Football SHOULD learn some lessons here
Different to how it normally goes is an understatement!
Cast your mind back to last years rugby world cup. The semi final England v France. Being a non-rugby man, I can't say I was overly looking forward to the game, but one of my mates came up with the idea of watching it at the Pompey sports bar. Being the amiable socialite you all know me to be (lol) I couldn't turn this chance down!
Off we went, have any of you been to the sports bar? It really is a nice place.
Anyway, first round I buy (as ever!) and I was overjoyed when the bar lady gave me £11 change from a twenty for 6 pints! Quickly stuck this in my pocket and grinned all the way back to my table, Simon 1 Pompey 0!! When my mate went to the bar, the same thing happened! Can you believe it; they were only charging about £1.50 per pint....... Oh my poor head!
Another surprise was the half time draw, didn't know they were having one of those. Anyway, I won first prize, two tickets to the England v Ireland 6 nations clash at Twickers. Incidentally, another pal won a signed Jamo top and another won a signed Campbell shirt, not a bad return eh! Got to say this didn't go unnoticed by the other patrons. My only concern was who to take, but Mrs pompey4me is an avid sports fan, so my mates knew they would have to fight her for any ticket, none did!
Cant honestly remember the end of the game, can remember falling off a bar stool though. After we decided to walk to my brothers club, sobered up on the way, spent a merry couple of hours there! Reminds me Rug, when are we going?
Fast forward. The last couple of weeks leading up to the game were spent frantically e-mailing the club because we had seen no sign of the tickets, but they arrived the week before, so parking was booked and babysitters arranged. Suddenly I was dismayed, our tickets say visiting union, the away end I'm sure, oh well, practise my top of the morning to ya's we'll be ok. Everybody I met was excitedly told of my good fortune, and I decided to watch a couple of games on the telly to learn some of the rules........ I found out there aren't any! lol.
On the day, we dropped our kids off to football training. They were happy talking about training and the impending game against Villa that my nephew was taking them to. Honestly guys, my heart was sinking. I was, through choice going to miss a Pompey home game, against Villa too, which is a game that I like to see. At this point, if we hadn't got rid of our tickets for the game, we would have kicked the Rugby into touch.
Still, we went, drove up to Twickenham and parked in a school (£15) and walked to the game. Bumped into the first famous bloke of the day... Peter Reid. We were early, 3 hours, didn't know what to do so we just walked to Twickers (as I like to call it now). The scene that confronted us completely baffled us. There was a mobile retail village serving LOVELY food, not your greasy burger rubbish, not just fast food, but nice appetising food. AND BEER, AND WINE, AND SPIRITS! Opposition fans were mingling, and laughing, and talking about the game. Wow. The atmosphere was.....different to anything we had ever encountered at a football game. A young bloke came up to me and sold me a ref-link radio, £5 to hear EVERYTHING the ref says to the players, and more importantly what the players say to the ref, this I just had to have, visions of Rooney just flooded into my mind. More later.
Spent an hour or so here watching the Scotland match on the big screen, then headed on in. We were greeted, yes greeted, by a man on the gate who called me Sir. We asked what the crowd were queuing up for he said the England team bus was just coming in. We qued, I said to the missus, this is just like Old Trafford, were on the wrong side of the coach we aren't going to see them. However, the coach pulled up some 30m or so away, and the players walked....walked down the centre of the barriers. Not 3m away from us. Wow, how accessible this is. The missus sees Johnny and nearly faints! I just can't believe the size of some of these fellas! they would make Diop look as small as Diarra!
Into the ground we went, we really must have looked like newbies because the steward (who again called me Sir) came over and informed us that there were many bars under the concourse and you could take 4........4 pints EACH to your seat, "and that's only limited" he said "because otherwise people are up and down to the loo all game!" After he took a photo for us, he directed us to our seats. Thank you Pompey, great seats, courtesy of Canterbury I believe.
After getting my quota from the bar, we settled in. To my utter surprise there is NO crowd segregation, they don't have to, these fans are fans, not hooligans. The game started with the anthems. The Irish first, which was proudly sung by the Irish, and impeccably observed by the English. Then our national anthem, now, I'm not a big fan of the lyrics, but do believe it is a song to unite all at such occasions. This made my hair stand on end, the passion it was belted out with by fans and PLAYERS alike, amazing.
Then the game starts, in goes my ear piece for the Ref link....first thing I heard was the ref saying "no.5 keep back...thank you" Some other quotes....You, no.12, you are not the captain, I do not need to be hearing from you. Know what no.12 said in return? Yes Sir, Sorry Sir! Ref to Ireland captain....I'm going to let their try (England's) stand, even though you had two offsides. Ireland captain replies...OK Sir. No. 15, you have come to my attention several times, cut it out, you don't want to end your game early, do you! Thought about how this would be on the football pitch, can you imagine Rooney?
Tell you something else about the game of Rugby, these boys are tough, tough beyond belief. Paul Sackey had a head gash, no sign of a stretcher like Cliché had at the Emirates, he ran off, got stitched up than came back on! I think the honesty of the players really struck a chord with me, the way they don't go down at the merest touch like a Ronaldo. Didn't hear Brian Ashton berate the ref because Sackey was targeted.
I just really think in some ways football needs to take a reality check. Not just the F.A. and the clubs and players, but the fans too. The opposition fans applaud good play, theirs or the opponents. No crowd segregation is amazing, the opponents song comes from all over the ground, not just one end. All that alcohol and not one pissed up troublemaker anywhere!
The players seemed to be playing with pride and not just for a glamour boy pay cheque. How accessible the players are, walking past the fans before the game. I've been to the new Wembley to watch an international, and the two occasions are incomparable, the Rugby experience was better, and it pains me to say so. The only downside? The game just isn't in my blood and football always has been, and always will be.
Thanks once again Pompey and Canterbury for the chance to sample this atmosphere, and thanks to Rug for texting me during the game and keeping me up to date with my first love, Pompey.Written by pompey4me
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