Sunday, 22 June 2014

WordPress Daily Prompt: Offside Memories

Team USA is playing today in the soccer World Cup in Brazil. Do you have any funny/harrowing/interesting memories from a sporting event you attended, participated in, or watched?

The scene is set in the stadion

I took this photo from the TV a few years ago, it was in 2006 before the beginning of the UEFA cup final when Manchester United played Chelsea in the final and Manchester won. At that time Manchester won everything, so no surprise. They had a good looking goalie, Edwin van der Saar and it was worth watching the match only to watch Edwin: tall, blond and in general a good looker. Of course they also had some guy called Rinaldo, a Portuguese who was credited as being god’s gift to woman. Unfortunately he knew it and left a trial of broken hearts on his football tour through the world. He still plays and apart from his womanising talents, I must admit he is a good player.

Of course I do not look at a football match to admire the hairy legs of the players and the hairy details do not look so good on the TV.

There were days, in my teenage years, when I could be found most Saturday afternoons in the football season, standing behind the goal at a local match with a friend of mine. We were sort of football crazy. We both lived in the East End of London. My dad was a supporter of West Ham United, and her dad a supporter of Leyton Orient. This was quite a good combination. The two teams were near to each other by London Underground and when one was playing on its home ground the others were playing away and vice versa, so what could be better. We were covered for a football match every Saturday.

We had a small problem with pocket money. Both being from a working class background, money did not pave the streets, so we were on a tight budget. Train tickets and entrance fees to the matches made a large hole in our meagre budget, but we did everything for football. Luckily the Leyton Orient ground was within walking distance. Of course a train would have been quicker, but we began our walk after lunch and ninety minutes later we were at our destination, tired but happy. It was a pleasant walk, at the beginning in town, but somewhere along the way we entered the River Lea valley. The River Lea was one of the London rivers and at the time of my football days, a little neglected. It was polished up for the 2012 London Olympic games when they found a few remainders of radio-active deposits, but they were cleared away and the River Lea was rediscovered.

I have the memories of walking along the road, parallel to the banks of the river, thinking of the match ahead. Eventually we would arrive at the stadium and stand in our usual place behind the goal for another ninety minutes to watch the game.

There were also the times during the school holidays when my friend and I would take a trip to the stadium with our autograph books waiting for the players to and mixing with other supporters obtaining our longed for signatures. I believe I still have the book somewhere, but I do not remember who the players were. They are now probably grandfathers if still alive. I remember one player who left the stadium, took a look at me and my friend and said “I ain’t signing any books for girls”, so we put him on our black list.

That was Leyton Orient. West Ham United was something different; they were a first league team and had the better players. It was the Bobby Moore time, when he joined the club and became a legend in his own right. I saw him play many games at the Boleyn ground, being named after the local pub, or vice versa. I do not know what Anne Boleyn had to do with the West Ham United football team, but Wikipedia tells me that there was once Boleyn castle nearby which belonged to the Boleyn family. Anne Boleyn was one of Henry VIII wives and was unfortunately beheaded because he wanted to marry again. She was also mother of Queen Elizabeth I.

I am digressing, after all what does football have to do with English royalty, although the Queen or the Duke of Edinburgh have been known to place the FA cup into the hands of the winning team. Probably the only time in their lives they have watched a match. They are more used to sitting on the backs of horses on the polo green.

So West Ham was my other team. The entrance fee did not cost more than Leyton, but we had to take the underground train. It was further afield. I remember the cemetery where my mum’s family were buried was nearby.

My taste for football remains, but it is not always the same. I am not so interested in the current world cup; I leave it up to Mr. Swiss, although his appetite has been spoilt by the dismal results of the Swiss team. The English have already gone home, so why bother. The States play at midnight this evening. Mr. Swiss finds it will probably be a good match, but I do not think his love of the Americans will credit staying up until midnight.

As far as funny memories are concerned, there are none. One of the directors of Leyton Orient was an impresario in show business and he would often bring visiting stars to the match. It was then that I saw Pat Boone sitting in the stadium. We had then changed places from behind the goal to where the players entered the field as our pocket money was increased and we could afford it.

Times have changed. When I watched a match the players had a minimum wage and the supporters were well behaved. Today West Ham supporters have a reputation of being the rowdiest even most dangerous, and they probably invented hooliganism. My dad once told me he would be too frightened today to go to a live match. I now sit outside on the warm summer evenings reading a book whilst Mr. Swiss and the neighbours watch a World Cup match on the TV. I receive the results by the sounds from the surrounding area. It is much safer and more relaxing.

Champions Statue

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