Broadening horizons in a shoeless fashion

2 08 2008
Bangor City 1 FC Midtjylland 6
UEFA Cup 1st Qualifying Round 1st Leg

En Route to Wrexham we felt hopeful. The last time we’d played in European Competition at Wrexham we’d beaten a team from what was then called Yugoslavia. I‘m not superstitious, it‘s too unlucky, but when it comes to football I wonder about the possibility of supernatural forces controlling matters. When a team has won, especially when victory was doubtful, I will attribute this success not to the skills of the players but what happened to me that day. The next time a similar situation arises I will repeat the routine. Of course this method is 100% successful.

Hence today I was wearing a retro foreign football shirt, travelling with a friend on the train and going to the Turf pub before the game for a Bacardi and Coke. I was also going to pay £10 to get in, oh no I wasn’t, I’ve got a ticket – shit, we’re going to lose. I tried to put this to the back of my mind.

At first the atmosphere in the Turf reinforced my belief that we were going to win, then someone pricked my balloon of confidence with some realism; “It’s going to be hard, this”. We entered the arena, slightly subdued, to find a place for the flag. Dewi was excitedly signalling us so we thought it was done thing to go to him. What a vantage point we had; only one girder in the way. However, this was another omen; against Sartid I’d watched the game from a similar position.

After about 10 minutes it started to become interesting; the Danish pros had created several chances. After about 15 minutes Smithy made a really good save. Just before 20 minutes Martyn Beattie cleared it off the line. “EASY !!! EASY !!! EASY!!!”. A few minutes later we cleared it off the line again “EASY !!!! EASY !!! EA…. Oh shit they’ve scored from the rebound.” We were 0-1 down, how lucky were they?

We cast aside this outrageous misfortune and roared our heroes onward. “C’mon City, C’mon City, C’mon City!!!” The ball flew through the area and hit someone, it flew goalward but it was cleared. It fell to Les!!! He thrashed it in. Seats are restrictive on your movements at moments of high joyfulness. This must be the reason why the Bourgeoisie wants all-seater stadium, they don’t like to see the Proles expressing themselves; “I say, If you’re going to be a football fan you must applaud politely.” With a lid kept on our emotions we won’t revolt.

Now the match was ours. Well the match should have been ours but the officials contrived to avoid awarding a certain, nailed-on, nay blatant, penalty kick. Another Smithy save followed. The professional Danes cast aside sentiment and manners to score again. At half-time we were behind but unbowed.

I’m not saying European football is fixed or anything like that but the important decisions didn’t go in our favour. First, the penalty, then about 5 minutes into the second half an orbiting astronaut could have seen the foul on Noony. Not only was the assault unpunished but the professional Danes had the audacity to score two minutes later. In order to hide their guilt they went on to score another three by the 60 minute mark.

To be honest it’s a refreshing change to play opponents the can play football, can pass and move and use space effectively. No more goals were scored in the last 30 minutes. To put a positive spin on tonight, at least the pressure was off for the 2nd Leg; we could enjoy the trip without vulgar pretensions of victory, that’s soooo Rhyl.

FC Midtjylland 4 Bangor City 0
UEFA Cup 1st Qualifying Rd. 2nd Leg

The final few days before this trip were spent frantically looking for a Hawaiian shirt. Everybody’s goin’ surfing, surfing Bangor Aye! As a lot of people had booked with Ryanair from Stansted that meant a lot of people I knew being unable to fall asleep at the same time. Inconsiderate people jangling and a lack of seating are not conducive to a restful night. To pass the time I began hallucinating, I began to see overgrown Scouts and legions of Rock Fans from the 1980s, mullets and all, everywhere.

Just before our flight I discovered that there is an international scam involving toiletry manufacturers and the Illuminati. Apparently you can’t take containers containing more than 100 ml of liquids on to planes, just in case you want to be a terrorist with beautifully shiny hair. However, you can buy them same products on the other side of the check-in desk, the only difference being the inflated prices. I shouldn’t worry though, on the other side the stuff had been checked, as the kindly shop assistant explained. I could help wondering though, what if the shower gel and shampoo combined to make a new type of napalm. The thought troubled me for the duration of the flight.

Arhus’ “airport” was a glazed corridor. The journey to Arhus felt too long but we were outside the railway station at 11:40 (local time). My directions to the youth hostel were only slightly misleading; a 10 minute walk turned into a 25 minutes hike although I did walk past a shop selling Kalashnikovs. Denmark was hot and seemed, in the 65 minutes I’d been on terra firma, very friendly, then I reached the youth hostel. The shutters were down and no-one was around. I eventually found the elusive staff, they were truly sorry but I had to wait until 4 to check in.

So how do you waste 3 and half hours with just a tree and the sun for company? Sleep and contemplation. After an hour or two I didn’t just have the tree for company, people kept sending me texts taunting me. They were experiencing Danish hospitality whilst I was overheating.

4 o’clock rolled around, time to go in!! However some bloody Anarchist had smashed my room up. More contrition, would I mind waiting half an hour? So near to a shower, yet so far. Just four and a half short hours after I’d arrived in Arhus and I was able to start being a tourist.

