Nearly four years ago I missed a football match

10 05 2015

Just over four years ago Bangor City became the champions of Wales, nearly four years ago Bangor City played in the champions league, nearly four years ago I missed a football match.

My story starts with a Swiss draw, in a Swiss town, near a lake, in Switzerland…………

15th June 2011

Before today the outcome of the European draw and getting to the away leg were my main worries, at some point today “will I be allowed to put my flags on display?” crept into my collection.

The flags of the Jet Set slant from a certain direction and they are tolerated in Britain’s septic isle through support, bewilderment and indifference. Would they gain the same reception “on the continent”?

The problem is that flags have “varied, wide-ranging interpretations”, both decent left-wing fans and Cro-Magnon right-wing fans use flags. Take this example;

UEFA’s Disciplinary Committee had fined FK Dinamo Zagreb 20,000 Euros because Zagreb fans had waved the Macedonian flag!

The Croatian public are stunned by this bizarre punishment and can not believe the European footballing body would be this unprofessional and racist. Dinamo Zagreb fans waved the Macedonian flag in their UEFA match against Greek based club PAOK”

The Greek government disputes Macedonia’s right to call themselves Macedonia. Hence Macedonia has to be called The “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” in the United Nations. The Dinamo Zagreb fans were obviously using the Macedonian flags to make a point. Will my flags excite a few emotions?

My own experience has shown that you have to be careful with flags “on the continent”.

– In 2006 I was prevented from displaying this flag in Graz because a steward told me it was “too politisch!!”. It was probably my fault, Wales were playing Trinidad & Tobago and I should have realised that Jack Warner didn’t want his eyeballs burned.

– In 2003 I was waiting for another member of the Jet Set outside the San Siro when two Carmarthen fans walked past displaying their flag. Two muscle-bound ultras tried to steal it. Fortunately their leader forced them to return it.

– In 2007  I went to watch Shelborne v Dundalk on the eve of the Ireland V Wales match in Croke Park and I was nearly the victim of a theft;

“Did anyone come across any Welsh at Tolka?? “

– “There was a ‘llandudno jet set’ flag at the corner of the riverside and ballybough end”

“That the s.kooligans spent the whole half planning to steal…”

And then there was the Montenegrin experience of my mate Phil;

“You might want to get in early.You might also want to keep your flags until you’re inside the stadium. The Ultras value them as trophies and this photo emerged of the stolen Welsh flags being displayed upside down after the game – the Ultras message that they “won” the fight.

I’ve heard that some were taken by Dickensian street urchins being paid by the older mob to dive and run off with the flags hanging outside bars. Other stories suggest the Ultras were a bit more brazen and simply beat up anybody who protested.”

Caution seems to be the approach as you’ll never know who’ll take offence, or even just take the flag. I don’t want to become the victim of a  vicious attack and I don’t want to cause a diplomatic incident.

I sense my flags could cause offence if we drew the wrong club. Two of the flags feature the hammer and sickle and half of the clubs that Bangor can draw are from “behind the iron curtain”.

BATE Borisov Belarus
Maccabi Haifa Israel 
Dinamo Zagreb Croatia
Rosenborg Norway
APOEL Cyprus
Wisła Kraków Poland
Litex Lovech Bulgaria 
Viktoria Plzeň Czech Republic
Slovan Bratislava Slovakia
Sturm Graz Austria
FK Partizan Serbia
HJK Helsinki  Finland
Ekranas  Lithuania
Maribor Slovenia
Zestafoni Georgia (country)
Malmö FF  Sweden
Shamrock Rovers Republic of Ireland

The fans of these clubs might see an unwelcome reminder of Stalinist tyranny. I imagine that my feeble protestations about the hammer and sickle’s other connotations – Anti-Stalinist POUM in the Spanish Civil War or Eurocommunism –  wouldn’t placate irate ultras shouting at me in a language I can’t understand.  On a similar note one of the flags contains the Palestinian flag, I wouldn’t imagine that the followers of the Israeli club would be happy at seeing that. (Whether I’d go there in the first place is a moot point).

With this in mind I thought it sensible to check whether the fans of our possible opponents might have a problem with my socialist flags (and then hope to avoid them.)

Dinamo Zagreb

“It was brought to the attention of Celtic Fans Against Fascism that there have been increasing numbers of Dinamo Zagreb’s hooligan gang – the Bad Blue Boys – making visits to Glasgow and following Celtic in Europe in recent seasons. Much of the information available about the Bad Blue Boys suggests that they are predominantly right-wing in political outlook and have an extreme nationalist and Nazi element among their support.

On at least two separate occasions over the years the BBB have attacked our anti-fascist friends from St Pauli at Celtic’s European matches (in Zagreb and Budapest). The attacks were politically motivated. The BBB know St Pauli’s anti-fascist reputation and attacked them because of it.”

Wisla Krakow (and this is from a Krakow tourist website.)

“Unfortunately there is a dark side to Polish football. The rivalry between Wisla and Cracovia is so bitter and idiotic that it often descends into bouts of intense violence amongst the supporters, sometimes involving unlucky bystanders, so take our advice and try to steer clear of any fans on derby days! In general, avoid red-and-white stripes (Cracovia) or stars (Wisla) on your clothing, too. An additional blot on Polish football is that the few black players plying their trade here are often subjected to mindless verbal abuse from the fans. It’s a sad reminder that there is long way to go before we kick racism out of football (or the country in general).”

Slovan Bratislava

“On Friday 20th April (2007) a group of supporters of SK Slovan Bratislava displayed a banner to celebrate the birthday of Adolf Hitler.

The banner carried the words Alles Gute Adi (“Happy birthday Adolf”) and a smiley face in a form of Adolf Hitler. The letter S in this sign was replaced by a sigurnia – a symbol used as a sign for SS units.

This incident took place at the league match against FC Senec (1:1). Slovan supporters also were chanting “racist, fascist, hooligans, repeated several times.

This was not, however, an isolated incident connected with Slovan Ultras supporters. They are infamous for their similar racist and fascist behaviour – at a match with Artmedia Petrzalka on April 7th, in Bratislava, the same group of ultras chanted monkey noises directed at the German-born Karim Guede, who playes for Togo and as a defensive midfielder for Artmedia.

The approach of club officials and players is also quite disturbing. Players of SK Slovan greeted and clapped their supporters after the match. Slovan Ultras also published an article describing their meeting with club officials, which took place a couple of days after the match with Artmedia. The article says that the meeting was held in a very friendly atmosphere and they have been praised for their support for the SK Slovan team and received support for their activities from the club officials.

Not a word about the racist chanting, which happened at the same match, and not a word about the nazi symbols.”

And there’s this from November 2008;

“Bratislava – More than 50 people were injured in nationalistic-fuelled violence at a football game in south-western Slovakia. Thirty-one people were arrested in Saturday’s rioting – 18 fans for the home team in Dunajska Streda, one of the most important centres for Slovakia’s ethnic Hungarian minority, and 13 from the away team from Bratislava, a police spokeswoman in Bratislava said.

