Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Magpies vs Hammers

20th Aug 2005 -
The day I went to witness by first ever football match in a stadium. Getting up early on the saturday morning is usually tough but this day was different. After the rituals I had to perform this day (it being the next day of 'Avaniavattam'), chanting gayatri mantram for a staggering 1008 times... Man, wish I was this sincere everyday.
After a sandwich and coffee for breakfast, my usual saturday morning routine commenced...some hours of gaming on the xbox. Today, I thought of experiencing the football match before the actual match (does it makes sense...whatever). I started FIFA and chose the 2 teams, Newcastle United and West Ham. First match was me being NUFC and xbox being the West hammers and hammers hammered NUFC. There, next time, NUFC (me) made a pulp out of west ham. I thought one more play and by taking the best of the three, I can be sure of the outcome of the match. This time, I was West Ham, and as expected the magpies won and I was sure, NUFC would become 3 points closer to being champions in the champions league.
En route -
Left home for St. James Park stadium at noon. I was supposed to reach there at 1300 hrs. There was no problem finding the way to the destination as a major percentage of population of Newcastle city was walking in that direction proudly wearing the black and white striped t-shirt supporting NUFC to the hilt.

Brancepeth Suite, St. James Park -
Needless to say, the crowd was huge. At 1300 hrs, I went into Brancepeth suite (more like a 3 star hotel restaurant). This place was for sponsors, and thanks to the firm I work for, I had a sponsor's ticket. Only the elite were here, prim and propah ladies and gentlemen in thier tweed suits or dior shirts and trousers. Though, I felt a little out of place, I wasn't amazed that I managed pretty well ;-). Since, I hadn't spoken to any of my colleagues who were planning to come (none of them Indians), I could not find them and had to sit alone for the sumptuous luncheon to be.
A not-so-bad-looking brit stewardess came with a smile from ear to ear and asked for what drink I would like to have. After listening to list of numerous cocktails etc, I settled for a coke, and I am sure, the smile turned to smirk before she turned around to get my order. After a sip or 2 of coke, while reading the official NUFC football magazine provided, saw the main course had started. After a few minutes, I joined.
There were multitude of non vegetarian dishes, some looking delicious but concience said, "Venda Iyer-ae, venda....venda" and as usual, I never looked towards the non-vegetarian side again. All the brits know of vegetarian food is - mashed potatoes, jacket potatoes, crust potatoes, potatoes with cheese and so on. They also know about salads and boiled vegetables without salt and spice, sprouted beans and a thick, long rice where u can actually bite the rice grain into two.
So, with barely 3 dishes on my plate, while the others' plates were laden with animals in all shapes, sizes and colours.I regained my seat with my plate for lunch. Now, as they say, 'When in Rome, be a Roman', I had to eat like the gentlemen do, using the fork and knife, which wasn't a problem as always, till....till I had to eat boiled peas in the salad. How the hell are you supposed to eat boiled, tiny peas with a fork from a plate as flat as a football ground. Then, slowy and steadily, I mastered the art of eating peas with fork from a glazed football field. Half hearted and half-"tummied", I resigned myself back to the magazine with the glass of coke.
Wazzat sweet smell.....ah...desserts. Heart, stomach and brain raced my body towards the dessert table. Seven different kinds of mouth watering desserts awaited me. The sight of those aroused the glutton in me and I had all the seven to my stomach's and heart's content. If gluttony was a sin in Hinduism, I would have to be in the Ganges for a whole year to wash today's sin away.

Magpies(Newcastle United) vs Hammers(West Ham) -
The Milburn stand, where I was seated had an excellent view of the field. And my seat was very next to the centre of the field. There was a mammoth fan following cheering away to glory, all in black and white striped t-shirt supporting the magpies. A small but extremely lively swarm of Hammer supporters on the left were throwing plastic balls and balloons on the crowd and singing their, what I think was, west ham football song. The commentary before the battle commenced and during the half time break is worth a mention.
Amid deafening cheers, the players poured on to the field, and the maaaaaatch.............began.
Alan Shearer, the magpie captain and Teddy Sheringham, the West Ham captain were the favourite. People also were keen fans of NUFC player Lee Clarke and goal keeper, Shay Given. The match went on okay with underdogs West Ham putting up a good show against the home team. Almost half time and no goal scored....this angered me as this was my first ever football match in a stadium. The others were furious because NUFC were missing chances.
The burly man with a huge beard sitting next to me was bellowing at the magpie forwards for not converting the kicks from inside the D into goals. Mouth reeking of beer, he gave a pat on my back, and said in a heavily jordi-accented voice " Ay yooong man, who do you thfink takes thfree points today? ". Realising that he was a NUFC fan and also knowing that, a pat on the back is inches away from a kick in the butt, I said "Magpies". Personally I thought west ham did put on a good show, my 'staying alive' was my sole aim while answering him. He seemed happy with the answer and asked me to look out for his favourite Lee Clarke. The rest of the match was punctuated with his directions to the players on how to play –
"Cooom on man, u're in, u're in...hit the effing goal"....." Shall I send my grnadson to play for u a*****s"...."Argh...coom on, u twats, hit a goal, I dont wanna fret 'bout it whole Soonday" ,so on and so forth.
Much to everbody's dismay the match ended without a goal. I was saddened, that no goal was scored and I am not sure, when I shall watch another match of this sort. After a coffee and cookie in Brancepeth suite, I went back home with an Italian colleague. On the way, he talked about how good the Indian curries are, which I agreed fully and I also gave an okay status to Italian Pizzas.
Thus ended an eventful and memorable day.

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