dominate but fans of cricket, Formula 1 and rugby should also be able to catch some games and races while Americans must hope they can find a sports bar somewhere.
While Wandering Earl is lamenting that travellers have stopped talking to each other, the prevalence of laptops makes it easy not just to keep in touch with family back home but also our team.
Though the pop up polka we play when trying to get a decent stream is annoying, closing down irritating ads is a small price to pay for not paying for an illegal feed. The viewing experience can sometimes be hit and miss. Searching for a stream that fulfils all the necessary criteria of decent sound, picture, speed and the right language can lead to missing chunks of the game, especially if the feed is caught on and removed before full time but when it works well it can feel like a little miracle.
iPhone FilmOn app
Another little miracle is the FilmOn TV app for the iPhone that shows live TV. Among its channels is BBC 1 and 2 so there is no longer any need to miss Match of the Day, the Grand National, Wimbledon or Champions League coverage on ITV. There is a new version of the app since I wrote that review so ignore the link and instead search iTunes.
Last and least are minute by minute reports. This last resort is when you need to experience the game vicariously through the eyes of another. If you can’t see the game then read about events as they happen via some cynical hack with a keyboard and a television.
Many newspapers and websites do their own version but by far the best are the ones offered up by the Guardian.
There are two more options I haven’t tried. The first involves opening an account with an online betting company. Reportedly customers can watch games for free but, as someone who only bets £1 each way on the Grand National once a year, I cannot verify this.
Lastly, try using a Virtual Personal Network (VPN) service. Users typically pay a monthly fee to trick British and American websites, like Hulu or the BBC iPlayer, into thinking you are using the internet in your home country. Living in China, Unbrave Girl Sally used a VPN to spend more quality time with her couch watching Dance Moms America*.
* No, I don’t know either**
** Or want to