A quick bit of background for those of you (like myself) that aren't exactly familiar with how these soccer tournaments work. The League Cup is a single elimination tournament between 92 soccer teams across England. Twenty teams make up The Premier League and The Football League consisting of three divisions of 24 clubs each - The Championship (Level Two), League One (Level Three), and League Two (Level 4) - provides the rest of the participating teams. Burton Albion participates in Football League Two - the fourth tier. Fulham is an English Premier League football team - the top tier. This mostly means Fulham has lots more money and resources and should be easily able to knock off Burton on their way to the next round of the tournament. However, the League Cup is one of the three major domestic trophies for English league teams, but is perceived by larger clubs (ie Fulham) as a lower priority than the other championships. Winners do receive 100,000 pounds, but the larger clubs don't seem concerned with that prize either.
Now that you have better understanding of the tournament, I'll speak to the atmosphere. It is much different from our sporting events in the States. Before the game, at halftime, and after the game ends are the times to be social, grab food/drinks, and go to the restroom. During the game...for those two 45-minute halves...you need to pay attention, cheer and chant, and stay in your seating section. I would say stay in your seat, but a lot of people stand the whole time! Basically, soccer is serious business. The chants, however, aren't quite so serious, but are still very important to the teams. Overall, it is a lot of fun to be at a live game. Especially a tournament game. Even if you aren't a huge fan of the sport.
Unless, of course, you aren't feeling well. Then, well, then it isn't as much fun, but you hang in there as best you can and make the most of it. After all, you don't get a chance to go to a League Cup game very often! Needless to say, I wasn't able to stay in my seat the whole game. I did a fair amount of running back and forth to the facilities...which was ever so conveniently located right beside our section. I'll spare you the icky details, but it is interesting to note that I seemed to be good luck for both teams. Both times I snuck out to visit the ladies' room during the game, there was a loud cheer of "GOOOOOAAAALLLL!!" for one team or the other.
And yep, you guessed it - the game ended in a 1-1 tie. Normally, that would be acceptable and all the lovely people would return home, but not when it's a tournament game. Nope. Then, there is a period of extra time. Two halves of 15 minutes of extra time that is played completely regardless of the score after the first half. In a remarkable turn of events, I was finally able to see both teams score a goal though!
But what do you think the score was at the end of extra time? You got it. Another tie - it was now 2-2. Next, we moved on to a penalty shoot out between the teams. Fortunately, I was starting to rally at this point. I mean, I was likely dehydrated with not one single drop of fluid left in my body. But, hey, that just meant I could finally relax and enjoy the competition. Just in the nick of time!