A matchday experience

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By CLAY BENJAMIN
College Contributor Network

The English Premier League is one of the biggest professional sports leagues in the world, but what really goes on during a match day?

Hold on tight.

The tram ride can get a little bumpy, especially when it's packed with supporters who are on their way to the match after work.

Chants fill the inside of the tram, fans argue about who is going to be in the starting XI; everyone is getting ready for what they are about to see.

It's a Wednesday night in Manchester and the reigning Premier League champions Manchester City are hosting table bottom-feeders Leicester City in a midweek Premier League match.

As the fans enter the Etihad Campus two hours before kickoff, the concession stands open one-by-one. The City Store opens as customers stroll in to get their match day attire. Kids of all ages wander to the EA Sports booth to get their pre-game FIFA bragging rights.

An hour and a half prior to kick-off, fans swarm the outside entrance of the Colin Bell Stand to cheer on and snap pictures of their heroes who are making their entrance into the stadium.

Once the players enter the stadium, the fans themselves make their way through the turnstiles one-by-one to claim their seats. The clink of the gears ring non-stop as fan-by-fan walks in. Decibel by decibel, the stadium gets louder as the excitement and commotion grows as kick-off nears.

From before kick-off to the final whistle, the City faithful filled the Etihad. The fever of the crowd, the roar of the supporters as "Blue Moon" rang through the speakers throughout the stadium was enough to send chills up your spine. The Leicester City traveling supporters tried to cancel out City's song with chants of their own.

The feeling inside the stadium was one of solace and family. Football, the one common language we all understand; when the world stops for 90 minutes to be become witnesses to something the world can get behind. Despite a fan's race, religion or political views, for those 90 minutes, they were all Cityzens.

For all the fans in attendance, it wasn't just a game. This was about watching their heroes, having their loyalty and devotion tested; it was a battle of their beliefs and commitment; for those 90 minutes, nothing else mattered.

On the pitch, it was a scrappy game, with City struggling to find goals despite dominating possession for most of the game. For most of the first half, the boys in blue attacked the final third, but were unable to find the net.

But with the help of the fans' chants and motivation, David Silva, "El Mago," finishes a second-chance opportunity to put the defending champions up 1-0 at the stroke of halftime.

At halftime, the procession to the loo and the concession stand begins. Fans get their hot chocolate, beer and steak pies to warm themselves on a cold and windy Manchester evening. The thousands of fans become football pundits, reviewing the first 45 minutes of the match.

The fans walk back to their seats almost simultaneously as the players walk back onto the pitch. Just like the players, the fans walk side-by-side, as they are the third team involved in the match who just received their halftime talk.

A loud groan of agony when Yaya Toure's curling effort is palmed away and the belief of a second goal brought life to the fans in the second half.

Much like the first half, the boys in blue controlled much of the possession. However, a few counter attacks from Leicester were enough to strike fear and nervousness into the home supporters.

Regardless of the actions on the pitch, the supporters continued to cheer on their boys. The supporters cheered, as it was their duty too, because if they didn't, they would be failing their team.

And when James Milner slotted home a Jesus Navas cross in the 88th minute, a simultaneous sigh of relief and cheer filled the stadium as it was all but certain that the boys in blue would be leaving with three points and moving closer to Chelsea at the top of the table.

Within ten minutes of the final the whistle, the chants, the camaraderie and the passion are all a faded memory and the stadium becomes an empty shell, missing what makes it whole.

As fans go their separate ways, they get in their cars, they get in line for the empty tram to take them back to the city, but they all leave having witnessed the world's game on it's biggest stage.

Better hold on tight, the tram is crowded and it will be a bumpy ride, just like the match was.


Clay Benjamin is a sophomore in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University. He's a passionate soccer, football and baseball fan who is a scratch golfer who wants to become a play-by-play commentator. Follow him on Twitter: @ClayBenjamin_
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