Back from Austria

Austrian soccer game. May 2024

I’m back.

You might have noticed that I (David Gough) have been away from the Chatham-Kent Sports Network website for the past three weeks. Okay, maybe no one has noticed I’ve been out of the office.

I spent the past three weeks in Austria with my wife visiting friends, touring, walking, going to museums, drinking beer, going to the symphony, going to the mountains, drinking beer and visiting art galleries.

My wife and I  traveled by boat, plane, train, subway and bus to see most of Austria.

We were stationed in Vienna, but spent some time is Graz, Salzburg and near Linz. We also crossed off Germany, Slovakia, and Slovenia off our places-we’ve-been list with day trips.

This is a local sports site, so I will do a quick run down on our sporting and recreation adventures and observations. I went to one Austrian Bundesliga soccer game, watching a Rapid Wien soccer game in Vienna. Rapid lost to Hartsberg 3-0.

There are two teams in Vienna, with Rapid Wien known as the working-class team, and Austria Wien being known with the middle and upper-class supporters.

Here’s a few observations of sports/recreation in Austria. The good, bad and ugly.

Biking everywhere

I wasn’t surprised to see a biking culture in Europe, but was a bit surprised to see how widespread it was.

Bikes aren’t just a popular mode of transportation in urban centres, but in rural areas as well.

Friends of ours use bikes to get groceries, visit friends and go to work. Just about every trip less than a few kilometres they use bikes, despite the fact that they own a car. Sometimes they go a couple weeks without using their car, and they are in their sixties.

It’s was rare to see an overweight person in Austria. There’s a few reasons why, but I’m sure biking plays a role in that.

Amazing crowds

Just like music concerts, European  soccer crowds are much more involved and louder than North America. At the soccer game we went to the fans, jumped, waved flags, clapped and sang for most of the game.

Fan sections

I was concerned about soccer crowds and it getting a bit rowdy, but my internet research said that things are a lot better than they used to be 30-40 years ago. Compared to England, Croatia or Italy, the soccer crowds in Austria are fairly tame. However, saying that, the opposing fans have their own section with it’s own entrances at Austrian soccer stadiums. The sections are separated by a huge fence and nets so you can no longer throw bottles and flares between sections. We sat beside the opponent section.

The opposing fans chanted, drummed and occasionally held up their middle finger as a way to say they were number one. They also called us wichsers, which according to my Google machine means “one who wanks.”

Smoking allowed

Remember the good old days when you could go to Chatham Memorial Arena, Tiger Stadium or the Silverdome and light up a cigarette in the stands? Good news, they are still allowed to light up at restaurant patios and at your seat at the soccer stadium. Smoking is prevelant in Austria. As per Google almost 25 percent of adult Austrians smoke regularly, versus about 12 percent of Canadians.

Hockey in Prague

A couple friends of mine saw I was in Austria via social media and I got a last minute invite to go to Prague to hang out to watch the IIHF World Ice Hockey championships. It was enticing, but the logistics to get to Czechia just didn’t work out.

Traditionally, Austria is not one of the top teams in Europe, but they are getting better and more Austrians are making NHL rosters, including recent high draft picks David Reinbacher (Montreal Canadiens), Marco Kasper (Detroit Red Wings), and Marco Rossi (Minnesota Wild). All three were drafted in the top-ten of the draft.

At the world championships Austria had a good showing, taking Canada to overtime and beating Finland. It was top of the sports news in Austria while we were there.

Netball cages

Just about every park had a netball cage. We saw people using it for netball, but we also saw kids playing soccer inside them.

The courts/cages were always busy. While the goal of play is to have fun and stay healthy, we couldn’t help but think that having hours of play, whether it’s road hockey, netball or soccer, has to speed up the development and skill of the young athletes.

I wanted to jump in and scrimmage with the kids playing pick-up games of soccer, but my wife reminded me that while I am 53 years-old, the ligaments in my knees are similar to a 89 year-olds.

Jakob Poeltl

I’m a big Toronto Raptors fan, so I kept an eye out for Jakob Poeltl, who is the only NBA player from Austria. His hometown is Vienna and while I saw some tall guys, I never saw the big man.


Soccer is the main sport in Austria. Spending time on the train we passed hundreds of small towns. Almost all of them had two things. A big church and a nice soccer field. Almost every soccer field had a building beside the field which housed locker rooms and a big room for supporters to gather and drink after the game.

Some of the soccer fields we say were at the base of a mountain, which made for an incredible and beautiful backdrop and field.


As we traveled the countryside we saw a few golf courses, but not a lot. Some of the courses that we saw had mountains nearby as a beautiful backdrop.

According to various websites, there are 160 golf courses in Austria for eight million people. Ontario, which has a similar population, has 841 courses.


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