Violence had been feared ahead of the championship game between AC Dunajska Streda and Slovan Bratislava as hundreds of football hooligans and neo-Nazis from Hungary were expected to travel to the match. “

APOEL (taken from Nicos Trimikliniotis’ article; “Preventing racism, xenophobia and related intolerance in sport across the European Union”)

“Despite the ethnic division of the country for the last years, even to this day the ‘left-wing’ teams (Omonia, AEL, Alki and Nea Salamina) retain supporters amongst Turkish-Cypriots, whilst the ‘right-wing’ teams (APOEL, Anorthosis, Olympiakos, Apollon) are generally seen as nationalistic and some their supporters carry the Greek Flags to the matches, whilst in their banners one may often see far right-wing symbols.

The display of Greek flags causes tension with left-leaning fans;

“AN OMONIA FC fan burnt the Greek flag on Sunday during the Nicosia football derby with archrivals APOEL, seemingly worsening the overly hostile climate between the supporters of the two clubs.

At the capital’s GSP stadium it appeared as if two different worlds had met: on the APOEL side — whose fan base is traditionally right-wing — there was a plethora of Greek flags being waved while on the Omonia side none were on display by its mostly left-wing supporters.

That was until an Omonia fan pulled out a Greek flag from his pocket and proceeded to light it on fire. The incident occurred just a few minutes into the….”

There is also this;

“APOEL is known to be a bastion of Disy supporters, the right-wing party now in opposition. An unofficial website proclaims the team is “100 per cent anti-communist“.

FK Partizan

It’s difficult to find evidence but it’s probably safe to assume that because their ultras chose the name “The Gravediggers” – with sub-groups called “Anti-Romi” and “Irriducibili NBG” – their fans probably aren’t too liberal.

The other clubs in the draw don’t seem to carry baggage. For example Malmo FF;

“MFF Support describes itself as “an idealistic and non-political association working against violence and racism“.

Looking at the flag situation it’s possible to deduce the following;

1. The left-wing connotations of my flags could enrage the fans of Dinamo Zagreb, Slovan Bratislava, APOEL, FK Partizan and Wisla Krakow so they’re are ruled out.

2. The Palestinian flag could enrage so this rules out Maccabi Haifa

3. The hammer and sickle could offend so the clubs from ex-state-socialist countries – BATE Borisov, Dinamo Zagreb, Wisła Kraków, Litex Lovech, Viktoria Plzeň, Slovan Bratislava, FK Partizan, Ekranas, Maribor and Zestafoni – are ruled out.

4. Sturm Graz are ruled out because of the over-zealous stewarding

The choice is down to; Malmo FF, Shamrock Rovers, Rosenborg and HJK Helsinki.

I’d go for Shamrock Rovers but I actually don’t care which of the four it is, well as long we play the second leg away on the Wednesday. Work-related you see.

17th June

Today I sent this e-mail to my hero Michel Platini, I hope it does some good….

“Cher Monsieur Platini,

On Monday Bangor City will finally take their place in the ante-chamber of the room containing the top table of European football and we cannot wait to taste the detritus of reflected glory. I say “finally” because the vicissitudes of UEFA’s blue sky thinking meant that Wales was once considered bereft of a televisual market capable of producing adequate revenue streams. As a result Bangor City was cruelly shifted to an adjacent property with smaller tables in 1994 and 1995.

But do not fear monsieur, that’s ancient history and we Bangor fans have suppressed the injustice deep within. At present we Bangor fans are too busy awaiting the draw with all of the enthusiasm that is humanly possible to worry about ancient history. We cannot sleep for thinking of the tantalising possibilities that the draw provides. Actually monsieur it is because of the draw that I am writing to you. I am asking for two points to be considered.

My first point is that I would like Bangor to be drawn at home in the first leg. If we are drawn away I can’t go due to the timing of the school holidays – As Eric might have said to Andrew Preview; “I have all the right holidays but not necessarily at the right times!!!”

My second point is that I would like a kind draw. I do not mean this in terms of the opposition’s playing strength (although this would be nice). I am referring to the proposed displays of the Bangor City flag drapers. Please indulge me on this point as experience has shown that one has to be careful with flags “on the continent”.

– In 2006 I was prevented from displaying a flag in Graz because a steward told me it was “Too Politisch!!”
– In 2003 I was waiting for a friend outside the San Siro when two muscle-bound ultras ripped a big  flag  from the clutches of two Carmarthen fans.
– In 2007 I went to watch Shelborne v Dundalk and I was nearly the victim of flag theft.
– In Montenegro Ultras value stolen flags as trophies and this was witnessed by my friend Phil

I don’t want to become the victim of a vicious attack or cause a diplomatic incident I just want to fly my flags. Unfortunately I sense my flags could cause offence if we drew the fans of the following clubs;

Dinamo Zagreb are “….predominantly right-wing in political outlook and have an extreme nationalist and Nazi element among their support.

Wisla Krakow – “Unfortunately there is a dark side to Polish football. The rivalry between Wisla and Cracovia is so bitter and idiotic that it often descends into bouts of intense violence amongst the supporters, sometimes involving unlucky bystanders…..”

Slovan Bratislava – In April 2007 a group of their supporters displayed a banner carried the words “Alles Gute Adi (“Happy birthday Adolf”) and a smiley face in a form of Adolf Hitler.

APOEL – They are known to be a bastion of DISY supporters, the right-wing party now in opposition. An unofficial website proclaims the team is “100 per cent anti-communist“.

FK Partizan – They’re mates with Rhyl F.C.

Please bare the fact I want to avoid these clubs in mind when you’re performing the draw Monsieur Platini. If it’s not too much trouble I’d also like you to bare in mind the following points as well.

The hammer and sickle flag could offend fans of clubs from ex-state-socialist countries as they might see it as a reminder of Stalinist tyranny, not as a symbol of POUM or Eurocommunism. I don’t posses the requisite language skill to debate the point.

I have another flag that contains the Palestinian flag and  I can imagine this might enrage Israelis; please can we avoid Maccabi Haifa?

I don’t want to go to Sturm Graz either because of the over-zealous stewarding

Monsieur Platini this leaves us with; Malmo FF, Shamrock Rovers, Rosenborg and HJK Helsinki as suitable candidates. Please try to make it one of them!

Please remember that your schedule from last season cost me a holiday, you owe me!!!

Yours in Football,

The Llandudno Jet Set”

19th June

Today I received a response from le grand Michel. It was a shame I couldn’t understand most of it.

“Cher Llandudno Jet Set

“Non, non, non. Je ne regrette de rien.

Les Pays de Galles est nul, Vous Welshies n’êtes rien. You are the sweat from ze Baboon’s bottom ha ha ha ha ha.

Comment vous vont-elles les aiment-elles les pommes, connard?

Bonnet de douche et bonne chance.

M. Platini”

I put it through Google translate…………What a rotter! I may have to admit defeat in my quest for justice.

On the other hand if Michel costs me a holiday for the second year in a row because of UEFA’ s inherent anti-Welsh racism I’ll be sending him a shoebox full of dogshit through the post.

20th June

Today was the draw, here’s a run through.

6:55 am – I wake up with a head full of unshakable bleakness.

8:20 am – I walk to work in the lovely summer sun. The joy I should be feeling is masked by a discernible darkness.

9.40 am – I log on to UEFA’s website to check the time of the draw – Midday CET – and check if they’ve managed to include Bangor City – They have –  a sense of impeding doom clouded everything.

