Jesus, that’s a lot of miles!

14 11 2012

Last Saturday I didn’t go to a football match, last Saturday I didn’t watch a single football match of any description. I repeat this information because in my sad life this is a heinous situation. This heinous situation arose because the FAW, the FAW, the F A fucking W………….. (Rant Coming)……………..

……..that fucking bunch of blazer wearing buffoons. They lord it over us from their ivory towers, from their solid gold fucking mansions. Their never-ending, overflowing fucking wisdom is never less than amazing.

Those simpering pen-pushing, expenses hoovering dunderheads have surpassed themselves this time, they decided not to schedule any WPL matches for this fucking weekend!!!! The fucking twats simply took the matches from last weekend and put them at the start of September.

We have to go back to the summer for the start of the bullshit. By the corrupted standards of FAW minds they probably thought they had done something fucking fantastic by scheduling midweek WPL matches for the start of September.

I’ll bet they danced their way in to work the day after the decision, I’ll bet they were pleased as fucking punch as they skipped around Neptune Court like the MK Dons bellend mascot Karl Robinson – “Oh look at me, I’m King of the world, I’ve been terribly proactive today!! I’ve solved a massive problem for Welsh football, I think I’ll have an extra large cream cake this morning!!!”

The problem that those decrepit twats think they solved only existed in their heads, it was a problem caused by their forgetfulness; they had forgotten that they hadn’t scheduled extra fucking matches this season. All those simpering idiots had succeeded in doing was rescheduling the players’ free time and stealing an afternoon from the fans without fucking asking.

That September Tuesday was such a great fucking  idea;  part time players, you know players with jobs, making two hour journeys either side of getting knackered on a football pitch on a fucking  work day evening. Bangor were forced to travel to Aberystwyth at psychological gunpoint

Aber missed out on a quite literally massive amount of matchday revenue and it’s sort of very fucking important that WPL clubs gain matchday income; they need it to pay the fucking bills.  The blazered buffoons couldn’t give a flying fuck about the players, the fans, or the clubs.

The FAW have publicly stated that they wanted to encourage more people to watch its national league yet the morons pull a fucking stroke like this.

So, it’s thanks to those illogical fuckers I didn’t going to a match last weekend.

……(Rant over)……..

Excuse the rant but I’m the kind of person that likes to have a good reason – pungent diarrhoea, inconsiderate wedding planners etc, etc –  for a missing a match. I didn’t miss any of Bangor’s league matches last season and I only missed two Bangor matches the season before, this is “how I roll”.

The FAW blazer-wearers wouldn’t let my run continue. Some might say I could have gone to watch a match somewhere in north Wales if I’d really wanted. Some might say I didn’t go to a match because I’d promised my wife that I would “do stuff” around the home, they may have seen me cutting wood with a jigsaw at 2:30 on Saturday instead of being in a football ground but these people are neither here nor there; it’s the FAW’s fault I didn’t go anywhere.

I can remember the last Saturday I didn’t go to a match because it was the Saturday before last but it gets a bit trickier if I try to remember other Saturdays. Aside from a couple of weddings I can only think of that weird Saturday in 2005; Bangor had been knocked out of the Welsh Cup and every other local club were playing away.

When I tried to remember the last time I didn’t go to a match another question popped into my head; how many matches have I been to since July 2004? (2004 was the year when I was finally free of the university shackles, the year when I could finally earn a little money!). I scoured a few websites, and my collection of photos, in order to find an answer to the question. After a few days I had an answer; in the 8 and a bit seasons since July 2004 I have been to 561 football matches.

This works out at an average of 68.4 matches a season, or 7.1 matches a month, or a match every 4.2 days. Going to these matches has meant that I’ve spent at least 1,122 hours (or nearly 47 days) in football grounds since July 2004.

Two other questions then entered my mind; how many grounds have I been to? And, how many countries have I visited? My research told me that I’ve been to 80 different grounds and visited 8 countries (Wales, England, Austria, Ireland, Denmark, Belgium, Finland and Scotland).

