Thursday, August 02, 2007

Groundhopchristmas 2004

There is little more beautiful than visiting a football game in England on Boxing Day. It is something special, something particular British.

Birmingham City FC – Middlesbrough FC (26-12-2004)

At 11.00 I had flown from Schiphol Airport to Birmingham and at 13.30 (local time) I dropped off my stuff at my hotel. As the game started only at 15.30, I had ample time to get to the stadium. I took a taxi and walked the last part uphill. Enjoying a quarterpounder and the typical English football atmosphere I picked up my ticket at the stadium (I had ordered it through the Internet for the steep price of 28 pound or ca. 40 euro). As I still had more than an hour before kick-off, I walked around the stadium where it was agreeable.

BCFC plays in the St. Andrew's Stadium, which holds somewhat over 30.000 spectators. For the game against Middlesbrough, no highflyer in the Premier League either, there were some 29.000 – almost full. The atmosphere was very amiable; little verbal violence, yet quite some singing. Both teams are mediocre, although Boro has a couple foreign ‘stars’ (i.e. Hasselbaink and Zenden). BCFC has two strong black guys in the attack (Morrison and Heskey), while their playmaker is an old, somewhat corpulent, very slow Irishman: Dunn. For the rest few players caught my eye, except for the Dutch player Melchiot, who came in the BCFC team at the end of the second half.

Overall it was a poor game in which BCFC scored relatively early, but Boro was the better team. Still, if I say that Zenden was the Boro playmaker and best man on the pitch, connoisseurs will know enough. In the end BCFC was able to score one more through, who else, Emile Heskey (what a non-player is that). 2-0 was also the final score.

You don’t have to go to England for the quality of football, but the atmosphere and experience of an English football game on Boxing Day is and remains unique!

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

Two days later I travelled with my English mate L.M. to Wolverhampton, a surprisingly nice town at roughly 30 km northwest of Birmingham. (At least since the (short) period of John de Wolf at the local pride the Wolves are also known in the Netherlands.) Wolverhampton Wanderers is a club with a great tradition and support and has one of the most beautiful logos in the world.

We arrived well in time at the Molineux stadium, a fairly classic English stadium with a capacity of 28.500. Although we were about to visit a game between two teams from the bottom half of the English First Division (now: The Championship), the stadium was almost sold-out! L.M. had ordered tickets through the internet at a cost of no less than 26 pounds (ca. 37 euro); only 2 pounds less than the BCFC game, which, however, was in the Premier League.

The atmosphere was excellent and I have been surprised by the friendly comments throughout the game – almost no cursing! The level of play was below any expectation, except for the beautiful goal of Wolves (after a great combination of three passes). The most remarkable things of the game, which ended in 1-1 (the Seagulls had already scored luckily after 1 minute), was Glenn Hoddle. This former super footballer and national coach of England is now coach of Wolverhampton Wanderers... how the mighty have fallen.

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