How to keep up with Sports as you Travel Around the World

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I love sports. Even if I’m not necessarily following a specific player or team or city, I love the action. The suspense. The drama. The strategy. The wins! Whether it’s a football (soccer) match at a bar in Thailand or the American Super Bowl that lacked the famous commercials at a tiny little place in Ecuador, I’ve managed to make it work on four continents. Here’s how.

First things first: remember the time zones.

This doesn’t matter as much if the game’s being played in the same country, of course. When it’s happening halfway around the world, yeah, it’s a bit more important. While there are plenty of time zone converters out there, I personally will ask Google something like ‘current time in [city]’. From there I know the game’s in 6 hours or whenever.

Plan A: In public

Whatever the game may be, if the local crowd or expat scene has an interest, there’s a fair chance someone will have it on a screen. This may be exceptionally easy (like a local team against a bitter rival) or more difficult than expected (an out-of-country team vs. another out-of-country team). If you’re far away from the action, knowing whether it’s on satellite or cable TV will help your chances — especially if you know the local bars / cafes have the correct setup.

Are there any expat / foreigner-friendly sort of places to check out? Have any Facebook groups, Meetup groups, or places been talking about the game? Is it a tournament, championship, final, playoff, or some other special sort of game? (I had no problem finding the World Cup or Olympics anywhere I’ve gone, even if the local team wasn’t on at the moment; hockey in South America, however, was a no-go.)

Plan B: At a Betting Shop

No, this wouldn’t be my first choice either — but if people are placing money on it, there’s a fair chance shops taking bets might be showing it live for that crowd. Seen mostly in Europe, the small shops are most commonly seen on broad or commercial streets.

Plan C: At home (legitimately)

To be sure, this might be plan A for some, especially if you’re introverted or don’t like being around alcohol. It’s more than just watching a game, personally — it’s about being around other people who enjoy the sport (or the action or the team)… Depending on where you are and how long you’ll be there, it’s worth knowing about the local cable / satellite options. I’ve also heard good things about Slingbox (a service that lets you connect to your “home” TV from anywhere), but it does require some setup to make work well.

Watching sports legitimately is getting easier in many ways — most major sports leagues have subscription programs available to cord-cutters, while others may have a “free trial” before requiring a log-in from your cable provider. (Reset your cookies or try another browser for another “free trial”.) Mentioning said subscription program to your favorite bar’s owner has gotten them to pay for it, knowing the revenue having a certain sport on would bring…

Plan D: At home (erm, less-than-legitimately)

For obvious reasons I won’t be mentioning any specific websites or links here, and I don’t condone using “pirate” or “torrent” sites or streams. That said, Google is your friend on this one. Whether it’s a matter of finding a site that just streams a given TV channel 24/7, or rebroadcasts a satellite signal from another part of the world, or even someone pointing their smartphone at a TV screen, there are usually plenty of options. Give your computer a good cleaning afterwards to ensure no bugs or viruses found their way in.

Plan E: After the fact

No, it’s no fun watching live sports in a non-live way, but sometimes that’s the way the time zones crumble. American football games that start at 1pm EST translate to starting at 2am local time in South Korea. What a few expat-friendly bars did was show Sunday’s games the next day starting around 7pm or 8pm local time. The time delay meant any serious sports fan would be begging their friends on Facebook “NO SPOILERS PLEASE!” whenever a big game was on.

Wherever you travel, don’t forget to enjoy your favorite teams or sports, and as always, be a good sport around fellow fans.

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