10:35 am – I get final confirmation from our man in the know that Bangor are in a mini group of 12. We can draw BATE, Rosenborg, Wisla Krakow, HJK Helsinki, Malmo or Shamrock Rovers.

I have two emotions; Anger (Platini didn’t listen to me) and hope (I’m not asking much; Shamrock Rovers, home leg first, both matches on Wednesdays). The darkness starts to have a silver lining. My sun is rising!

11:05 am – Second qualifying round draw commences. My sun is back, bring me sunshine, bring me Shamrock!!!!

11:19 am – HJK Helsinki v Bangor City. Jesus Finland again. We are away first. I can’t go.

My worst fears are confirmed, I have a mental eclipse.

11:20 am – Despair has descended, Platini actually hates me.

11:34 am –  HJK’s intellectuals start leaving messages on Bangor City’s main message board;

– “What do you think the next happen now? RAPE TIME!”

“HAMMERTIME! will be a knockout in the first leg. “

– “Listen now you cunts! You’re shit and you now you are. I say that 5,6,7-0 atHelsinkiand maybe a draw away. I’m sorry but you don’t stand a change. You somehow won against Honka but you most certainly wonät win against us!”

“It’s rapetime! Bangor’s pub fatties will be in big trouble.”

– “It’s barbeque time!”

“We have Litmanen, Jari Litmanen! You have fatties, pub fatties!”

– “massage it with an egg! HJK to win on 9-1 aggregate.”

“Be careful when you arrive to Helsinki. This time it will not be funny village team in the forrest like Honka was. HJK is a huge club and they have notorious firm called sakilaiset. Avoid them if you can: http://youtu.be/DcpI16NQTNQ

– “We have won professional teams 5-0, 5-1 and 6-2 so far this season so I can’t see no reason why we wouldn’t hammer an amateur team on the field.”

“Most of your players are at work now and meanwhile inHelsinki.. The professional players are on the training field practicing for the next game.”

Some sentiments may be lost in translation but I like the sound of “massage it with an egg.”

12:09 pm – The more sensible HJK fans get involved;

–  “I think most of the trolls you’re getting at the moment have nothing to do with HJK and more with you humiliating Honka last year.

Granted HJK is the most hated team inFinland(23 times champion). We expect to go through from this draw, but past results have shown there is no room for arrogance. See you in Helsinki and Wrexham?” 

“Welcome toHelsinkiand friendly apart from those monkeys like sakilaiset”! Most of the people will be nice”

12:35 pm – I curse the soul of Monsieur Platini.

12:50 pm – I curse the soul of Lennart Johnansson.

12:55 pm – I curse the soul of Artemio Franchi.

1:05 pm – I curse the soul of David Cameron.

1:30 pm – I curse the soul of Jamie Redknapp.

2:00 pm – I curse the soul of Harry Redknapp.

2:30 pm – I curse the soul of Louise Redknapp, and Tim Lovejoy.

3:00 pm – Our man on the inside tells me that they’ve switched the ties around. Now we are at home in the first match. Now I can go! NOW I CAN FUCKING GO!!!!

3:20 pm – Someone else texts me; “Nothing’s been confirmed yet, don’t book anything!”

3:25 pm – I wonder how long the flights to Helsinki will be available.

8:25 pm – During the Llandudno Jet Set’s latest match in Llandudno’s gladiatorial six-a-side league I made a decision;  “I must be in Finland!”. This poignant moment is only ruined by the match ball flying past my head and into the goal. (The other team are now winning 3-2.)

9:00 pm – Check Phone – No confirmation of dates from our man in the know.

9:05 pm – Check Expedia.co.uk for flights, Birmingham and Manchester are best bets – No confirmation so far.

9:10 pm – Check e-mail for confirmation – No confirmation so far

9:11 pm  – Find flights from Birmingham for £202. Check e-mail for confirmation – No confirmation so far

9:15 pm – Find flights from Manchester for £169. Check message boards for confirmation – No confirmation so far

9:20 pm – Find flights from Manchester for £162. Check UEFA website for confirmation – No confirmation so far.

9:25 pm – Find flights from London for £132. Check e-mail for confirmation – No confirmation so far

9:30 pm – I finally receive text from our man in the know – “The dates are 99% certain but don’t book anything until tomorrow!”

21st June

I attended Bangor City’s practice match with Anglesey’s Island Games team and sniffed around for any information. I heard that the match dates are 99.9% certain. “The Team have booked, so we are going to later tonight blah, blah, blah.”  That curly tosser of a UEFA president has still to confirm the actual dates……

Every August bank holiday I notice that the fixtures for the group stage in the “Proper Champions League for Proper Clubs” are subject to the little star. Last year I checked what the little star denoted. A little star denotes that certain fixtures are subject to confirmation by a cabal of heartless administrators within a period of roughly 114-246 hours after the draw is made. Of course I may have been hallucinating. But then what am I complaining about, uncertainty is the biggest thrill of all in this humdrum existence. Anyhow, I am reassured that they treat “The Bangor Cities” of this world in the same way as they treat “The Anderlechts” of the world.

10:35 pm – I see flights from Birmingham to Helsinki on my required dates – Leaving Tuesday night (arriving on Wednesday in plenty of time for the match) and returning Friday. They cost £202.

10:36 pm – I check with our man in the know. He says the dates are “Deffo”

10:37 pm – I book those flights.

10:38 pm – I’m on my way to Helsinki!!!

22nd June

9:00 pm – I book two nights accommodation in Helsinki’s Olympic stadium. I can’t wait to bask in all those memories; Emil Zatopek’s greatest hour, the start of Welsh football’s last great false dawn, a big owl resting on a goal, Karolina Kluft winning a medal………….mmmmmmmmmmm Karolina.

I plan to enrol on an intensive Finnish course.

With the help of the internet I go on a mental trip around Helsinki………It’s bus 55 from the airport……..I need to get a Helsinki card ……… oooooh I must go to the exhibition about the Winter War ………. The public transport system is excellent ………. How much is a day ticket?…..

I feel good (and knew that I would!!) The sunshine is bright and my summer will be great!!!

11:00 pm Unfortunately Monsieur Bignose (he haw he haw he haw) still hasn’t fucking confirmed the fucking date of the fucking matches. In order to keep my spirits up I design a flag for my travels. It’s entitled “HOMAGE TO THE HJK INTELLECTUALS WHAT INVADED THE BANGOR MESSAGE BOARDS.”

23rd June

3:30 pm – The following message appeared on facebook;

“Please note the following statement issued from UEFA: In case of qualification of BK Häcken (SWE) and FC Honka Espoo (FIN) to the Europa League second qualifying round, the match HJK Helsinki (FIN) vs Bangor City FC (WAL) must be played on Tuesday 19th July.”

3:31 pm – The contents of the message finally hits me and something falls over in my head.

Giddy euphoria is replaced by a bilious sickness in the pit of my stomach.

The fact that I’ve paid for non-refundable flights suddenly hits me.

The fact that my plane arrives in Helsinki on FUCKING WEDNESDAY FUCKING MORNING is suddenly written in 100 feet high floodlit pink letters in my imagination.

