In our latest international supporters blog, Lydia Callwitts from Pennsylvania talks about her first and second trips to Bournemouth and finally seeing her beloved Cherries in action.
I can still feel the drums as they pulsed through the stands. I can hear the clappers as they coincided with the supporters’ chants. I can feel the cool coastal breeze blow across the pitch on that bright February afternoon.
I can fall right back into that moment where I felt like I was home. Albeit not my actual home, of course – that’s in the Unified States, but my football home, my football family – that can be found at Vitality Stadium.
Like many across the footballing community, AFC Bournemouth demanded my attention when they soared to victory over Liverpool in December 2016.
I was new to watching the Premier League, but the drive to pursue a win from being 3-0 down, the character to keep fighting, their togetherness to achieve the seemingly impossible - I needed more of that.
I watched Bournemouth throughout the rest of 2016/17 season, saw them solidify their highest points total and place in the league and knew that this was the team that I was going to support.
Over the next two seasons, I watched every training video, press conference and post-match interview, read every article and watched every match online... My love and appreciation for the team grew every week.
Then, in the fall of 2017, my husband and I travelled to the UK for the first time. Even though the Leicester match was sold out, we still made a trip down to Bournemouth to see the town, the beach and most importantly Vitality Stadium.
We took a couple photos and explored the Superstore. I bought my first home kit too, it was a great day and given the demand for match tickets, I had resigned to be content with the fact that I’d at least gotten to see the stadium of the club I loved, even if I’d never get to go inside.
My plan was going strong until the September 2018 International Cherries newsletter came out.
Towards the middle of the page, a block of text caught my attention. A new international ticketing policy was to be implemented for the 2018/19 season; the stars had aligned!
We had been planning our second trip to the UK for February 2019 and Bournemouth were scheduled to be home against Wolves the Saturday we’d be there. Thanks to the availability and generosity of the club to provide such an opportunity we were granted two tickets to the match. Now all I had to do was wait the five months until match day…
It was 5:30am when my alarm went off on the day I was finally going to see my beloved Cherries in person, at home against Wolves on February 23rd 2019.
We made our way to Waterloo station and the two-hour train ride down from London to Bournemouth. We got out of the cab on King’s Park Drive and as we walked across the car park, I took in the resounding words: 'Together, Anything is Possible'.
We made our way to the ticket office and I waited in anticipation as our tickets were brought over and the reality of what the day had to hold for us set in. I smiled brightly as I showed my husband our tickets: Block 28, Row N, Seats 90 & 91.
To our left, we noticed people starting to line up at the barricades by the players’ entrance and quickly took our spot in the hope of seeing some of them as they arrived.
I was fortunate to not only see them, but to get photos taken with several of the lads!
I wished them all luck for the match and marveled at how generous and appreciative each of them was with all the supporters eager to show their excitement and adoration. Those moments will stay with me for the rest of my life!
We stopped in the Superstore where I purchased a mug and the matchday programme. Then we headed over to the Ted MacDougall Stand to find our seats. As we walked out into the stadium, another wave of reality overtook me. The place I’d seen on my computer screen every match weekend for the past three years was right in front of me, was all around me.
We found our seats, took some photos and settled in as the crowd filled in around us. When it was time for the match to begin, the stands were full, the supporters were singing and clapping their clappers, and the drums… The drums were pulsing as the energy of the Vitality echoed out - and I was there.
I was part of it, and it was overwhelming in the best of ways. The next 90-plus minutes were filled with excitement, a Joshua King penalty taken ever so coolly and even a break in play when the sprinklers unexpectedly went off in the middle of the pitch during the second half, quite the moment to remember.
The immersion of being amongst a stadium full of my fellow Cherries, cheering our team on, riding every emotion with the players as they pushed for a win… It’s something I’d never experienced before that day. It’s something I wish could be experienced by every Bournemouth supporter across the globe.
The energy was big and expansive while being in such a close, intimate space. It’s a place where you feel right in the action and ever-present in the family that is AFC Bournemouth.
I still have my clapper from the match and used it to cheer the boys on during every match for the rest of the season, and even though it’s typically just my husband and me sitting on the couch when it comes to watching Bournemouth, it takes me right back amongst the crowd, right back to Vitality Stadium and right back to one of the best days of my life!