Los Angeles: A better football city than you might think

SANTOS’s editor-in-chief Sjoerd Mossou recently visited the derby of Los Angeles, also known as ‘El Tráfico’, between LA Galaxy and LAFC. The City of Angels on the west coast of the United States has more football culture than you might think. Here are five tips and tricks.

Los Angeles: A better football city than you might think

Two proper football stadiums

LA Galaxy’s stadium has got quite an ugly sponsor name: Dignity Health Sports Park. The stadium is located in the southern neighbourhood of Carson. The home ground itself, however, is surprisingly nice and is on top of that a proper football stadium, which is not a given in most American stadiums. It is rather compact with 27,000 seats and four completely different stands. The two stands on the touchlines consist of two tiers with a roof on top. The stands behind the goal both have their own unique character. On the Northern stand shines a large scoreboard and a row of VIP boxes and billboards. The more ‘open’ Southern stand, which is completely terraced, lies against a green hill with palm trees. This is where you will find the diehard Galaxy fans.

Their city rivals LAFC, who were only founded a couple of years ago, also have their own stadium that is primarily used for football or, as they would say, ‘soccer’. The BMO Stadium, which has a modern glass roof, is located in Exposition Park and was opened in 2018. The atmosphere is excellent.

Eating and drinking like an American

The Dignity Health Sports Park is partly built in a pit. A higher-located walkway surrounds the entire stadium and is free to access by anyone who has a ticket. The atmosphere is typically American with many food stands where fans have a bite. Hours before kick-off you can also find groups of fans having a barbecue on the parking lots. Outside the stadium, you will find many street vendors with souvenirs and Mexican hotdogs (an absolute recommendation!). The latter is no coincidence because LA Galaxy and LAFC are full of Mexican influences.

Glorious Mexican football atmosphere

California has a large Mexican community, with the largest concentration in LA. It is one of the reasons why this particular city has a rich tradition in ‘soccer’ because most Mexicans prefer football over any other traditional American sport. You can clearly see this on the stands of Galaxy, but even more in the fanbase of LAFC. The club only came to life recently and has been a part of the MLS since 2018, but is remarkably popular within the Mexican community. Even their songs are mostly Spanish. If you stand between the diehards it is like you have just travelled to Guadalajara or Mexico City. After Chivas USA, an American branch of the Mexican club Chivas, was dissolved most fans found their new home in LAFC, which markets itself particularly as a club for young Latins and Mexicans.

Tickets are easy to get, but expensive

Tickets for matches of both LA Galaxy and LAFC are expensive, just like anything else on the American west coast for us Europeans, but they can easily be ordered on the clubs’ official websites. A seat behind the goal will easily cost you 120 dollars for a big game, including the well-attended derby. Once a year, ‘El Tráfico’ (shoutout to the traffic jams in LA) is played in Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, which also hosted the World Cup final in 1994, which is a spectacle in itself.

Massive rivalry, but no hate

The ‘El Tráfico’ we visited was surprisingly fierce, particularly given the impressive away stand filled with people in black t-shirts, LAFC’s club colour. Before kick-off, fans of both clubs were walking and hanging around the stadium in all friendliness. On most stands, both fanbases were also mixed together without any problems. Only on the Southern stand, the fans of LAFC were not welcomed. You could feel the rivalry once the match started, with plenty of shouts from the away end to Galaxy’s fanatics. Beer was being thrown into the air and the local sheriff had to show his face from time to time. But after the game, everybody exited the stadium calmly as if nothing happened and ordered another Mexican hotdog with bell pepper and fresh onions. The stereotype that the American public does not understand ‘soccer’ and that they, therefore, do not really feel connected to what happens on the pitch was far to be found. Although, LA Galaxy, for the reputable club it is, has got quite a spoilt audience.

Images: SANTOS