More questions followed; how many miles have I travelled to watch matches? How long have I travelled for? How much did it all cost? How much have I paid to get in to matches? After a few more days of information collating I had more answers.

In order to watch football matches I have travelled roughly 65,478 miles and travelling those miles took roughly 1,347 hours (or 56 days). Based on the cost of travelling and getting to matches  I have spent at least £11656 (£6579 on travelling and £5075 on getting in.) If we add non-alcoholic drinks, food, programmes and fanzines – let’s say an extra £3.50 a match –  the total spend goes up to roughly £13,619.50.

It gets a bit more complicated when we think about adding drinking time; not every match involves drinking time, for example I’ve been to quite a few matches on my own. I’ll limit the drinking time to the matches involving the sides I support; Bangor City and Wales. Of the 561 matches 424 have involved Bangor City or Wales.

Let’s say I went straight home after 200 of the matches. This leaves a total of 224 matches that have featured refreshment time. Now let’s say I spent 2 and a half hours indulging in refreshment time and that I drank 4 pints at £2.50 a pint each time refreshment time happened. In total this boozing spree cost £2,240 and has lasted for 560 and a half hours (or 23.3333 days).

I’ve seen quite a breadth of action during my travels; 5 levels of Welsh football, the top 7 levels of English football and roughly 25 different knockout competitions, as Joe Fagin once gravelly said, that’s living alright!  I’ve been international too; Champions League, Uefa Cup, Europa League, Intertoto Cup UEFA Regions Cup, World Cup qualifiers, European Championships qualifiers, you name, I’ve done it! As for Wales, I’ve seen nearly all available levels for both Men (Full, U21, U19, U18, U17, U16, Semi Pro) and women (Full, U19, U17).

Incidentally I’ve been to 381 Bangor City matches. These matches have involved travelling 44,950 miles in  871 hours, (or 36 and a quarter days). Watching Bangor City has cost be a grand total of £5177 (travel and match entry). Rather interestingly it’s taken me 9.3 days to travel 9,216 miles to watch Bangor’s home matches.

To sum up; since 2004 I’ve travelled 65,478 miles in order to watch 561 football matches at 80 different grounds in 8 countries. I’ve spent 3029 and a half hours (126 days) pursuing activities related to football matches. Altogether going to matches has cost me £15,859.50 (Mind you, that’s only £1934.09 a year).

I’ve always known that I’ve had an interest in football but after digesting the fruits of my research I realise that I may be what has been termed “obsessed”. In the light of this I feel I must offer mitigation.

These bare facts may point to a conclusion but they are just bare facts, they only highlight the frightening amount of football I’ve seen. They tell you nothing about why I go to matches or what I get from going to matches. They are silent when it comes to the happiness and camaraderie, the cherished experiences, the japes and tomfoolery. They are dumbfounded when we consider the quality moidering that I have been exposed to.

The bare stats can’t tell you what it was like to experience my most pointless trip either, the joy that was Trinidad & Tobago v Wales in Graz.

Just after I returned home from the trip it felt like a highlight but in hindsight it looks like the depths of obsession, a bewildering waste of time, effort and money for no good reason. In hindsight it involved just too much effort for a friendly.

It was funny how I felt I had to go when I first heard of the trip. Mind you it was a different time. It started when I heard that Wales were going to play the Basque Country. I was desperate to go to Bilbao. Unfortunately my week off didn’t start until the week after the Bilbao match; I couldn’t go. However there was good news; Wales were playing Trinidad & Tobago in Graz at the start of my week off. I could go to that, I simply had to be there, I had to get some kudos for being a Wales away fan.

Here’s how the trip went; on Friday 25th May 2006 I left I work in Ellesmere Port at 3:40. I was on time and everything was great. I arrived in Llandudno at 5:25 and everything was dandy, all I had to worry about was getting back to Llandudno Junction station for the 6:30 train to London, no problem!

