Saturday, September 02, 2006

Birmingham City FC - Middlesbrough FC (16-12-2004)

There is little more beautiful than going to see a football game in England on boxing day (second Christmas day). There is something magical, and something distinctly English about it (one of the few positive things I can say about the country, but let's not go there ;-).

Having left the x-mas festivities at my family behind, I took a flight out of Schiphol airport at 11.00, arriving roughly at 13.30 in my hotel in the center of Birmingham. The game started at 15.30, which gave me more than enough time to get to the stadium in time. I took a cab and walked the last part up hill. Enjoying a quality quarterpounder and the typical English local football atmosphere, I picked up the ticket I had ordered through the Internet for a staggering 28 pound -- ca. 40 euro. As I had more than enough time left, I circled the stadium and enjoyed the relaxed atmopshere.

BCFC plays in the St. Andrew's Stadium, which holds just over 30.000 spectators. For the game against Middlesbrough, not the most attractive opponent, some 29.000 had overcome their post-Christmas hangover to get to the stadium. The atmosphere was rather relaxed, little verbal abuse, but quite some singing. Both teams are of moderate quality, but Boro has some foreign 'stars' like the Dutch semi-internationals Hasselbaink and Zenden. BCFC has two strong black guys up front, Morrison and Heskey, while the game is directed by an old, somewhat overweight, and very slow Irishman: Dunn. None else caught my eye, except for the Dutch former ajax and Chelsea player Mario Melchoit, who was substituted at the end of the game for BCFC.

All in all it was a poor game, in which BCFC got an early 1-0 lead. Boro was the better (or: less bad) team, but when I say that Zenden was the ky player, you (should) know enough. In the end the home team won 2-0 through a goal by, who else than, Emile Heskey (what a non-player is that). Nope, in terms of football it wasn't much, but in terms of atmosphere and experience an English football game on boxing day is unique!

Wolverhampton Wanderers - Brighton Hove & Albion (28-12-2004)

Two days later an English friend of mine (L.M.) and I took the train to Wolverhampton, a surprisingly nice town at some 30 km northwest of Birmingham. At least since the (short) period of John de Wolf at the local pride "Wolves" are also known in the Netherlands. It is a club with a huge tradition and following and one of the most beautiful logos in the world.

We were well in time at the Molineux stadium, which has a capacity of 28.500. Despite the fact that this was a game between two teams in the lower half of the First Division (now: The Championship), the stadium was almost sold-out. For 26 pounds (!) we bought a ticket for the Billy Wright Stand Upper Tier, somewhat in the corner of the pitch. The atmosphere was fantastic and I have been suprised throughout the game by the friendly comments of the fans -- almost no swearing!!! In sharp contrast, the football was below any aceptable level, except for one beautiful goal of Wolves (after a very nice combination over three players). The most remarkable about the whole game, which ended 1-1 (the 'Seagulls' had scored a lucky 0-1 after 1 minute), was Glenn Hoddle, who is currently coaching Wolverhampton Wanderers... how the mighty have fallen.

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