A few months ago I won tickets to see Manchester United Take on their Italian Champion Counterparts Juventus at Giants Stadium in New Jersey. It wasn’t too big a deal, or so I thought, because the tickets were somewhere in the rafters of the roofless Stadium, and at 40 dollars a pop, could hardly be called the most expensive game in history… or so I thought.
You see, that was my first mistake.
It started when I won the tickets at the Football Bar on 11th and 3rd in NYC. As it happened at the time I was the only Sunderland Supporter in the Bar, and all it took was a single pint of dodgy tasting (but otherwise prize winning) Carlsberg and I was suddenly the center of attention from some hundred or so annoyed Reds.
I was offered a bit for the tickets sure enough but decided to keep them despite the trouble they were causing me. My friend (a Man U fan) had managed to get me tickets on the limited supporters bus leaving the bar as well, and although I was unsure that I really wanted to go and see United play, I thought it would be an interesting day out.
As it turned out the Match had rapidly sold out and the tickets were now going for some $150 in my section (and that was the cheap Touts). It had meant to be a Safcsa USA day out but tickets had gone so fast that I had been unable to get any more.
My second mistake was not taking enough time off work. I’m A Neurologist and one of my Patients was having an MRI scan that day, trouble is it overran and I ended up having to get down to 11th St. from 92nd street (no mean task) in rush hour in 15 minutes. I missed the bus.
However, having convinced some Man U supporting Americans that I was wearing a Man U shirt (It was the new Sunderland away one) I got a taxi over to the stadium in quick time and found my seat under the executive boxes at the very top of the 80,000 seater stadium. It was packed out.
Supporters from all over the world were here, and it had been building for some time. For the last week Man U and Juve Shirts could be seen all over the city and practically every man and his dog was wearing football shirts. Excitement
What followed was an insane 90 minutes where non-segregated American Fans didn’t quite know who to support. Man U were by far the noisiest supporters in the arena but Juve, much the annoyance of the loud Arsenal Fan next to me, didn’t seem to be bothered with the match. Although the Italian team exposed some serious holes in the United Formation early one, they still managed to squander the first few (and good) chances of the match by not seeming to care about where the Ball went once it was out of their midfeild. Davids, for instance, proved to be a great player when he ran with the ball, but often found himself without support in areas of the pitch that Juve should have been pressing for control for from the start. The more they pressed the more it seemed obvious that they weren’t going to seriously make take the risks and make an effort to finish it off, despite causing Man U to make some serious mistakes.
Its my opinion that should Juve ever play United seriously, Manchester will proverbially be up the Tyne.
However, having said that. Man U then took Juve apart in their trademark counter attacking style, wearing out the opposition and bringing them back to reality that they were in fact in front of eighty thousand people and that (some of) these people had paid money to see them. Juve then immediately responded by not giving a Rats arse about the goals that were being scored freely against them, to which the Crowd in turn responded to by starting a Crazy Mexican wave that at this point was more entertaining then watching the Italian team and that was a great deal of fun. It was now clear, that just as in the last few Sunderland games, the Crowd was going to have to make their own entertainment. At one Point I thought the Arsenal supporter was going to explode with frustration.
Perhaps I’m being a bit too scornful considering Man U beat a quality team without Beckham. But I left early, in what was now a dull drizzling rain (remember Americans don’t need roofs) I was fine because being on the top row of seats I was under the Exec boxes, but everyone else got soaked.
On the way Back I was thinking more of Sunderland then the match. I’d already lost the Smiths Bus I supposedly had tickets for in a few thousand strong crowd teeming with blasé Juventus supporters, and had been forced to pretend to be a Mancunian tourist on a tour bus going back into Manhattan in order to get home…. it worked until I put my shirt back on, by which point I was already back in the city. (Note that if you are ever at Giants Stadium; leaving the ground is a nightmare; if the game ends at ten in the evening, don’t be surprised to get back into New York City by Two Am or later).
You See I enjoyed the match a great deal. But at the end came out more determined then ever to see Safcsa USA become a successful branch. In the fast month or so we’ve talked about relegation and how it will effect the branch, but despite some financial difficulty (namely the web-site and the magazine) we’re now gunning for the First Division and know that whatever happens, we in the USA will be behind the Lads 100%. We have a great new website; we’re forming even stronger bonds with our Australian brethren, and a new version of the magazine means that we’ll soon be able to ship it regularly to all our USA members to keep in touch despite the like of first division football (this may change however Setana Sport might buy the rights for the first division for the USA by early 2004).
Having watched my first footie game in a while; I’m gunning for a season that, hopefully, won’t be as bad as the last one for Sunderland!