Wednesday 30 January 2019

Football Match

It had been thirty-four years since I’d stepped into St James to watch a football match. I was a child on previous visit and St. James was in its previous incarnation, before the Hillsborough disaster, forced a change to way football stadiums operated for the their fans. As a child I loved football, it was my life. These days, I’m not a big football fan; weightlifting is my bag. However, for a while I’ve been wanting to go back to match to be one of tens of thousands people all shouting and screaming the same thing. It did not disappoint.

Within thirty seconds of kick-off the opposing team (Manchester City) had scored. The vibe was already pretty negative as fans of the home team (Newcastle United) are having a revolt against the clubs owner. Before the match a rebellion of volunteers were handling out flyers before the match. Loving a bit of civil disobedience, I took park.

United Against Mike Ashley Protest Flyer

Between the protest and the loss of a goal in the first thirty seconds the vibe was low and the home crowd were quiet. The away team dominated and played with the home team like a cat plays with its prey. Offering the illusion of a game to its victim. I took a picture at half-time.

St. James Park @ the Newcastle vs Man City match 29th Jan 2019 at half time

I remember when I used to play football. Half had the ability to be re-genesis of you and your teams psychology and attitude. It would appear something similar went down in the Newcastle United changing rooms and on the terraces. In the second half the home crowd were active and players had fight. No more cat and mouse. This was cat vs cat and the away team could sense it. They did not dominate on the pitch or in the terraces. The vibe was electric. I found my match voice. Involuntarily shouting and screaming. Weird mental pathways that had not been active for over quarter of a century kicked in; profound was how I would describe it.

The battle for the match continued both on the pitch and on the pitch and then it happened. Newcastle Scored. It was 1-1 and the home team were back in the game. The shift in vibe was detectable. Newcastle fans were louder. Man City fans chanted, Newcastle fans drowned them out with seconds. The away team held their ground as best they could. It might have been even in terms of goals, but there were losing in terms of heart.

Then, right at the end, when a draw would have been a victory, the away team gave away a penalty. I was being mindful to be both part of the crowd and appreciate the crowd but being mindful was hard, the “will” of the masses for Newcastle to score another goal was palpable.

Newcastle scored. The eruption was volcanic and seismic. It was not all smiles though, because there was fifteen minutes left to go. Ten minutes of match time and what would be declared as five minutes extra time.

The vibe felt like a D-string tuned up to a G and it lasted fifteen excruciating minutes. I was freezing cold and shaking but I felt nothing; my mind was in hive-mind mode and all we wanted was the win. Every play away from the Newcastle end and the home team roared. When the ball went towards the Newcastle goal we inhaled with anxiety so hard that it felt caused the air-pressure on Earth to dip for a millisecond.

It was an eternity. But, eventually, we passed through time and Newcastle won 2-1.

I can see why so many people do that every week. It is almost therapeutic. You get to lose a tonne of built up internal energy. I’ve never let out so much vocal energy in one night since I performed karaoke at a SoPost night out.

It was exactly what I was looking for in a football match.