Are you like me wherein you enjoy playing football / soccer when you travel, at least when you’re going to a football-loving nation? Well I do that a lot! It’s part of my travel ritual. Also since football is a global sport, it’s not too difficult to know if there would be players and places to play. It just becomes a question of ‘how do you find them’. This article aims to give you ideas on how to find local football games in Europe.
Of course this article applies to any nation even outside continent so feel free to use the same approach for any other nation. I’ll just use Europe (and Philippines actually) since these are the places I’ve had direct experience on.
I’m slowly finding that this website may be a generational thing and I may be showing my age here, but there’s meetup.com . I find that people don’t know much about this site (any more?) but it has served me very well for so many purposes, so many times.
It’s a website that lets people organize…well, meetups. And yes, futbolistas use this to organize games. It’s usually free too. Lately I’m also finding that legit football spaces / organizers are actually using this as their marketing tool. E.g.: They have an event and a website already but they’ll repost all the info in meetup to cover more people. That means that it becomes more discoverable for you, and you won’t have to go to any other website since everything’s there already!
Simply provide the location and search for football. Yes, use “football”, not “soccer”. But sure, try “soccer” too in a different search. If you don’t find much results, remember to also try searching using the local terms. E.g.: “futbol” if I was in Spain or Brazil, or “Fußball” if I was in Germany.
From personal experience, this is how I played both of my games in Paris, France in two separate trips.
No I know, it sounds “duh” and such a cop out and we all know this is given. I know you know this already but what I was just going to say I can help you with the search terms. In order to find local games, these are the search terms I’d use and suggest:
(let’s say you’re looking for games in Barcelona)
- “drop in football game Barcelona”
- “casual football game Barcelona”
- “play football Barcelona”
- “football games Barcelona”
- “6v6 football Barcelona” (or 5, 7, 8, 10, whatever you’re looking for)
- “recreational league football Barcelona” (has the least chance. In EU, they just have “league”, it’s not separated to intermediate/advanced or recreational)
- “football league Barcelona” (I know you’re not looking for multi-week games and teams but I’d hope to just find websites at this point and if/when I find one, I’d look into those individual websites and see if they have drop-in games)
- and then if still no luck, I’d do all those searches again but swap “football” with “futbol”.
I also just needed to preface with Google for my next point 🙂
Individual apps and websites
Here’s a quick little promo for these guys but I’m also just so impressed on how organized, ubiquitous, and how these guys are embracing and integrating technology.
When I was in Valencia, Spain, I found Onda FC (website) and when I was in Barcelona (and I think they’re also available in some German cities), I found Celebreak (app). It was just so easy to find, register, join, and attend games with them!
But yes, there are local apps and websites specifically for what you’re looking for. Sure, your next question would be “okay, so how do I find these apps out?”. Well I’ll tell you how I found these two:
Onda FC is a website and mainly found it through…instagram ads I believe. Insta found I was heading there / I was there and it started showing up in my feed. I remember I shopped around in Google too and they would show up as well since they’re prominent. At first I was ignoring it because I thought it was a team with the “FC” and they’re looking for a team member. Turns out they’re exactly what I’m looking for!
As far as I can recall, I’m pretty sure I saw this as responses in Reddit posts or Quora questions and several people kept on referencing them as a good source. They’re an app btw, so download their app. I was hesitant at first because since it’s an app I figured it’s probably not that much downloaded by anyone hence less content, hence less of anything that I’m looking for.
After a while though, I gave it a shot since I’ve heard it many times already and with my searches, they seem to be always near the top of the search results. Maybe they’re actually good and decent.
Lo and behold they’re actually awesome. I can write a separate review about it actually (Celebreak, you wanna sponsor me? 😀 ) but everything’s in there. Almost everyday there’s a game, almost each hour and different types of games. They’re legit.
So I guess I can technically fold these under “Google searches” but what I’m trying to show here is that on different places and localities, their main mode of communication or organization may be via an app, or a website and that you should consider those.
Last but not the least, again this’ll sound “duh” but I intend to provide more guiding point to this. Last but not the least, yes of course as locals in your destination if they know of place where you can do drop in games.
Don’t ask just any other locals (e.g.: a very old obese person who clearly doesn’t care about football). Ask someone who looks like they would know. The best case scenario as I would like to do it is you bump onto someone, talk to them about football and then you hear that they play (casually) up until now. So to me, they are then the best person to ask because it sounds like they would know.
If you don’t have chance on a local like this, you can still talk to whoever you’re talking to and then just ask for someone else (e.g.: a friend of theirs) who they know plays. Then either they can introduce you guys to each other or they’ll pass along the question to them.
Both cases are what happened to me before already:
Knowing (or get to know) someone in the destination
When I went to Philippines, I didn’t know anything of the football scene: where to play, how does one join, rules and regs, etc. and then I remembered I have a friend who does play and so I asked him. He was very nice to invite me to a game itself.
Sure I had the advantage of us being childhood friends but if that wasn’t the case, I would just chat up a local like I always do when I travel. If you really wanna be efficient with your scouting, walk up to a Nike or Adidas store (it’s a major brand) and ask people there. If you want to be ultra precise, walk straight to the boots/cleats section and ask the people there!
Get connected to a friend of friend
The other example is when I went to Paris the second time. I asked a Parisian friend of mine before we left if he knew any place. Turns out he likes the sport, watches the sport, but he doesn’t usually play. So what he did is he passed the question to another friend of his that does.
That’s when I learned about Le Five. It’s a bit tough because I think they require a French postal code in order to register but I don’t think it’s a big deal. Either you can make one up or you can actually see them in Meetup.com. They’re an example of what I told you wherein they duplicate and re-publish their events through meetup because I’ve seen their posts directly in meetup.com too when I was looking around there as well.
I hope you find those tips and insights useful and valuable. Those are the things that I’ve actually done to find games whenever I, a North American, play in Europe.
If you know of any other places or any other ideas/ways on how to find local football games when you’re traveling, definitely reach out so I can add it to this list and we can all help each other find games and play jogo bonito!