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Creative Writing: Football

Take the greatest feeling you know and multiply it ten-fold, and you are still nowhere near to the feeling of a last-minute goal in a vital league match. I suppose you have to like football to understand where I am coming from here and understand this essay, although I think you will understand the essay anyway. Premiership football is the greatest spectator sport in the world. It is the king among kings. Its speed and its passion set it apart from any other league in the world. This is why a Premiership match is such a big occasion in my life. In total, I have been to seven Premiership games in my time, and by the end of the season, I will have been to two division one games, but none of them could match up to this one.

I am a Blackburn Rovers supporter, as loyal as you can get, true blue if you know what I mean. Living in London, however, I don’t know how this came about. I have been supporting them for as long as I can remember. I think it started by being bought a jersey, going on to sticking a team poster up on my bedroom wall, and finished off by a sister advising me not to support Tottenham and a granddad advising me not to support arsenal! Football-wise we were as average as north London goes. Living so far away from Lancashire, I couldn’t get too many home games – although that will change this season, so I had to restrict myself to away games in London. My granddad is the nicest and most honest person I know. He is always there for us and has great pride in all members of his family. I will talk about him later on in my autobiography, but he is the one who came up with the ideas and tickets to the match.

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The day itself. The month was November, the year 1994, the season we won the title, the match a big one. I remember waking up in my second-floor bedroom with a feeling of tired excitement. As I drew back the curtains, I realized that this would be one of the best and most enjoyable days of my life. I looked out I saw north London and beyond. The neighbours were up already, on one side the Turks and the other the Africans. The garden was a great sight to behold as well. The winter sun broke through the clouds like gilt-edged bread knives piercing grey candyfloss and then reflected on the dew-soaked lawn like sparkling emeralds. Everything was perfect… so far anyway. We left the house around mid-day. At that point, it was just me and my dad, who, of course, was cheering on spurs. We drove to my granddad’s house in wood green. He was in cracking form, half scaring me and half livening me up. He was up for it as much as I was.

The next stop for us was the pub where we met my dad and granddad’s friends. On the way there, we passed two of my old schools, three of my friend’s houses, the Gaelic pitch and the boxing club. We went into the pub, and it was like stepping into a new world. The pub was filled with some amazing sounds, smells, sights and songs. As you walk in, you can hear the laughter; the pool balls rattle, the low murmured hum of conversation and gossip; they sounded like a swarm of lazy bees. You could also hear the television in the background and the banging and clinking of pint glasses. In the pub, you can smell smoke, salty edibles and alcohol, which is the most overpowering of the lot. It reminded me of the labs at my sister’s open night. There were also some intriguing sights. All the men up at the bars with their beer bellies, tattoos and skinheads. They were all different, but most had the same fundamentals. The smoke was also of some interest to me. It floated around like a dirty cloud, never ceasing. The wooden seats and cushion upholstery were new to me as well.

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It was the songs that they were singing which interested me most. I cannot remember what they were, but I remember bits of some of them; they sang about arsenal managers and about Manchester United supporters and whatever team they were playing that day. They were funny and exciting to me at the time, but the funniest of all was a man called Bernie. He was an odd-looking character. He was of average height, had grey/black hair, a big, knobbly nose which reminded me of potato and staring blue eyes. He looked earnest but was actually hilarious. What used to happen was that all the men would wait until Bernie had a few drinks in him. They then proceeded to form a human corridor on the moist, wooden bar floor and continuously clap their hands while singing:

  • “Bernie does the Klinsmann,
  • Bernie does the Klinsmann,
  • Bernie doe….”

Continuously until Bernie actually did the Klinsmann dive along the floor to huge cheers from the Tottenham faithful. Since then, so I’ve heard, he went too far one afternoon and smacked his head off the radiator at the end of the human corridor, causing it to split open. Another thing I found weird about the pub was the way my relatives changed their attitude. Their talk became free-flowing and easy, and most of all, the swearing was unbelievable. F this and f that. Suppose I said the f word once, they would eat the head of me. The pub had a superb atmosphere, but nothing compared to the atmosphere in and around the stadium. As we walked up the road to white hart lane, we saw many things. It was amazing to soak up the atmosphere. Thousands upon thousands of people, all heading to the same place for the same reason, like a flock of migrating birds. Everywhere I looked, there seemed to be something being sold.

Programmes scarves, hats, flags, badges, tickets and food. Hundreds of stalls and programme sellers, all roaring out encouragement to potential customers, in a cockney accent, which I found hilarious. Of course, you would get the odd drunken rabble staggering along singing heartily. All the roads around the ground were closed just for the match. There was huge security with police on horses and dogs watching on like a mean group of headmasters watching for anyone stepping out of line. All this and more happening under the shadow of the huge steel structure. I have been to Wembley, Highbury, Croke Park and le Stade de Francais, but White Hart Lane comes out at the top. You give your ticket in the turnstiles, then walk up into the stand-up huge concrete steps into a corridor, which goes the whole way around the ground.

