NOTE: I have an updated blog about watching Football at the Empy, please follow this link if you want to read it: Watching Football at the Emperador Stadium, January 16, 2014. Thanks.
I finally got to watch the United Football League (UFL) games live at the newly opened Emperador Stadium on Thu., Feb. 14, 2013. The games on hand were between Stallions FC and PSG FC, and then between Global FC and Nomads FC. Here are my experience and observations on how it was like.
Unfortunately, the stadium itself is not an easy place to go to. There is only one road going to it, and it is not a major artery. I went there by Taxi, and once you get to the McKinley Hill area there are no signs visible on the main road on where it is. I reached the place by asking directions from the Security Guards, and I had to ask about two people about it before I got the idea where to go to. There are guides provided by the UFL and even on the Emperador Stadium website, but the guides will tell you more on how to get to McKinley Hill, and not necessarily show you exactly WHERE in McKinley Hill the stadium is.
If you are unfamiliar with the area, the first thing you have to remember in order to find it is to find a major landmark, which is the VENICE PIAZZA. It is the main mall area of that place, and you won’t miss it because there is a big letters in front visible from the main road that says its name. The Stadium is on an access road BEHIND the Venice Piazza. The name of the access road is CAMPUS AVENUE, and the stadium is at the END of this access road. As you approach the end of the road, it makes a 90-degree left turn, and when you make that turn you will be able to see the simple entrance to the Stadium.
There are no public transportation that passes by near the area. The nearest one is the City Link Airconditioned buses, but it stops around half a kilometer from the stadium, so you will have to do a bit of walking. There is also a Taxi Queue around the same area. The Venice Piazza is about a kilometer away by foot from the stadium. There are lot of construction going on around the area, mainly buildings, and also some parts of the road. The area is an upscale area, surrounded by a couple of new, commercial buildings and even a school. Lighting is decent in the evenings, and I felt generally safe walking out of the stadium at around 9:00 pm.
Entrance is free, you just walk right in. There are two entrances, one is near the access road, while the other is opposite of the first area. Here’s a picture of the rules and guidelines posted at one of the entrances.
Only Bleacher seats are available, and they are new and clean, though not very comfortable to sit on for two whole Football games. View from the bleacher is very nice, this is a Football specific stadium, so the action is very near the fans. You can see the action very clearly, even if you are seated on the highest part of the bleacher, as shown in this picture.
There are irritating Wire Fences in between the Bleacher sections which tends to block the view of the field. I think these fences should be half its current height so fans can have an unobstructed view of the field. I hope the management considers small details like these when it comes to the fans’ point of view when they make renovations of the stadium.
Instead of a whiff of grass, you will instead get a whiff of rubber from the field when the wind blows towards you. This is because of the rubber infill they are using for the Artificial Turf. I was able to step on the field itself, and it is soft, almost “squishy”, but generally very nice to the foot. Because of the proximity of the seats to the field, expect to have the ball end up in the seats a couple of times per game. Be sure to give the pricey Molten balls back to the Ball Boy/Girl if it does land your way.
There are no Street Children scampering around like in the RMS, but I did notice some people in slippers watching the games from outside near the Rest Room area. The games are free, they could just step in if they want to, unless the Guards kept them from doing so, which would be unfair.
‘Food and Rest Rooms’
McDonald’s is the only available food at the Stadium. You can get these either by buying directly at the small kiosk they have near the main entrance, or you can order it from one of the McDonald’s girls roaming the area. But be warned, though: The food is expensive, and extremely slow. No value meals are available, only the Ala Carte menu, so I ended up paying P114 for a Burger McDo, Apple Pie and Medium Coke. You pay in advance, and the girl will note your name down on the order.
Worst was how slow it is. I ordered one from a girl around 6:30 pm, but 35 minutes later I still didn’t get it. Luckily I had to go to the bathroom, and I decided to pass by the kiosk to follow up on my order, where I was able to finally get it. I think what they do is get the orders, then have somebody bring the orders down from their main outlet at the Venice Piazza, that is why it takes a long time. A better option would be to just bring your own food into the stadium. Just stop by the mall, buy food for take out and bring it to the games yourself.
The restrooms were not so good, they are near the other entrance opposite of the access road. Four Portalets are available, two each for Males and Females, and they smell of piss inside (thankfully only piss). What’s worst is that the portalets are NOT lighted, so taking a leak after sundown is quite an adventure in itself. Imagine trying to find your way inside this dark, smelly portalet. I don’t know how I managed, probably out of desperation as my bladder is about to explode. If you can hold it in till the end of the game and that kilometer walk to the Piazza, then do so. If not, bring a Flashlight. On a side note, there is a guy, probably the Janitor in charge of the Portalets, offering you Hand Sanitizers as soon as you exit the Rest Room.
‘Overall Game Experience’
Despite the issues I found above, I found the overall experience to be quite pleasant. Because of the quality of the Pitch, the action is faster, with a lot more passing involved, leading to a lot more exciting Shots on Goal. Furthermore, because of the proximity of the seats to the Pitch, you can see and appreciate the action better. All the nice tackles, the great dribbling skills, the elegant passes. For example, you really need to see up close how neat Jeffrey Christiaens is with his dribbling, ability to steal ball possession and ability to keep ball possession when challenged.
Or how Carli De Murga with is as close to a Point Guard in Football you can have, with most of the balls given his way to distribute the ball around when Global is on the attack. Or how about Bazzeldin El Habbib spitting on Patrick Reichelt? It happened right in front of us, he was trying to make it look like he was spitting on the field when actually it hit Patrick on the side of the face and neck. Unfortunately for him, not only us but the Referee also saw the action, and sent him off with a Red Card.
Attendance was pretty good. The Bleachers accommodate 700 people, and it was more than halfway full in the first game. By the second game, the Bleachers were packed. IMHO, I think this current capacity is inadequate for the UFL. If they can have a full capacity during regular games, imagine how many people would be there when there is a game between the popular teams. The UFL should fast track the completion of the Stadium, and I would stay clear of the venue during these games until it is completed.
The limited capacity of the stadium also meant the team fans are seated near each other. It is great, you can hear all their cheers, drumbeats and comments, and every now and then you see funny episodes like one team cheering for their team, then some side comments from the other teams fans about them going home. For now it is just funny, but it could possibly escalate if hot heads are around. Security in the venue is pretty good, you could see the Guards roaming around. But better segregation I think is in order, especially in such a small Bleacher section.
Most of the issues about the Stadium is mainly because it is still unfinished. Once the Concessonaire Stands and Public Rest Rooms are finished sometime middle of this year, this Stadium will be hard to beat as a Football venue. Football needs more venues like these to truly make the sport more popular. As of now, you will have to endure some sacrifices to be able to appreciate the games, but the sacrifices to me are well worth it. I intend to watch a couple more games during the UFL season at this wonderful stadium.