FUCKING UEFA, A FUCKING CHIMP WITH ACCESS TO FUCKING WIKIPEDIA COULD HAVE WORKED OUT IN FIVE FUCKING MINUTES THAT HONKA COULD BE PLAYING AT HOME THE FUCKING DAY AFTER BANGOR WERE DUE TO FUCKING PLAY.

DESPITE FUCKING ORGANISING THE DRAW, DESPITE CARRYING OUT THE FUCKING DRAW AND THEN DESPITE PUTTING THE FUCKING OUTCOME OF THE FUCKING DRAW ON THEIR BASTARD WEBSITE UEFA TOOK SEVENTY FUCKING TWO FUCKING HOURS TO DEIGN TO FUCKING ANNOUNCE THERE “MIGHT” BE A CHANGE IN THE FUCKING ARRANGEMENTS.

And to think I ignored the neurotic internal voice metallic taunts“Are you sure? Are you sure?” as I read out my card details to the helpful man working for Expedia.

Incidentally, there’s no confirmation of any events on UEFA’s website and the phone of our man in the know has suddenly gone silent.

24th June

I awake with a black hole in my soul.

I curse the soul of Monsieur Platini.

I curse the soul of Lennart Johnansson.

I curse the soul of Artemio Franchi.

I curse the soul of David Cameron.

I curse the soul of Jamie Redknapp.

I curse the soul of Harry Redknapp.

I curse the soul of Louise Redknapp, and Tim Lovejoy.

I curse the soul of Gregg Wallace

I curse the soul of Jon Gaunt – “Gaunty” to his friends

I curse the soul of Fearne Cotton

25th June

Again I awake with a black hole in my soul.

I curse the soul of Monsieur Platini.

I curse the soul of Lennart Johnansson.

I curse the soul of Artemio Franchi.

I curse the soul of David Cameron.

I curse the soul of Jamie Redknapp.

I curse the soul of Harry Redknapp.

I curse the soul of Louise Redknapp, and Tim Lovejoy.

I curse the soul of Gregg Wallace

I curse the soul of Jon Gaunt – “Gaunty” to his friends

I curse the soul of Fearne Cotton.

I curse the soul of Richard Littlejohn

The clouds don’t lift

26th June

I have a thought;

“Bugger it, I’m going to Helsinki whether Platini likes it or not!”

27th June

My head is at peace as I realise that Honka and Hacken will prevail.

30th June

Honka drew 0-0 at home with Estonian team and Hacken draw 1-1 away in Luxembourg. Man I love Freeview teletext!!

1st July

My hopes are rekindled. I have the chance to dream again. The sunshine has returned. Is that birdsong?

7th July

Honka win 2-0 and Hacken win 5-1  in their respective second legs.

FUCKING HONKA ESPOO AND THEIR DECISION, THE BASTARDS ONLY HAVE A 3,500 AVERAGE YET THEY NEED A GROUND WITH A 10,000 CAPACITY. THE SELFISH BASTARDS, THEY’RE NOT EVEN FROM FUCKING HELSINKI.

9th July

I now have evidence there is a conspiracy against the Llandudno Jet Set.

1. Honka nominate a ground with a 10,000 capacity for their second qualifying round match when their average is barely 2-3,000-ish.

2. UEFA make their draw and Honka are magically playing at home in the second leg in the SAME week that Bangor City are in Helsinki (This is fishy because the Europa League draw took place after the Champions League draw).

3. UEFA casually announce their plan to shift Bangor City’s match after the club had sorted their arrangements. It’s all adding up….

The concrete evidence comes from two places. Firstly, tweets from TWO different sources on Twitter;

@EganRichardson .”….or have Honka play in Vantaa, they don’t need 10,000 seats. I’ll be surprised if they get more than a thousand for Häcken.”

“….club football isn’t big in Finland, “

“Is there a chance they’ve developed a passionate hatred of Bangor, and are doing this purely out of spite?”

@mirkobolesan“I think they’ve developed a passionate hate of @LlandudnoJetSet

Secondly, a post on the When Saturday Comes message board;

“Last time Honka played a euro game in Töölö they got a crowd of about 300 and lost to an Azeri team. During the second leg against Nomme Kalju, one of the Finnish tabloids had an article on their website titled ‘will Honka humiliate Finnish football again?‘. They’re not massively popular over here either.”

I rest my case. It’s patently obvious that Honka and Platini has a vendetta against the Llandudno Jet Set.

This will not stand!!I decide to move for Platini’s impeachment

The first step in this campaign will be to make this flag for my Finnish trip.  I will proudly fly it during the Honka v Hacken match.

10th July

You just can’t sleep for the twists and turns (of the knife) in this story!!! Your humble narrator returns………..

If you care to remember the trouble began with a short message of 40 odd words, the kind of short message that’s spirit-crushing and numbing, like being jilted by a cold disinterested girlfriend. Mind you even though the message caused all my trouble I really can’t blame the message, it’s just a group of words;

“Please note the following statement issued from UEFA: In case of qualification of BK Häcken (SWE) and FC Honka Espoo (FIN) to the Europa League second qualifying round, the match HJK Helsinki (FIN) vs Bangor City FC (WAL) must be played on Tuesday 19th July.”

The fact that this message was just like every other message of its kind – clear and unequivocal – helped me to deal with the situation. There isn’t a hint of grey; if Honka and Hacken won Bangor WOULD be playing on the Tuesday. I reconciled myself to this fact, it’s UEFA’s rules and….;

“…..the problem has arisen because Honka, who were beaten by Bangor in last season’s Europa League, have nominated HJK’s Sonera Stadium for their second round home leg.

The fixture would be played on Thursday 21 July but Uefa regulations state that the away side must be allowed to train on the pitch, traditionally the evening before.”

 The doubt was obliterated by a text from our man in the know and another page on the internet;

“We’ll (Bangor City’s Official Delegation) get in there for late Monday evening [and] the players can have a good rest and a light training session before the match on Tuesday evening.

“But hopefully the best thing that could happen is for Honka to be knocked out in the first qualifying round, with all due respect to them, and it won’t affect anyone then.”

Jones has admitted a change of date for the second leg in Finland could inconvenience some City fans who have already made travel arrangements.

“We do apologise on behalf of the club for that but unfortunately it’s out of our hands and [there’s] nothing we can do,” he said.”

All of a sudden I felt like the proverbial “Sonny Jim” and like I said, to be fair Graham, I was getting on with my life.

Every member of the blue army (I’m Commissar first class) reassured me that I’d have a day with the blue army in Helsinki. Then I remembered that I’d get to see a match while I was over there, not the right one but it would be something. I was even looking forward to visiting that Winter War exhibition.

Now that the world wasn’t totally depressing I began to think of other things. I’d planned to meet up with some of my friends from Midtjylland in the Marches this Thursday. Yes life was back to normal, the fact I was missing Bangor’s away match wasn’t even gnawing at me, I was fine, never felt better mate. Then….

This afternoon a charitable soul left the following message on Bangor’s Blue Moider Message Board;

“Haha. The second qualifying round tie had been changed because of Honka in the Europa League on thursday but actually they are not even playing in Helsinki Stadium. They will play in Vantaa! Those Uefa bastards! :D

The shock of the announcement took several minutes to sink in. The reason that UEFA gave for moving Bangor’s game no longer applied. I’d conditioned myself to certain ideas then a curve ball caused strike 3 for my peace of mind.

