SOUTH BEND — Liverpool FC and Borussia Dortmund squared off in what was the first European soccer match in Notre Dame Stadium, but it didn’t stop Boilermakers from taking in the action.
One of the Purdue students attending Friday night’s game was senior Alex Long, who has been working not far from South Bend this summer. Long considers himself a fan of Purdue’s women’s team and the United States national teams, but he said he has always wanted to see European teams play. Long says he wasn’t rooting for either team but was just there to witness some great soccer.
“The atmosphere was unreal for a game that did not mean anything and was 5,000 miles away from their home countries,” Long said later. “The fans were loud and the stadium was much more packed than I thought it would be.”
The stadium, though not sold out, was filled with passionate fans from both sides.
Long said one of his favorite moments was hearing all the Liverpool supporters joining together to sing the team song ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone.”
“It was almost as good as ‘Hail Fire’ in Mackey Arena,” Long said.
Long was accompanied by two other Purdue students, Angelica Scanland and Trae Straziscar.
Straziscar says he is a soccer fan through and through.
“I love watching it, following it, and playing it,” he said. “I played it all four years of high school, and I still occasionally play a pickup game on campus.”
Straziscar said he was fortunate enough to go overseas and see two Spanish teams, Celta Vigo and Real Madrid, play in 2016 and was looking forward to seeing another set of great teams square off Friday. He was impressed by the number of fans who showed up.
“Liverpool fans came out in very strong numbers,” he said, “and it was just awesome to hear their club’s chants and just see their traditions.”
Nicole Shoaf, another Purdue student who took in the game, was also impressed with the atmosphere. “Between the chants, fans singing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone,’ and people screaming at the refs, there were times when it felt like what you see on TV.”
A soccer player her whole life, Shoaf said she’s still a huge fan of the sport today.
“Soccer is basically my family’s thing,” she said. “We all have teams we pull for and we’ve gone to a lot of games together over the years.”
Shoaf supports Tottenham Hotspur, one of Liverpool’s Premier League rivals, but after Liverpool beat Tottenham in this year’s Champions League final, she decided against representing her team’s colors Friday night. Seeing Liverpool lose made her laugh, she said.
Shoaf added that having these preseason soccer games are great for the sport’s growth in the United States.
“I think preseason friendlies are very important for spiking interest,” Shoaf said. “We have Indy Eleven now, which is great, but being able to see players at Premier League caliber is something pretty special and inspiring. We don’t have too many chances to see these teams, so I’m going to take as many as I can.”
Straziscar had a similar attitude.
“I think it creates more fans and creates more excitement,” he said. “Anyone at that game could not deny the excitement of the sport or the environment.”
He even hopes to see a game in Ross Ade Stadium one day.
“I’d be the first ticket sale if there was ever one in West Lafayette,” he said, “regardless of the clubs playing.”