Friday, February 17, 2006

The first post

So finally I write my first blog. Months after the idea first came into my head, and flitted around in the recesses of my brains, Ive finally mustered the courage to make that first move. Perhaps it helped that this was already a long email sent to unsuspecting pals: i just had to copy-paste it. And not to mention some really nice words of encouragement Ive receieved in the past few weeks on my writing. So here goes!

Its a little late in the day for this blog, but Ive been really caught up with work and small-talk socializing in the last week, so couldn't write in. Nevertheless the subject is very much fresh in my mind, and it would be a real shame not to share this experience with you.

Sunday the 5th of February marked a historic day in my life. We all have our "once-in-this-lifetime" dreams and ambitions: be it making a TV appearance or meeting Sachin Tendulkar in the flesh, it is the seeming impossiblity of their occurence that keeps them alive. And when suddenly one day they happen, it takes so much for the realization to sink in. The euphoria of the present moment somehow erases the significance of the wishful wait.

One such dream for me has been to watch a premier-est Premiership match live in the stadium: Frankly, have never followed soccer like many of my friends did, but the few matches that I had seen on TV, I had been overwhelmed by the atmosphere. Larger-than-life stars, drunk followers and heated free-for-alls all in the space of 90 min: soccer seemed to have it all.

And when you are in London, you just cannot escape the magic that this game weaves on the common man. Club soccer is not a pastime here, it is a religion. People, however poor, buy season tickets costing £1600 for their favourite club, impressive considering the average annual salary here is £18,000. Every pub worth its salt advertises their large screens on a matchday, and stadium tube stations reflect a sea of uniform hue as fans dress up from head to toe in their club colors.

So it felt unreal when one day at a daaru party someone floated the idea of going to a stadium to watch the Chelsea-Liverpool game. The fact that it would be prohibitively expensive apart, we were not sure if we would get tickets. I mean, Chelsea-Liverpool! how would we ever be able to get a seat for it in this soccer-crazy country? It was however worth a try, we agreed, and collective enthusiasm ensured that we landed up at Stamford Bridge on a dark Sunday afternoon.

It had not been difficult to find the way: the whole world seemed to be going there. All exits at the Fulham tube station were closed except the one going towards the stadium. Cops dressed in bright uniforms regulated the crowds at every juncture, but I could feel the atmosphere already. The fans had already kicked off their slanging match in the tube, and soon there were slogans and abuses all around. As we walked down the long road towards the Chelsea stadium, enthusiastic Chelsea volunteers gave away free magazines to their supporters.

Having come so far, I didnt want to miss the action now: we immediately started looking around for touts. We found some gruff ones, and after some unsuccessful negotation which had the sole effect of antagonizing one of them nearly into action, we agreed hurriedly to buy tickets at £100 each. It seemed a fair price considering the true price was £60. What we soon realized was that none of the tickets were together, as he had promised. We split up, each his own way.

As I made my way to the East stand, I saw that there were 2 queues: for supporters and for away fans. I realized I liked Chelsea after noticing a relatively small queue on the supporters end: most fans like to sit on the West End. It took an eternity to reach my row, and my seat was bang in middle, but there seemed to be no leg space to wade through to it. I stood there clueless, until one helpful Brit made the others stand up and let me pass. "And by the way, Chelsea is in blue", he informed me, mocking my ignorance, to the laughter of everyone around. I would have turned red, but was scared they would kill me.

From then on, it was pure magic. The continuous singing, the booing, the "Hernan Crespo O O O O" adulation, everything was so much fun. And then Gallas scored, and they all erupted, dancing and hugging each other. If you were a L'pool fan sitting there by accident, you would have been converted by the end of the game. I remained in a state of disbelief as Gerrard took a corner just yards away from me, and when Crespo scored a beautiful goal to make it 2-0.

Chelsea had had a great game and as we trudged out of the stadium, Chelsea fans were intent to rub it in. All of them gathered near the Liverpool supporters' buses, taunting them. As fistfights started, I poked around trying to get it on video on my phone (I so love raadas) and barely escaped being hit by cops on horses. Hmm, one down. What next, Wimbledon Center Court, Federer v/s Agassi?