FOR FUCK’S SAKE, WON’T THOSE BASTARDS LEAVE ME BE?

I was desperate to prove that the message had been left by a notorious wind up merchant so I checked UEFA’s website . Then I checked Honka’s website. Unfortunately both websites confirmed that Honka weren’t playing in HJK’s stadium anymore.

Then I had another thought; this was good news, now we could play on Wednesday!!!.

This was an illusion shattered by a text from our man in the know;

“No, Bangor’s game is confirmed for Tuesday”.

Before the draw I wasn’t aware that the word “confirmation” was so nuanced. Honka’s nomination of HJK’s ground must have been “confirmed” otherwise UEFA would not have gone  to the trouble of notifying us. I can’t see why Bangor City seem to be getting the shitty end of the deal, well apart from the obvious conspiracy, a thesis reinforced by today’s other news. The referee for tomorrow’s match is Anton Genov and Monsieur Genov was suspended for dodgy dealing 2 years ago;

“Uefa has suspended a Bulgarian referee while it investigates “obvious irregular betting patterns” around an international friendly between Macedonia and Canada on 14 November. Anton Genov, will not be allowed to officiate an international, Champions League or Europa League fixture during the investigation.

“After interviewing the referee in question, Uefa has decided not to appoint Anton Genov to any European matches until further notice,” said a Uefa spokesman, Rob Faulkner, in a statement.

Genov awarded four penalties, two to each side, during Macedonia’s 3-0 victory in Strumica.

Betting operators reportedly were alerted by the number of wagers placed on at least three goals being scored and on the number of penalties awarded.

The 43-year-old has been on Fifa’s list of referees approved to take charge of international matches since 1999. Referees must be on the list to be considered for selection to officiate at World Cup finals.

On Monday the Bulgarian Football Union fired its referee commission which has responsibility for appointing officials to matches and assessing their performance. The BFU cited a series of mistakes made by referees in league and cup matches.”

Cartesian logic allows me to deduce  the following;

Bangor City won’t win a free kick tomorrow night.

Here the process;

HJK are worried about facing Les Davies => HJK have bigger pockets than Bangor City=>There’s a bent referee taking charge => I saw Monsieur Genev swanning around Rhyl in a brand new fur coat this afternoon => UEFA have it in for the Llandudno Jet Set => Ergo Bangor City won’t win a free kick tomorrow night.

Football stinks!!!!

11th July – A Plan is formulated!

UEFA are still going ahead with their plan therefore……here’s my plan for the FC Honka v Hacken match.

1. I will blag my way in.

2. I will unfurl this flag;

3. The flag will be seen by 100s of millions on television.

4. In this age of social media the flag will become a beacon of protest before going on to be regarded as THE avatar of the zeitgeist.

For the Stadium Walls

I will make a mixture of chocolate cake and chocolate mousse to create my very own dirty protest against my disgusting  treatment at the hands of UEFA and FC Honka. I will need to buy a bucket in Helsinki.

On the Streets

I will liberally place these creations around the avenues and alleyways of Helsinki.

The Result

The corrupt edifice of UEFA will collapse within the next 4 and a half years.

13th July

Bangor City 0 HJK Helsinki 3
UEFA champions league second qualifying round first leg

UEFA’s patently corrupt dealings had caused a tussle between the positive and negative parts of my psyche. First there was a chance I could still see Bangor away, then there wasn’t, then there was, then I didn’t want to go. Then those Honka bastards won in Estonia. Then I thought “Sod it, I’ll go to Finland anyway“. At the end of the day it was “Next stop Rhyl!!!”

Even though this tie had become a mere unwelcome intrusion I still went. I’m a happy camper today, time and logic had brought peace to my mind.

It felt quite odd to be in Rhyl on a July Wednesday evening but a couple of drinks sorted this. Twitter had provided a loose plan about bumping into a couple of people; the man behind European Football Weekends and someone from the When Saturday Comes message board.

I waited around the assigned location of the meeting, the Vegas bar, but I didn’t notice any new faces. There weren’t as many of the usual faces either, a delayed train from Bangor someone said. At about 5:15 I left for the ground to try and sell some stuff.

The ground was alive with people, including some flag carrying dudes from Helsinki. Bangor City were in the European Cup, the sun was on our faces and victory was in our hearts.  ‘Twas a great day to be alive!! Unfortunately Litmanen wasn’t present, I’ll never see him live again. I’ve seen Robbie Savage play quite a lot, life’s a beach as they say in Rhyl.

In the first half Bangor were fine until a defensive slip and a failed offside trap created a HJK goal. This was rather dispiriting as the club that tends to score first in Bangor’s European matches tends to win (It’s not usually Bangor City) We attempted to push HJK back but there were only a couple of dangerous shots on target. When half time arrived things were still hopeful, we just needed a good start to the second half.

The second half was excellent for the first ten minutes. We had the pressure, we had the possession, we looked like we could do something but we didn’t have many shots and most of the time the ball didn’t seem to bounce in the right place.

HJK didn’t look light years away from Bangor, they were simply more clinical with scoring opportunities. For example HJK’s second goal was a scorching breakaway preceded by ten minutes of constant Bangor pressure.  The fact that HJK didn’t look that fantastic meant the blue army still held on to the embers of hope for next week.

The match wasn’t just frustrating because Bangor hadn’t turned their possession into a goal or two, three characters – number 11 Mathias Lindström, number 17 Dawda Bah and number 19 Aki Riihilahtisullied the evening. These three have been added to the Jet Set’s list of infamy. (Present members; Martyn Naylor, Lee Hunt, Neil Gibson.)

The first one that came to my attention was the rather precious Bah, he seemed to be a bit of a player but clouded this idea with his antics; he got into such a tizzy lecturing Bangor players for attempting to tackle him he forgot he was a dirty bastard, he also got so worked up while castigated Bangor players for “diving” he forgot that he liked to win free kicks. I cursed his soul.

Lindstrom was a masterclass in defending, if you like the cynically violent style. A push in the back here, a nudge here, a full frontal assault there. At one point he literally dragged Les from the pitch just before a corner was taken. Then this fucker laughed about it. I cursed his soul.

As for Rihiilahtii, he tried to sexually harrass Les at every available opportunity. He was literally all over him and when I say literally all over I mean LITERALLY ALL OVER HIM. At first I struggled to recollect his vaguely familiar face. It was the assassin’s smile that reminded me that this fucker used to play for Crystal Palace. I checked Dylan’s programme, he was Aki Rihilaahti, and to think I nearly went for a drink with him in Aston Villa’s player’s lounge (a story too long and tedious to recount). I cursed his soul.

Unsurprisingly UEFA’s bent ref failed to see any of this nefarious activity.

Just before we left Rhyl FC they remembered that Bangor fans were scumbags and we had to leave in the manner of Andy Dufresne; via a narrow alleyway next to an open sewer. What a charming way to treat visitors.

For an excellent, and  less partisan, view of the day read  European Football Weekends.

14th July

XXX XXX XXXXXX X FC Midtjylland 3
europa league 2nd qualifying round first leg

A match happened this evening.

