I still remember the first-time I watched Chelsea play at Stamford Bridge, as clearly as if it were yesterday. I can recall how tightly I gripped my father’s hand, how uncomfortable the wooden benches were and how loud the crowd cheered. It is a memory that me and my father treasured for many years after, and one I have always looked forward to replicating with my own child.
Our son, Ezra, was born in 2010 and my wife has been restraining me from taking him down to Stamford Bridge ever since. She was right of course, as she so often is. However, with this season being a fantastic one for Chelsea so far – with them being 1.44 to win the league outright according to premier league betting website Bet365 – I was getting increasingly impatient. Especially considering that my own father had passed away soon after Chelsea’s league victory in 1997. In fact, he often joked that they must have known it was his last chance to see them emerge victorious. After-all, Chelsea is in our family’s blood, or so we like to think. It is rumoured that my great-grandfather was taken to the stadium, which was built in 1877, for Chelsea’s first match there in the early 20th century!
My wife eventually relented, soon-after Ezra’s fourth birthday, and so I decided to take him to Chelsea’s home match against Queen Park Rangers, which thankfully was a win for the home-team. Whilst it was a beautiful experience and one I will treasure as much as, if not more, than the memory of my father taking me, it was much more stressful being on the adult-side of the enterprise. Therefore, to perhaps better equip those now waiting for their turn to embark on this memory-making activity, here are some tips on how to handle taking your child to their first football match.
Bring Alternative Entertainment
As much as us Dads like to believe our children will be avid football watchers from birth, the reality is that they are toddlers with an attention-span that is erratic at best. Ezra, whilst enjoying the experience, was not interested in watching the game for the entire duration. Sure, he would happily gaze at the on-pitch action for 10 minutes or so, but then something-else would grab his attention for a while. Moreover, if you want yourself to enjoy the game, it is wise to bring an audiobook or toy for them to entertain themselves with.
Whilst we hardened spectators are used to the fluctuating temperature and conditions of a stadium, our young ones are going to be much more sensitive to these changes. Make sure to bring a few different items, of various thickness and material, to suit your child. You don’t want to have your aspiring football fan either burning-up in a heavy-coat or freezing cold in a flimsy T-shirt. It may seem obsessive, but making sure they’re comfortable and happy will improve the experience for both of you.
It is easy to dismiss this advice and think it will be easier to just pick some stuff up at the stadium. However, be weary. I found out the hard way that the combination of a hungry toddler, throbbing crowds, unfamiliar foods and long queues are not the things that pleasant half-times are made from. It is much wiser to bring some pre-made food, preferably with a treat or two for your young charge. Football stadiums are loud and overwhelming environments for some youngsters, so it is good to have something both familiar and enjoyable for them, to take the edge of the experience.