The corridor is mainly grey and concrete, with steps leading to the toilets and different stand parts. Television screens are bringing us the scores from all the other matches. There are stalls selling food and merchandise. The air in the corridors has a certain crispness, which adds to the excitement when you are trying to find the section and row you are in. Seeing the stadium from the outside is one thing but to view it from the inside is amazing. As you realize you have found your section and are walking up the steps, the excitement boils like a hot cauldron of emotion inside you. Then it hits you. The whole hugeness of it is spectacular. The lush green grass smacks your eyes. The sheer size of the stadium is unbelievable, as the skyscrapers in America, standing out against the sky.

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The amount of people is unimaginable; to me, it seemed like every human male in the world and half of the females, all in one stadium. They looked like a mass of blue and white ants. The noise as well is incredible. Microphones on television cannot capture the noise in real life. The songs, the drums and the roars of disgruntled fans all amount to a huge amount of noise. Another great thing is the big screen, a giant television, bringing us images of the match that the human eye can’t see. All this for twenty-two men running around kicking a piece of leather.

We found our seats, eight of us altogether. We were sitting in the left lower-tier facing the dugouts and the Blackburn corner of the ground. When we got in, I realized my main fear of the day. It was something I had thought about for a long time and had come well prepared for, but I hadn’t thought about it that day at all up until the point where I sat down. The problem was that I was a fanatical Blackburn fan, and 35,000 equally fanatical cockney spurs supporters surrounded me. I was wearing a Blackburn shirt with the number 9, and Shearer wrote on the back of it. I was also wearing my Blackburn scarf. Luckily though, they were both covered up by a big bomber jacket. The only problem now is that I couldn’t show my emotions during the game, but that’s pretty hard for someone who is a completely different person when it comes to football.

As the match began, there was a huge roar, which went up around the ground. Blackburn was playing from my left to right, and we’re playing in their change strip of black with thin red stripes. It was the perfect day and conditions for football, and it was an amazing match, real end-to-end stuff, but we had most of the play. The breakthrough came when Alan Shearer was taken down in the box and awarded a penalty. Shearer dispatched it with his usual ease. I was ecstatic and amazed but kept my joy down to a ‘yes’ so loud only my granddad could hear. In contrast to this, the Ewood faithful went bananas, and behind me, I could hear abuse and curses being hurled at them. Minutes later, a backpass from a Tottenham defender rolled under Ian walker’s foot, but unfortunately, he managed to get back in time to slide tackle it off the line.

There were huge sighs of relief from around me and comments on spurs’ concentration. One of the things I loved about Premiership matches was how everyone’s excitement builds when their team is on the attack. The encouragement by way of roars, the expressions on the supporters’ faces, and the clatter of the automatic seats when everyone stands up are all part of the game. Then, just before halftime, Shearer latched on to a Tim Sherwood through ball and knocked it past walker for a fine goal. Everyone around me was quiet, and I shouted ‘yes’ a little too loudly for comfort; a few people even turned around to search for the source of the voice. I turned around and said, ‘who was that?’ my dad turned around and laughed at me. People were starting to get suspicious.

Half time came too soon for me. I loved it. My granddad’s friend turned around and said, ‘what did you think of that?’ ‘Tony,’ I replied, ‘I’m speechless, and that was a perfect way to describe how I felt, and it was only halftime. The loudspeaker announced, “this is an appeal from the Tottenham players and officials to any spurs supporters… We need your help!” Laughter went up around the stadium, but they knew it was serious. The players came out again for the second half. The atmosphere was electric. Everyone was back in their seats for the start of the second half. Spurs started finely with a good shot saved well by Tim flowers. In this half, though, I couldn’t see his net as well because it was at the opposite end of the ground to me.

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This was good because I could see our attacks much better. In about the 70th minute, Tottenham pulled one back with a header from a corner, which Chris Armstrong scored. 35,000 people erupted. I couldn’t help but smile at the collective joy being shown. Men hugging men at one bulge of a net. Unbelievable, but even such a sight couldn’t take away from the torridness I was feeling. Another fifteen minutes and rovers had held on by the skin of our teeth. We were all on the edge of our seats. Attack after attack was repelled until the 85th minute when an exact copy of the first goal was scored. Everyone went absolutely bananas. Screams of joy and roars of ecstasy could be heard all around me. My dad and my granddad and all their friends vigorously rubbed my head and ruffled my hair to rub it in, and my granddad went mad laughing at the distraught and disbelieving look on my face. I couldn’t believe it.

The game was restarted, and yet another huge roar went up around the ground. They and I honestly thought that the spurs were going to clinch it. But, once more, attack after attack was heaped on the rover’s defence. I didn’t think we could stand much more; we managed to hold the fort until the 94th minute when Chris Sutton flicked on a huge Tim Flower’s clearance to the edge of the area where Shearer got to it and hit it first time on the half-volley. The ball crashed into the roof of the net past the despairing dive of a walker. Such a goal! I couldn’t hold my emotions in any longer. I, as well as the travelling Blackburn contingent, erupted.

The feeling is indescribable; such a rush of adrenaline is unique. I felt part of the team; no, I was a part of the team. I was sitting on the edge of our row, so I jumped out of my seat, unzipped my coat to show off my jersey, grabbed my scarf in two hands, and ran down a couple of steps with my arms held aloft in joy, proud to be a rover. Of course, I got terrible abuse walking back to my seat, but it all fell on deaf ears. The referee blew the final whistle straight after that. I remember very little else about that day except that my body was very weary and thinking, as I still do, that it was one of the greatest days of my life.

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