Soccer finally came to Boise on last Saturday in the form of the Basque Soccer Friendly between Athletic Bilbao and the Club Tijuana, and it was cool! The only reason that it wasn’t TOTALLY AWESOME is that Bayern München wasn’t playing. If that was the case I would still be on such an emotional high that I would be physically incapable of generating any type of coherent thought, let alone a blog post. Even though we aren’t fans of either team playing, it was very cool to see soccer in Boise. We haven’t been to a soccer game since we lived in Germany, and this event was a giant breath of fresh air.
Why did we decide to pay good money to watch two teams that we could care less about play? We actually decided to go to the game for two reasons. First, just because we wanted to see a good soccer game, regardless of who was playing. Second, to support soccer in the area and hopefully help show anyone paying attention that Boise does in fact like it. After all, it would be super-duper awesome if a professional soccer team were to come to Boise, even if it was at a lower level than MLS. What it would have to be though is a team that the whole Treasure Valley can really get behind that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to take the whole family to. Then a pro team would thrive here.
Speaking of price, I actually think anyone using attendance of the Basque Soccer Friendly as a gauge for soccer interest in Boise should take cost into account. The cheapest ticket to the game was $35, and that was general admission. By comparison, the lowest ticket price to see the Portland Timbers is $18. Why is this important? For one, lower ticket prices attract more people. Second, I think $35 for General admission to watch a game without a hometown team, and also no Manchester United or Real Madrid level teams (no disrespect to Athletic Bilbao), is a lot to ask. I understand that the pricing for this event was probably a bit atypical considering it was a one time thing, and I am certainly not bashing them for it. I am merely saying you have to consider that tickets for normal home team games would and should not cost that much. Third, the combination of lower ticket prices and a home team with home-grown fans would result in totally different attendance numbers. But as it stands, the 21,948 in attendance at the Basque Friendly would have been a mere 56 people short of a sell-out at the Portland Timbers’ home that is Providence Park. Do I think that means that Boise would immediately sell enough tickets to warrant having an MLS team? Not necessarily. But we have to be realistic about the numbers. A game with no local teams and higher than average ticket prices still sold almost as much as the Portland Timbers, one of the most popular teams in the MLS. I do, however, think that with the right strategy and time to get the Treasure Valley behind a potential home team that Boise could support an MLS team. Don’t believe me? Look at BSU Football attendance. All you need is a passionate fan base.
But enough of me squawking about a permanent team in Boise, let’s talk about the game that actually took place here. We weren’t sure what to expect when we showed up at Albertsons Stadium, but we were pleasantly surprised to see a very lively crowd as soon as we hit the parking lot. I don’t know if soccer games normally have tailgaters, but this one did. And plenty of them. As we made our way to the gate and inside the stadium we saw plenty of Tijuana and Athletic Bilbao fan, but also a lot of USA, Mexico, Manchester United, Real Madrid, Bayern München, and various MLS teams jerseys. We even saw 1 Dortmund jersey. Now normally when we go watch Eintracht Trier play we get bratwurst (in brötchen) and a Bitburger, which we naturally couldn’t get here. We did, however, find an acceptable alternative in the form of a good polish sausage and a Bud Light. I’m glad it was good too, because the concession stands were the only thing wrong with the whole deal. But man were they wrong. You know when the wait for beer is longer than the wait for the bathroom that something is definitely awry. After that we finally made our way to our seats and prepared for the game.
The game itself was entertaining. Being Bayern fans we had decided to sit with the Bilbao fans, for European solidarity of course. That worked out well for us since Bilbao scored 2 goals in the first half. It’s always more fun to sit on the winning side, right? The crowd reactions were very different from what we are used to though. There were of course the usual cheers for goals, oohs and aahs for “almost goals” and such, and groans for some of the ref’s calls. That’s not the part that was weird though, it was the slower parts of the game where it got quiet. Not silent mind you, but still very quiet. At Trier games, you see, there is noise the ENTIRE time. That is of course thanks in large part to the supporters club who bang on a drum, chant, and cheer non-stop. But there is noise, and plenty of it. I think my wife’s cousin put it best when he said “nothing beats an Eintracht Trier game!” Especially when you consider that Trier is only a semi-pro club (but then again we might be a little biased, lol). So when the Bilbao-Tijuana game was quiet it was a very odd feeling, that I personally think goes back to neither team being from Boise.
With halftime a few minutes away, I set off to beat the crowds to the donuts and beer stands. Why donuts you ask? Well in the Boise area they have these amazing fresh donut stands that pop up at every event we go to. To make it worse, I think they are stalking me with the sole purpose to break my will and destroy my waist size. Maybe not, but it sounds good. Anyway, there were apparently a lot of people reading my mind because the line for donuts was looooong. I thought about just getting some beer and going back to watch the game but the beer line was even longer so I figured getting donuts would occupy me long enough that the beer line would then be reasonable. Man was I wrong. After I waited in line for 20 minutes or more I missed my chance to buy any beer. Apparently they had decided that no beer could be sold after the 65th minute, so they had people preventing anyone new from getting in line. No beer for me. Did I mention the beer wasn’t for me in the first place? Somebody’s got to drive home after all. Boy did that look selfish when I came back with my donuts, and withOUT my wife’s beer. Luckily my logic with the donut line was sound and all was forgiven. The things that happen while you are waiting for donuts aren’t all bad though. By the time I got back to my wife she had made some new friends. And not just any friends, but another German-American couple. Imagine the odds of that. It is entirely possible that the Bayern jerseys increased the odds, since that’s what spurred them to talk to my wife, but who’s counting. So after a second half filled with bilingual conversation, cinnamon-sugar donuts, and a Facebook friend request, the first ever International Soccer Friendly in Boise came to an end and we made our way (surprisingly) quickly back to the parking lot where we said goodbye to our new friends.
After all was said done it was very nice evening and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. The only thing that wasn’t tip-top was the concession stand wait times. Other than that the organisers can be proud of the event they put together, and I think Boise and the Treasure Valley can be proud of their support of it. It was really nice to have soccer in Boise, and hopefully there will be more in the future. But maybe without the donuts.