Christmas came early for me when I realised we were parked overlooking a football stadium. I love football so I set off to explore. Margaret called after me, “Bring me a pie and a Bovril!”
I could do much better than that. This football ground had a burger bar – and a proper bar! I came back to the van with the good news. We dined on enormous burgers and beer as we (I) waited for the match to start. Margaret’s love of football extends no further than penalty shoot-outs and even then the word love is a definite exaggeration.
The pitch was made of Astroturf. I can imagine it would be very difficult and expensive to maintain grass in this dry climate but it is not so kind to the players. Watching an earlier team in training I saw a few people being given first aid for nasty grazes.
The home team, 1st of December were well supported and I added my vocal support. Sometimes you don’t need actual words to cheer on your team. The match was really exciting, real end to end stuff. The home team scored first with a cracking shot into the top corner of the net. Just before half time the away team equalised. At this point I came back to the van to warm up while the players took a break. Margaret looked up from her book and said, “Having fun?” in that way that suggested she couldn’t imagine why I would be.
The second half was even better as I was stood next to a woman of advanced years who was a very vocal supporter of the home team. I couldn’t understand what she was shouting but, judging by body language and gesticulations, she was not happy with the referee. She questioned his eyesight, his sanity and, at one point his parentage! Her partner kept trying to get her to calm down, glancing around at the other spectators with an apologetic look. At one point the volume of her protestations got so loud that the referee looked up to where we were standing. I thought he was going to produce his red card!
The away team scored again, a shot from outside the box, an absolute screamer. I found myself applauding it was so good. This did not please my neighbour. She gave me a look and moved a step away from me. So ‘my’ team was down 2-1. The away team came charging down the pitch, brilliant passing moves, out to the left wing, surely another goal coming – and then the defender came in with a scything tackle. Ouch! The referee reached for his red card, the crowd went nuts. The offending defender refused to leave, trainers and reserves flooded on to the pitch. It was mayhem – and very entertaining. One of the men from the away team bench in his big padded jacket tackled the home team goalie. The referee took several minutes to restore order, jeered on all the while by my foul-mouthed neighbour. Such fun!
Order restored and, with a few minutes left on the clock our team got the ball and set off down the pitch, into the penalty box, the crowd roared and then another crunching tackle brought our man down. Penalty! The referee pointed to the spot, the player took aim and – Bang! And so it ended in a draw. I went back to the van a happy bunny. What an unexpected treat!