England Vs Colombia: The Star Spangled Bungle
England kicked up more then three goals this tuesday when they entered into a row with their host nation, the Unites states. England had taken part in a friendly versus Colombia in Giants Stadium, New Jersey* however the match was doomed to become a fiasco long before even a ball was kicked when the team was announced early and it was far from the English all-star lineup the fans had hoped for.
I actually had the pleasure of attending the New York game and had a great time, enjoying the match and the company of several thousand traveling fans, however there was a lot to complain about, although its worth noting that, on the day the England Fans or the team did nothing wrong.
Giants stadium, despite its large capacity, is a run down, hard to get to mess, that actually does more harm then good in events like this, its hardly a showpiece for the best city in the USA! It’s oversized, roofless and well past its best. Surprisingly having been built in 1976 it resembles a post-apocalyptic cess pit on match days rather then a modern day sports arena and certainly doesn’t look like it was built to last past its original decade never mind the millenium, there’s nothing aesthetic about the design at all and its almost impossible to walk 360 degrees around thanks to a maze like construction of mesh, fence works and the ‘bubble’ (a bizarre indoor arena designed specifically to stop you meeting your mates at the gate that’s technically only meant to be a few feet away) add to this a maze of stagnant porta-loos and infuriating gate numbering and you have a recipe for disaster. Car parks are divided confusingly into a labyrinth of sealed off, poorly marked areas and should you actually be able to find your way back to your mode of transport (there are never enough public busses by the way) you’ll then be subjected to a painful wait while fifty thousand other fans stagger around, wide eyed, across the roads trying to find their way out of the crush that you thought you had escaped. You should be awarded a crystal for finding the same bus you came in on, never mind a ride home!
A question to the imbeciles who designed it, did you try to not spend money on it? I mean why have no roof when we get 8 ft of snow in the winter, and 100 degrees in the summer? Not to mention the thunderstorms of April! (someone once told me this was because American footballers like to play in ‘real conditions’, I didn’t realize the fans liked to as well).
To make matters worse the event was organized by idiots. There was no seating structure whatsoever with fans freely interspersed around the ground, the only attempt at putting England fans together being the English FA who had a small space behind one of the goals allocated. Hundreds of fans walked in, had to endure several minutes of waiting by each access gate as security personnel checked each ticket; and then walked inside the ground freely to whatever seat they fancied at that moment, thus making a mockery of the England supporters club and the imposed bans put in place on ‘named and shamed hooligans’.
Surprisingly enough the game was also way far from a sell out! With almost the entire top tier of the game empty. Apparently word had gotten around that it was a B or C side that England were playing and even the lure of David Beckham (it was his first game in the states interestingly enough) had not done enough to bring the local masses in. One person asked me in the street if Beckham had moved teams from Madrid to England, so perhaps some more PR work should have been done. Almost everyone was either Colombian or English, which was kind of nice but felt a little strange after seeing Man U, Barcelona, Juve, Milan and Madrid pack the place out 100% the previous year. Giants stadium is ok when its full because you can’t see it. But when you can it’s a nightmare!
Despite these problems England played well, however the first half was dire, kept alive mostly by the England fans who were great throughout. Poor organization off the pitch was mirrored on it and after shambling around in the sun for half an hour things finally began to pick up with some great accurate plays by both ‘all stars’ Beckham and Owen. During the break, the England manager must have increased the voltage in the England midfields neck bolts because the game finally finished 3-2; whereupon the Colombian and England fans kindly pointed out to the morons in charge of the event that maybe segregation in international matches was a good idea after all by throwing their lunch and drinks at each other. Being socked in the head by a plastic beer (yes you are allowed to drink in the stands) bottle somehow lacked the appeal of a real glass bottle and the eight hour wait in casualty afterwards however and the fans soon realized this and calmed down to unify together in peace to make their escape before having to watch the excruciating ordeal of the NY/NJ metrostars playing Chicago fire; which was the game afterwards. I’d say half the crowd sneaked off rather that watch that droll!
In my opinion that plastic beer bottle summed up the whole day, besides from the fans, it all… well it just seemed a little fake. The event was obviously joint organized to promote the Metrostars soccer club, however the organizers were so blindly dense that they didn’t even stop to think that people would actually want to escape early to avoid the crush on the road network outside (it was now six and the full rush hour was on) and to get out of the steaming rancid festering boil that is this part of New Jersey… and also admittedly because the domestic US game is also so amazingly unpopular pretty much everywhere in the world.
Maybe next time put the smaller game on BEFORE the main event lads? Admittedly I have to take some of the blame because that should have made me realize from the start that this was not going to be the day everyone thought it was, however NOTHING prepared me for what happened next.
(Which brings me onto the gripe/controversy I actually mentioned at the beginning of this article).
You see the US organizers and the local press got wind that the US national anthem had not been sung at a game involving two different countries on its own sacred soil. And returning from work today I turned on my TV to hear a mortified TV presenter going on about how rude England and Colombia had been for not singing the US anthem as well as their own.
“Both Anthems were sung!” The presenter mouthed off, squealing at the indignity of it all.
Why should they have done so you may ask? Well apparently it’s the law in NJ that every sporting event has to have the US anthem sung before it starts, and the FA arguing that its ‘soccer protocol’ and in fact did not represent the US did not seem to have any sway on the presenter whatsoever (at least not judging by her face).
No doubt both the football fans and the game itself will get the blame for being uncultured again… and once more we put the English game into disrepute. Personally I think that that’s ironic, mainly because the supporters, both Colombian and English, were, without question, the best part of the day. And actually made it very, very memorable. It just takes some effort to remember that, in the end it was all about the football. And that was all that mattered, not the ignorant organization.
I must keep repeating that,
Its all about the football….
*Those who have read my column before will note my tirade against New York not having its own football stadium, Giants Stadium is the home of the soccer team ‘metrostars’ and the American football teams the New York jets and the actual owners New York Giants (or rather ‘the Giants’; there’s some debate regarding who the giants actually belong to now), hence the name. It is actually in the swamps of New Jersey, not New York and is quite hard to get to if you don’t like an hour long bus ride home and don’t have a car. Supposedly the Jets are getting a new stadium actually in Manhattan, and indeed one of the final hurdles was passed today when the courts decided that the owners of the proposed site were in the right to sell it for development to the city, however the Jets and the government face stiff opposition in the form of MSG (who appears to be suffering from verbal flatulence on the issue) who owns a certain arena in mid-town and a certain TV station (they face to lose millions in concerts) so there are plenty of anti stadium adverts and suspiciously well organized protests going around all the time. Its worth noting that without a decent stadium, and Giants stadium is certainly not a decent stadium, the USA will definitely not get the Olympics.
Looks like your out of luck guys.