When the draw threw these two clubs together it appeared to be the perfect opportunity to reacquaint myself with the Black Wolves. (Bangor City fans and the Black wolves developed a bit of a friendship when we played each other in 2008.)

Fate was on my side, during the week before the match Hekler (one of the main faces in the Black Wolves) got in touch via Facebook. My doubts about giving XXX XXX XXXXXX money evaporated in thoughts of comradeship.

I was looking forward to a trip to Wrexham until I checked the match details; it was due to take place in the Marches, another sign Platini is conspiring against the Jet Set! Well big sweaty bollocks to UEFA I still made arrangements with Hekler; we would meet near the five-a-side pitch with country club accoutrements.

The staff of Arriva Trains Wales, those unsmiling bulwarks against anarchy, caused me to missed my train. Despite my entreaties about missing a train to a very, very important  football match the man with a heart of purest granite refused to let me pass. I promised to buy a ticket on the train but“Mister I don’t make the rules” wouldn’t have that. There’s just no trust anymore.

I finally arrived in Gobowen, down the road from XXX XXX XXXXXX, 5 minutes before kick off. My taxi driver was disappointed the FCM fans were less numerous than the hundreds of Irish fans that had used his services in the previous round. He continued wittering until I told him I was Bangor fan, whereupon he was struck dumb. The anti-Bangor omerta over Shropshire bites hard

Park Hall thronged with three empty sides, all I had to do was find Hekler and the boys in the vast crowd. I put on my honourary black and red Black Wolves scarf  and sashayed past the admiring glances of the bovine masses in the temporary stands. I saw the envy in face after face.

I eventually found Hekler on the front row just past the halfway line. There were 4 FCM fans and all were very friendly. Hekler’s welcomed me with the international “Where the fuck have you been?” shrug and we settled down for a pleasant chat whilst the match passed by.

FCM were too good for XXX XXX XXXXXX as their speed, movement and skill wasn’t impeded by the plastic pitch. Some notable Welsh Premier board posters hoped this wouldn’t happen. Hekler told me that FCM play on plastic all the time in training so it wasn’t a surprise they were comfortable. The half time score was 0-0. Half time meant a few beers with the Black Wolves and it was good to spend time with people from far away whilst pursuing a common activity.

The second half was more of the same; FCM in general control while XXX XXX XXXXXX offered a threat from occasional bursts and set piece work. the latter being the avenue by which they constructed their goal. A corner led to Steve Evans heading the ball home. I could see tension in the shoulders of the Black Wolves.

Thankfully we only had to wait five minutes for the equaliser, and then a few more minutes for FCM’s second. FCM scored a third just before the final whistle. Nobody really likes seeing XXX XXX XXXXXX win, even their fans secretly realise each victory is a football crime.

After the match FCM’s players came over to say hello, even I had a few high fives!!! We all entered the Venue for some strange looks and a few beers before I made my excuses and left in another taxi. It was nice to know that football can bring people together.

20th July
 
HJK Helsinki 10 Bangor City 0
UEFA champions league second qualifying round second leg

I wasn’t able to go to this match but I didn’t let a small detail like this stop me from going to Helsinki.

Postmodernists tell us that “pseudo-events” are  common occurrences. The Heysel Stadium Disaster, the Gulf War and September the 11th didn’t happen per se, even if we watched them happen on the news, or were actually there. Postmodernists say that we don’t actually watch events happen, we watch representations of events, stuff that looks like events. They call these representations “pseudo-events“.

Postmodernists also tell us that meta-narratives no longer explain the world because each person’s version of reality is as valid as the next person’s view of reality.

The educated amongst you may dispute these ideas because they sound like a load of gobbledigook. The more charitable may limit their praise to the fact that these ideas helped The Matrix to come to fruition. I doubted postmodern ideas until today, now I see that they are not just plausible they are right!

My first act in Birmingham airport was to find a computer. I paid a pound for 10 minutes of internet access to read one line updates on UEFA’s website.

At exactly the same time as I was reading a computer screen other Bangor fans were in Helsinki watching Bangor play. Who can possibly decide which group of fans was having the true football experience? Weren’t we both doing the exactly same thing? We were both hoping a short match incident would bring joy. I let the surreality of this situation slide because postmodernism had been proved.

I knew postmodernism was right, I just knew it.

I mean If I couldn’t take heart in postmodern ideas how the fuck am I meant to explain this all to myself and retain a degree of sanity?

I’d have to pretend that I was sitting in FUCKING BIRMINGHAM AIRPORT READING ABOUT A FUCKING MATCH THAT I SHOULD HAVE WATCHING IN THE FUCKING GROUND, PLATINI YOU’RE A FUCKING CUN……………….

According to UEFA’s text the 29th minute of the match was just like any other but it wasn’t like any other moment, it was the moment I realised that the postmodernists ironically held the monopoly on truth. In the 29th minute of the match these simple words appeared on the screen;

29′ – Hoy (Bangor City) makes a save.

As you’ll know,”Peter Hoy Football Genius” is a full back. My postmodern epiphany meant that I could no longer feel the match, I couldn’t visualise the stadium, I couldn’t visualise the crowd, I couldn’t visulise the corrupt refereee, I couldn’t visualise the bounce of the ball, I couldn’t visualise anything.

How did I know the match was actually happening? I had no way of knowing. All I had was only a representation of a match, a match via the cypher of a typist’s imagination. It was quite clear that I was in the middle of a “pseudo-event“. When I left to check in the score in the “pseudo-event” was 0-0.

I was 20 minutes too early for the check in desk but too far away from a computer. I was suddenly surrounded by instructive books in Smiths, I owed myself the chance to develop my personality. Before I knew it I had killed 23 minutes, forgotten about the treachery of Platini and developed my personality.

I say “developed my personality” but this skeleton of a phrase doesn’t do justice to the self-development I underwent. Today was be the day I was on the road to blue-sky thinking by finally committing to becoming the faciliator / caretaker / Jongleur. I’d make changes like a “The Boardroom Tiger” with the vision of “The Workfloor Osprey” and  the wise direction of “The Car Park Owl”. I now felt able to delegate, legislate and fornicate at the same time. I could survive and thrive!!! I was a Tiger!!!!!!! ROOOOAR!!!!!!!!!! Just after I’d developed emotionally I had to check in.

The strain of removing my belt before the almighty security scanner evaporated the second wave of my personal development. My dignity / share value fell quicker than my trousers. This was probably why every Gordon Gekko wannabe wore braces, although they would have to have plastic clasps to make it through 21st century security gates.

My unopened bottle of pepsi was considered so offensive it had to be surrendered, you can’t tell me that the carbonated drinks industry and Platini aren’t behind the ban on taking more than 100ml of liquid in your hand luggage.  I was less a Tiger more a dormouse yearning for another reasonably priced internet terminal.

I saw another terminal and my heart skipped a beat, I logged safe in the knowledge that Bangor would be 2-0 up. The screen decided to tell me that Bangor were losing 8-0. I remembered that I watched watching a “pseudo-event” and therefore wasn’t actually happening. My footballing habits predated my epiphany so I remained logged in until the end of the “pseudo-event“. The “pseudo-event” may have ended 10-0 but it was a “pseudo event” so it didn’t matter.