After a quick jaunt around that lovely, lovely city you are quickly aware of the beauty of the Danish nation, their buildings, their parks and the people of course. Alwyn, Melir and Owain were outside a very pleasant, and very cheap, little bar. We watched the beautiful people go by and felt very much part of the scene; “Where we’re going we didn’t need roads.” Being a stranger I put my fate into the hands of those with a day’s experience. An Irish bar was recommended and the night fell into place; an exiled Cardiffian ran a quiz, he fixed it for us, we won booze masquerading as cough medicine, had a bit of a sing-song, Karaoke “Sweet Caroline” a beautiful song beautifully sung. A beautiful night in a beautiful place with beautiful people. Thursday was going to be good…….

Thursday meant Hawaiian Shirts. We looked great as we waited for the train. Herning was as friendly as Arhus; the first few drinks were free. After a few hours everybody was here and to judge from the quizzical expressions we were quite an interesting sight. Absolutely everybody, apart from one guy who made sheep noises, was friendly, even the police waved and said hello, more beautiful humans. Bikes seem popular, on a related note there’s a plaque for self-confessed drug cheat Bjarne Riis on the main square.

I took possession of a shiny new St. Pauli scarf (6 years in coming) and we ensured diplomatic relations were enhanced. “We going to win 6-0” and the Midtjylland fans took in good humour. I wasn’t sure about the number of Midtjylland fans actually going; we met one of the “sponsors” of Midtjylland and he wasn’t going.

Danish bus passengers seemed to like our style; the bus was filled with the rhythms of the blue army and all was jovial. We were going to win 6-0. We debussed and went to their Fanloungen, more hospitality! A few refreshments later and a 6-a-side game was organised. I was out there like a shot, death before dishonour and all that. After the anthems we settled on our formation, every man for himself.

I went for the left wing / battering ram role. Captain Bangor assumed the mantle of tactical guru; “Right, get in their way and I’ll put the ball in”. Our freeform tactics paid dividends as we sped into a 4-0 lead. the masterstroke of using more players also working brilliantly. There was much frivolity and blackslapping that it made you feel humble; so many people from different places engaged in a common activity. National boundaries melted in the early evening sun. The match was of those beautiful moments of football history, just like 1914 in Flanders’ trenches. We eventually won 5-2.

The ground was very big, for Bangor. The stewards and the refreshment sellers were welcoming. Beers were plentiful and even drunk whilst ACTUALLY watching the match ON THE TERRACE. For some reason they took my bottle of water off me, although they let me go up them and drink from it. The whole approach of the stewards was a delightful a contrast to “thems the rules, fascism with po-face“ approach utilised by British quasi officialdom. There was none of the “not allowed to take pictures here” that, “sit down” there, or “you can’t put that up here” the other.

We rapturously welcomed the team. We WERE going to win 6-0!! Well we were until the third minute; we were now going to win 7-1. Then we were going to win 8-2. And we WERE too, in between the two goals their keeper had made two saves.

When you happen to be in the middle of a singing mass at football matches you tend to believe that you are so noisy everyone else will be drowned out. Usually this is not the case but today I would say that this presumption would have been correct; only a small section of the Midtjylland fans were making any noise and they were probably the same people that we’d shared a pitch with. “Neville Powell’s Blue and White Army, Neville Powell’s blue and white army, Neville Powell’s blue and white army” may seem monotonous but it was a beautiful 10 minutes of singing until half time. 0-2 was the score.

After ice lollies and beer the singing continued unabated throughout the second half. The only moments that we were briefly silenced were for the few seconds after Midtjylland scored. “Shoes off if you love Bangor!!” and we were all shoeless, some Danes too. “Where we’re going we don’t need shoes!!” “Stand up if you love Bangor” so we stood up, some Danes loved Bangor too. Some other fans came over to literally, drunkenly press the flesh. They loved our singing. We weren’t going to win 9-4 but we kept singing and singing and jumping and scarf twirling and singing. I don’t know what would have happened if we’d actually scored, maybe we’d have flown.

It’s difficult to put into words how good this match felt There was something intangible about it, something you just felt, something you felt part of, it was a warm glow of camaraderie, a feeling of oneness, of togetherness, an unshakeable spirit or perhaps it was the cold beverages?

The lovely stewards allowed us on to the terracing to proclaim our heroes. “Where we’re going we don’t need seats!”. We left for the station with good wishes from all directions. Hangin’ Harvey suggested “Teeth Out, if you love Bangor!!!” and this seemed to be a popular idea. We left Arhus station for one last taste of the Good Life and it was good; everyone was still friendly, everyone wanted to dance, everyone wanted to chat, they even played the Happy Mondays for us. One bloke seemed to think that George W. Bush was the free world’s finest ever leader but the ensuing philosophical discussion didn’t deflate us. Oggy, Alwyn and I left for our accommodation still elated over the day’s events.

I arrived back at the Hostel at 3:30. There was no time for sleep. I’d stay awake ‘til 7 as I needed to get the bus outside the station. I’ll just close my eyes for a few seconds. Then it was 8:55, never mind, oh shit 8:55!!!!! “Come in a Taxi, I must’ve come in a Taxi”, luckily it claimed all of my leftover money.

Alwyn was right, we didn’t need roads in the end, or shoes, or teeth to have a good time

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