Saturday, 11 August 2012

My Olympic Football Experience

It was the 10th of August and I had been handed free tickets to the football in Cardiff courtesy of my uncle Dave who was great enough to recieve a job offer in Germany after he had bought them, it weren't even my birthday but I still couldn't wait to go, I had chosen to take Dafydd Carhart he was the first person who wanted to go so it seemed simple I go with him.

So It was 16:15 and I waited at Aberdare train station and the weather was humid at best, I brought a bottle of water just in case for the long journey ahead. The train was delayed due to a landslide the previous night which had effected all trains I was hoping not to be late getting into Cardiff. It arrived at 16:22 exactly and left as soon as it had turned up. I could tell this would be an annoying journey, the train felt a tad uneasy and add this to the warm day it was hard to enjoy the occasion at the moment. We picked up Carhart at Mountain Ash which was 10 minutes away from me and we set off towards Cardiff.

Me and Carhart were talking about all things Korea and Japan prior to the game unable to really pick a side to follow so we agreed that whatever seats we occupy we shall adhere to the fans nearby. That turned out to be a bit of both so we just celebrated football as it is. There's always that annoying couple on the train and it seemed the case again, another scene for Jeremy Kyle it felt like. We saw some great countryside in fairness, the warm weather embedded some beautiful scenery surely this wasn't hectic Cardiff. We hit a slight delay with the announcer saying that the station was busy with our cultural counterparts in essence. We stopped outside Cardiff with only the Cardiff City Stadium to look at oh the bliss.

It turned out we took an alternative route into the city which I was unfamiliar with but still we digress, after all this waiting the excitement was dying out but as we pulled into the station it all came back straight away there was so many colourful characters and not just from Korea/Japan, we really were on the world stage. We had to navigate ourselves off the platform and towards food which in this case was a quick sandwitch in the forms of Burger King. Managed to bump into our club secretary Duncan who was there as well, we last saw him giving decisions against us last sunday, had to think hard not to bring it up again.

After having food we headed towards the stadium this was so hard to take in, the Japanese were so colourful and cheerful it was a behold to see, families from all cultures all sitting down and talking to each other, let's not forget London 2012 has been a huge success for everyone. There were police everywhere, a feisty rivalry here starting to simmer nicely. Two policemen were carrying guns only seen on war films, a man walking next to us asked Carhart to take a photo of him with the guys, it's actually not legal but still he still took the photo.

(Photo courtesy of BBC News)

Next was stadium security so I put my wallet inside the bag they gave us and they were a tad bit frisky to be fair although there are plenty of reasons behind it. I really needed to use the toilet at this point so I probably looked a little suspect but that's another story. We found our seats and it was the third row from the pitch so we could some up close and personal action. We were still an hour away from kick off so Carhart got some more photographer practice from a few different nationalities, including an American couple whose accents were great to hear. DJ Spoony was the pre-match entertainment although had a hard time putting his flavour on the event. A few more photos for Carhart to deal with and the stadium had almost filled up to the top. 

The teams were coming out and we decided that we were going to really support both teams prior to kick off even joining in with the chants of which we didn't understand the words but the sentiment was there regardless. There were horns blasting and some guy hitting a pot and a pan this really was a tremendous experience, We stood up for national anthems in respect and then we were underway. The first half was feisty to say the least plenty of cards going everywhere felt like fathers day. Japan's right back Saiko seemed to come to play-act oh great. It was a half which Korea looked dangerous and Japan just putting crosses into the box which came to nothing. It's worth mentioning that before the game I said to Carhart that the two Premier League strikers for Korea would make the difference and so it was with Park Chu Young of Arsenal turning his defenders inside and out and finishing with finese. Still the warcry of Japan sounded out although there was nothing for them to cheer for.

The second half kind of dithered for a bit which resulted in almost 4 waves of the illustrious Mexican Wave although the opposite stand letting us down all night. It was still continuing to be very touchy on the field with plenty of players hitting the deck and staying there and milking the occasions so to speak. Stretchers not even used just brought on to waste time much to the annoyance of the home crowd. I could tell Korea were going to get another and so they did in the form of captain Jacheol Koo who slided it home and pretty much wrapped up the game right there, they also hit the bar shorly after after a fingertip save by the Japan shotstopper. The game was coming to it's climax and Japan were just putting balls into the box and as they did all night Korea defenders just sweeping them away. The Korean fans were getting vociferous and so were the Japan fans just celebrating both countries making an occasion.

The game finished with Japanese players on the deck holding their heads and looking so disappointed, I felt so much empathy for them. You just wanted to pat them on the back for such a great tournament. Koreans justified in thinking they had won the Gold with their celebrations!. We wanted to catch the train so we sprinted to the station quickily among choruses of Japan into the night sky. I lost my jacket in due course but it really didn't matter such was the occasion. Hordes of people heading home with smiles on their faces the experience really had brought so many people together. Our train was just about to leave when a crowd of 100/200 people were wavered into the direction of the Aberdare train, a 200 metres sprint to end the evening was comical. I managed to take the lead although there were females in a poor dress code for running behind me so I won't take that win to 2016.

So that was it, the night was over, the occasion really was exemplary from everyone involved. I enjoyed two great halfs of football and the atmosphere was mesmeric at times. I have never seen so much joy on the faces of people in the city centre. Absolutely exhausted but despite Korea winning bronze tonight there were bigger winners tonight in the form of culture and football and also comaraderie.

A great nice to saviour and one that will stay with me for the rest of my life this truly was my Olympic Football Experience.

Much Appreciated Again

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