At some point between Llandudno and Llandudno Junction anxiety descended. What if the train was late in Junction? What if this meant I missed my connection from London to Stansted? What if the plane was late or even didn’t arrive? What if it crashed while I was on it? What if I missed my train in Salzburg?

There were so many questions but this is often what happens when you opt for the cheaper / more interesting option. I was flying to Salzburg instead of Graz as it was cheaper. I would then take a train from Salzburg to Graz via somewhere called Bischofshofen as this would be more interesting,  I love a European train journey. In the end I felt silly worrying, my progress to London was calm.

Even though the last Stansted express had left whilst I was still on the underground, even though the person on the national train information line had misled me about having plenty of time to catch the Stansted express, even though it was the trip was already becoming a fucking pain in the arse, nothing fazed me. I was right to be calm; a bloke in a uniform told me I could get a coach to Stansted from Victoria. 

Saturday began with me waiting for the 1am Stansted Coach to leave. The coach eventually wound its way through the thoroughfares of the metropolis, picking up waifs and strays. London was rather picturesque in the early morning.

After the coach arrived at Stansted I still had 4 hours to kill. Problems like this are often then main drawbacks of the cheaper / more interesting option. When I was planning the trip I dreaded this part; the long wait through the first night. I was no longer a student so my tolerance of sleeplessness had lessened and my standards of accommodation had increased, it was a directly proportional relationship.  Unfortunately there was no other option; I couldn’t book a hotel in London as my flight was too early.

At some point the anxiety returned, what if I fell asleep on the train to Graz? What if I stayed on the train and missed the game? What if I fell asleep at the game? All I could do was kill time and try not to think about being tired. Even though I strolled around the airport twice there were still 2 hours ’til check in. I must have fallen asleep because suddenly the flight was only 45 minutes away.

I arrived in Austria at 10 am with about an hour’s sleep in the last twenty four. I thought my cheaper / more interesting plan had left enough time to get everything sorted but I was in an almighty rush to get to Salzburg’s main station. 

On paper it looked easy. In reality baggage reclaim and timetables slow you down, showers don’t work and directions may be sketchy at best. I missed the 12:15 train but everything was alright I could get the next train, it just meant less drinking time. I went on an unplanned bus tour of Salzburg to kill time. I tried to enjoy it.

The bitter pill of the train journey was sugared by the amazing scenery. I collapsed in the seat, happy in the knowledge I was travelling. I always feel good when I’m travelling abroad and things make it clear I’m travelling abroad. I like the sense of disorientation brought on by signs in another language. I like the way tiredness amplifies this feeling.

Speaking of tiredness altering perception, my train journey took on an epic feel after I’d changed in Bischofshofen. Exhaustion may have blurred the divisions between reality and dreams because we seemed to be arriving at the same stations, but falling in and out of consciousness wasn’t the only cause, the train had a habit of entering a station in one direction and leaving 20 minutes later in reverse.

We were slightly late arriving into Graz so I only had about 45 minutes to get to the ground. I used my excellent German and even better knowledge of the international language of hand gestures to find out that I needed 2 tram journeys to get to the ground. The sight of Red shirt-wearing men at one stop reassured me that I was heading in the right direction. We got the ground with about 10 minutes to go to kick-off. There was a rather large queue for the away end. 

The queue turned out to be the result of rather over-enthusiastic stewards checking every piece of baggage, even those owned by kids. There were about 150ish of us, I didn’t realise that I would be with such dangerous company. Ironically they still served beer to us when we got in. 

My mood wasn’t enhanced when my flag was deemed “Too Politisch” by the organisers. This was the first time I’d been censored at a match. I thought this was a little ironic given the FPO, a party of the Austrain Far-right, were freely advertising on the streets. In 2006 I wasn’t really aware of the T & T’s Jack Warner so I put the censorship to the bloodymindedness of the security firm operatives.

After watching Gareth Bale’s international debut, and swiping of souvenir signs, I was off to Hooters. I tried to enjoy some cold drinks with my new friends, Karl and his wife from Flint and their two friends, but I had to clock watch because I didn’t want to miss the last train to Salzburg. After bidding my new friends a fond farewell I went back to the tram station to find an impatient queue.