Even though it was a “pseudo-event” other people had been hoodwinked into believing this was a real event. The message boards hummed; “Ha ha ha Bangor are shit” they said, “This is the worst day for Welsh Football ever” they said, “Bangor, you’re an embarrassment” they said.

If only the poor saps knew they’d been hoodwinked!!! As I boarded the flight for Paris I pitied the poor saps, I laughed at the poor saps.

21st July

Aeroport Charles de Gaulle may be many things but it’s no place to spend a night, especially if you’re awake. There’s no absolutely no light relief, no shops are open, no change machines are available and the only entertainment is walking past the same disgruntled would-be passengers every 20 minutes. The authorities won’t even let your imagination flow as they turn off the departures board.

The only thing you can do is wait for madness to take hold.

I tried to obtain change but my polite requests were met with shrugs of condescension, when I finally found someone behind a desk that was willing to help a 10 franc piece was part of the change, Euros had only been legal tender for nine years.

For the first three hours the only things that occupied my mind were the potential causes of the crack in the pane of glass that faced me and the thoughts, the thoughts, the thoughts.

……………….. FUCKING PLATINI, YOU AND YOUR BASTARD IDEAS LOOK AT WHAT THEY’VE LED TO YOU CUN………………..

When every possible detail of the crack was considered I ended CSI Insomia and developed my conclusion; a blunt (or sharp) object from a French (or non-French) source had collided with the glass thus causing the crack. The next ride in my mental fairground was guessing which person would be next to walk past, and then betting against myself. I was right 3 times!!!

………………….. I’LL COME TO SWITZERLAND ONE DAY, JUST YOU SEE IF I DON’………………..

I thought it prudent to sit near people but unfortunately the seats I picked were situated near a snack machine. People taunted me with their copious amounts of change. The elusive bounty of the machine glistened, taunting, silently taunting.

I looked at the clock, there were only 6 hours until my flight.

……………………….. I’LL SHOW YOU HOW TO MAKE A FUCKING DRAW YOU CURLY PRI ………………………..

I hit upon a novel idea, I would try to fall asleep. This is harder than it sounds in an airport where bench armrests prevent comfort, although even with the armrests my plan worked beautifully.

A couple of rough shoves  awoke me. I slowly turned my head around. Four thick set armed policemen were standing over me.

The most intellectual flic spoke les bon mots; “En Vacances monsieur?” My startled brain remembered enough GCSE French to produce a passable answer; “Oui monsieur, Je vais au ‘elsinki parce que le grand connard Platini est un grand connard”. Halfway through my answer they saw a gentleman of north African extraction lying on the opposite bench. They thought putting the fear of God up him would be more satisfying.

This was probably the most unsettling 10 minutes I’ve ever spent. The whole quartet glared at a fellow human being as if they’d just wiped him off their foot. The head policeman obviously didn’t trust his story. He checked with HQ, HQ called back, he asked the confused guy more questions and then checked with HQ again. The tone was beyond threatening. Then they just left, as if their Pizzas were now ready. The look on the man’s face said it all; resignation. If ever ten minutes could partly explain social problems this was it.

…………………………. FUCKING PLATINI, YOU AND YOUR MATES IN THE POLICE, YEAH VERY GOOD YOU’VE SEEN THE IPCRESS FILE……………. LOOK AT YOU, YOU SICK BASTARD, USING ONE OF MY FAVOURITE FILMS AGAINST ME ……………………………….. I’LL GET YOU ONE DAY, SEE IF I DON’T…………………..
…………………… Platini’s plan worked; I had forgotten my name, I had forgotten the Ipcress noise, I had forgotten the Ipcress File, I had forgotten why I was in Paris …………….

I still had 5 hours to kill in a closed airport.

…….. I’LL GET YOU CURLY TWAT IF IT’S……………..

Somehow I made it through with 20 minutes of sleep, warm thoughts of cold Helsinki hospitality and drunken Bangor bonhomie helped immensely. I touched down in Helsinki just in time for the Finnair bus to leave without me.

Helsinki was very warm, all I needed was a warm Olympic Stadium hostel welcome, a cold shower and socket to recharge a phone. I was safe in the knowledge that last night’s match was a “pseudo-event” .

I arrived at the hostel in a state of shock. on the last stretch of the walk to the hostel I had walked past the Sonera stadium – HJK’s ground – as it sits next to the Olympic Stadium. This was very upsetting. I suddenly remembered that I should have been there to watch Bangor…………………I was going to be there until that curly prick Platini intervened.

After a cold drink and a sit down I remembered that yesterday’s match was a “pseudo-event”. The combined effect of tirdeness and stress upon a fragile yet complicated human mind is terrible.

Unfortunately I became unsettled again, just before I entered the hostel I had noticed the car of the Bangor fans that were supposed to be staying in the hostel (they had spent the last three months travelling around Europe in it). For a second I comforted myself that it was a hallucination but there was an unmistakable Bangor City car sticker in the back window. I tried to find my friends but they weren’t in the hostel and the person on the front desk hadn’t seen them, had I actually seen the car?

As I was getting ready I noticed that Cabs had sent me a message. I was to meet them in “Henry’s”. All I had to do was take a “3 or 4 tram” and get off by “the station’. There only problems I had were that I didn’t know the location of the tram stop, the station or the famous Henry’s.

After 30 minutes I sent out like De Gama. I found the tram stop, I found the station, I found the famous Henry’s. My only problem was that I  couldn’t find anyone I knew. Jesus, Platini had even hacked my phone to give me false texts. I began to think the whole idea of Bangor playing in European competition was a “pseudo-event“.

Without many other options I walked the streets of Helsinki to drink in the continental atmosphere. During my promenading I found evidence that the “pseudo-event” had conned the Finnish tabloid, they thought it was a real event and Bangor had actually lost 10-0. I would continue to believe that Bangor had lost heroically on away goals until I saw someone from Bangor wandering about in a daze.

I noticed that the Finnish tabloids went to town over Bangor City. One screamed 10 -0 on the front page of it’s sport pullout. The other seemed to make a big thing about the Bangor players being in a pub after the match. This seemed a bit of a shitty thing to do but that’s tabloids for you. They seem to have a morbid fascination with Bangor City being Pub Fatties in Finland. I continued my walking tour in a daze, were the tabloids actually correct, how could they fake photos? Nobody does that.

I must say that they do like bricks and wood in Finland. My reference point for Helsinki was the film “Billion Dollar Brain” so I tried to find the main landmarks associated, I found the big catherdral upon whose steps Karl Malden and Harry Palmer had to shoot a spy. I found the department store where Harry Palmer bought some snow shoes…..

When I finished this whistle-stop tour I managed to find a pub showing le tour de France, which was a first for me. I could have watched snooker in another part of the pub.  Finland was certainly a groovy kind of place.

As I made my way to the hostel in the Olympic stadium I saw there was a match taking place on the pitch next to the Sonera Stadium, HJK’s women’s team seemed to be playing against another club. Then I remembered that the Sonera Stadium was the ground that I should have been watching Bangor play before Platini stuck his oar in. By scheduling this match Platini was taunting me, really rubbing my nose in the dirt.

