The worlds of travel and sport intersected early for travel writer Ben Groundwater, whose childhood travels with parents saw him as a spectator at a Boston Bruins ice hockey match in the US and Manchester United football match at Old Trafford.
"For me these twin passions have always been linked, and it's something I've often tried to indulge - if there's a local sports game on, wherever I am and whatever it is, I will try to attend, as I find it an amazing window into culture and passion," Groundwater says.
The globe-trotting Groundwater (and Traveller columnist) has channelled this passion into a book World of Sports, a guide to one of the world's great obsessions, covering the teams, the games, the venues, the histories and the personalities that come together to form something special.
Groundwater has seen about 95 per cent of the events listed and among the highlights includes "schwingen'', or traditional Swiss wrestling in the Emmental Alps "amazing for sheer passion and energy", and the Boca Juniors play football at La Bombonera. Their home stadium is in a working-class suburb of Buenos Aires "there's nothing else like it on Earth".
For the sport indifferent, Groundwater suggests thinking about the game as culture.
"These events and matches are often traditional and historical, and they're a way to share in a local experience without any pretence, without it ever feeling 'touristy' or forced. At a sporting event you're able to comfortably interact with locals, learn more about the place you're visiting, and also just relax and have a good time."
Groundwater says he's setting his sights low for his return to a sporting event in a post-pandemic world.
"I have tickets for the New Year's Ashes Test in Sydney - if I end up being able to attend I'll be very happy."
WORLD OF SPORTS A book for sports fans all over the globe by Ben Groundwater; Illustrations by Paul Reid; Hardie Grant Explore (RRP $19.99)
Read an extract from the book with Ben Groundwater's Bucket list: 10 sports every traveller should see at least once