After 15 minutes of waiting it was obvious that the tram wasn’t coming. Luckily, the Welsh mascot, his dad and I managed to get a Taxi back to the station. I arrived with a couple of minutes left to spare but the mascot and his dad weren’t so lucky. I sat on the train and realsed that I was still six and a half hours from Salzburg, it would have been four and a half without the wait in Bischofshofen.

The first part of my Sunday was spent waiting walking around Bischofshofen. My exploration of the shadowy town centre lasted 30 minutes even though I was walking slowly. I bet this town is jumping in the daytime but in the middle of the night the only thing jumping was me at shadows. I saw a bar that looked open and I thought about going in but the noise coming from the inside made me think twice, I didn’t particularly want to get involved in a bar brawl. I went to wait in the station with all the other creepy people. On the train to Salzburg I shared a compartment with some Hungarian soldiers. Oh how very Orient Express of me, a train compartment indeed!

I finally arrived back in Salzburg at 4:30am and celebrated dawn by getting lost on the streets of Salzburg. All I had for company was a strange tasting Snickers bar. On my trek to the hostel I realised the stupidity of what I’d been doing  in Austria; I’d been travelling virtually non-stop for 39 hours in order to spend about 4 hours in a place that Wales were playing a friendly, what the fuck was I doing?

I arrived back at the Youth Hostel at approximately 6:16am on Sunday morning. I had a nap for about half an hour, packed my bag, had a shower and then had another half hour  nap. I arose to find the rain streaming down the windows of the hostel, my dreams of exploring Mozart’s city appeared to be dashed. I looked at my phone and saw that I only had half an hour until check out time. In effect I’d paid the hostel 25 Euros to look after my bag.

I killed the eight hours between check out and flight somehow. Two of the hours were spent sitting in the hostel hoping the rain would stop. Jesus it was depressive. In the end I just thought “Sod it, it can’t get any worse” an hour and half later the squelching of my trainers announced that it had got worse. I managed to see Mozart’s house, some statues, some nice buildings and the Salzburg Red Bullshitters’ over-commercialised new ground. By the time I got the bus to Salzburg’s airport the rain had stopped, I still felt damp though.

The flight arrived in Stansted on time and I got my first proper sleep for 96 hours in the shadow of St. Paul’s cathedral.

Not only did I endure all this I actually paid for the privilege of enduring it. However it wasn’t all bad, if I hadn’t gone I wouldn’t have been able to take this photo of some men without shirts;

If nothing else the trip furnished me with experiences and from a certain point of view life is all about garnering experiences. Besides it can’t have been too bad, it didn’t put me off football, or travelling, or travelling to football. On the other hand, I still can’t quite work out why I went.

To return to the issue of football-free Saturdays, the next time it happens I’ll need to be more prepared. I’m going to have to make plans to go somewhere or do something. If I don’t do this I’m not sure I’ll be able to deal with any more Saturdays like the ones I’ve just experienced.

Saturday afternoon television is truly dismal. I had thought Football Focus was tired old shite but it’s actually an anchor of normality in an ocean of dross. On Saturday afternoons you’re knee-deep in shite like Holiday Home Sweet Home, X Factor USA, Dog the Bounty Hunter and repeats of Made in Chelsea, and you don’t have a bucket. My god, people have the cheek to moan about the BBC.

To sum up my findings once more. I am a football obsessive. I have travelled the equivalent of going around the world 1.6 times in order to watch 561 football matches at 80 different grounds in 8 countries. I have spent the equivalent of 4 and half solid months pursuing activities related to attending football matches. Lastly I could have bought a second hand Mercedes-Benz A Class A180, or an all-inclusive 4 star week in Antigua each year, with all the money I’ve spent on football.

Jesus, I can’t quite believe that I’ve travelled that much. Why did I bother? Because I wanted to, so there.

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