I scanned the sparse crowd and saw my nemesis there, unrepentant and aloof in his unmistakable suit and curly wig. I could hear his actual taunts delivered in a voice like a velvet mace;

 “I don’t know wh-at zee pwoblim is Monsieur, you wanted to watch a match in ‘elsinki on this day, the too-wenteeth of Jooo-ly. Well ‘ere you are monsieur, hee haw hee haw he haw haw haw, ‘ere is a match……. Zat’s what you get for standing up to Platini, mwah mwah mwah, ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha”.

Hitchcock was directing my life, I decided a lie down was prudent.

Apres le repose I found the owners of the ethereal car and the joy was indescribable. Before long we were all off in the direction of Henry’s to meet the rest of the Blue Army. Unfortunately the rest of the Blue Army confirmed that last night’s match was not a “pseudo-event“.

Everyone seemed happy that I’d made it anyway although they’d been a little concerned that I’d gone missing; somehow everyone thought I had arrived last night. Thoughts of conspiracies and revenge were well dulled with litre cans of lager and a lovely local brew known as a “Long Drink”.

The next thing I remember is waking up at 2:30am just as the tram was coming to the end of the line. One of two things had caused this situation; either I was a little drunk or Platini’s agents had spiked my drinks. By the way, have you noticed how all buildings start look the same after an hour’s tired staggering in the haze of dawn?

22nd July

FC Honka 0 SK Hacken 2
europa league 2nd qualifying round 2nd leg

Today was “Honka protest day”. The flag was ready, the stickers were ready, and I’d had 3 hours and 20 minutes sleep in two days. Those FC Honka fuckers had ruined my summer so I was determined to go and support Hacken.

Just after Alwyn and I bid the blue army a fond farewell we had time to kill. The remaining members of  the blue army (Alwyn, Alex and Guto) were due to leave on a late ferry. I still had several hours before I was due to meet Egan, my guide to Espoo and the north of Helsinki.

I’d made contact with Egan via the WSC messageboard and Twitter a couple of weeks ago and he’d suggested that I could go with him to watch Honka, thankfully Egan didn’t seem to like Honka much. Just after we met in the station, he confirmed that I was on the right path, not only are Honka less than a proper club they’re quite arrogant with it.

The ground we were due to visit wasn’t in the Sonera Stadium or Espoo (home of Honka) it was in Vantaa. Our destination was a constant reminder of why Platini must be held to account.

My feelings veered towards apoplexy as Egan suggested that HJK moved Bangor’s match a day forward because they knew we’d have less chance to prepare, they knew most of Bangor’s players were working on Monday. My source also insinuated that Platini was in favour of this.

The train to Vantaa was rather warm. Bangor had played in Vantaa last year and the Blue Army told me of an Irish bar near the station. It was considerably cheaper than all those Central Helsinki bars. We spent a very pleasant hour in the summer sun. After the thrist quenching we tried to find the ground, which wasn’t as easy as google maps suggested, a council estate didn’t look like a cul-de-sac on a computer. We found our way through thanks to a glimpse of floodlights.

Egan’s day job – television journalist – meant I was able to enter the ground as a photographer, or as I prefer to remember it, esteemed journalist. I proudly wore my press pass into the press room. I proudly accepted a free bottle of pepsi as a proud member of the fourth estate. I’d finally arrived. Jet Set 1 Platini 10, I was back in the game! And my fame had spread, a friend of Egan asked me “Are you the Bangor fan that was messed around by the Machiavellian machinations of Platini?”

As I grew accustomed to my new role I casually spoke with a fellow journalist, he disputed my view of last week’s Bangor v HJK match. He didn’t think Bangor were unlucky, he also thought Rhyl was a nice place so I began to doubt the validity of his thoughts. Then said that he liked Les Davies so it turns out he was alright after all, in fact I would go as far as saying that he was my new best friend!!

Putting flags on display is usually fuss-free but today it was different. A steward thought I was besmirching a Finnish national symbol with my subtle protest. He checked with his boss to see if everything was ok. Egan’s explanatory skills earned the thumbs up of the supervisor. I hung the flags from our tier.

We could hear the flag-created stir in the lower tier, I reasoned that it was the usual bewilderment. I tried to bask in the protest but I noticed a couple of white shoelaces where the flag should have been, one of the laces was embellished by a spinning brass eyelet. The spinning brass eyelet underlined my grave loss. Bloody hell you can’t turn your back for five minutes in Finland!

About a minute later another steward appeared. “Can you take the flags down? It is not allowed for another club’s flags to be there. They won’t like it (Pointing down at the Honka Ultras). You will have your flag back in a minute“. Cue another steward with a sheepish grin.

The first steward glared at us for the rest of the match as if we were dangerous criminals. A Scouse bloke was fully supportive of the Jet Set’s position. The pettiness of bureaucracy seems to the most international of all languages, I didn’t need another reason to wish for an FC Honka defeat but I had one. I managed to recover my composure to hear the pre-match rock soundtrack, it was the only time I’ve heard Rage against the Machine before a match.

Thankfully Honka’s defeat arrived without too much fuss. I’ll leave it to the a Swedish newspaper (via google translate) to fill you in;

Hacken went to Finland with a 1-0-lead after last week’s game and is also in qualifying for a European League.

 John Chibuike opened the scoring in the first half (42) and Daniel Forsell permanently closed the match with only ten minutes left to play, 2-0.

– We make a good game, tactically speaking, and when we do 1-0, it will be a long journey for them, while we are growing, says Hacken coach Peter Gerhardsson who think like this about advancement to the Euro League qualification round 3:

This was a charming result as the Honka fans were less than charming, Firstly they ripped my flag because they couldn’t let last year’s defeat against Bangor go. Secondly they were too loud and sang boring songs, apart from the ones they’d pinched from Bangor City.

The worst aspect of the Honka fans is that Egan and I distinctly heard a couple of them make monkey noises when one of Hacken’s black players “dived”. This was not only a disgusting throwback to the twentieth century it was rather odd as they didn’t seem to mind their own players diving.

Hacken’s victory meant a smug promenade out of the ground for Egan and I. It was nice to have met Egan, another part of the network of good football fans in Europe.

On the way back from Finland I had another lay-over, this time in Amsterdam. Upon landing I needed to feel the fresh Amsterdammer air. When I tried to leave through the passport control gate. The policeman took one look at my polo shirt, saw the words “WELSH PREMIER LEAGUE CHAMPIONS 2011” under the badge and asked “What is this?”  A customs official with a streak of humanity, well I never!! I replied with “Well it’s a bit like the Eredivisie but not as good!!”. The look of admiration upon his face was eloquent enough; Bangor City had yet another fan.

 





The vengence of Malevolent Michel Part 566

1 07 2012

I thought I was unjustifiably paranoid when it came to Michel Platini, I thought that he couldn’t really be after me, I’m just one insignificant person from north Wales, he couldn’t hate me oh no.

Then I had more proof….

On 15th May Wales, Scotland and Ireland formally declared their interest in making a joint bid to host Euro 2020. The only other countries to declare an interest were Georgia and Turkey.

On 24th May Platini appears to give the Celtic fringe hope by “belittling Turkey’s bid

On 13th June I shared this photo on facebook;

I was doing my bit by showing wanted support for the bid, after all it’s probably the only way Wales will qualify!!!

It was all good at this stage, but then I had forgotten two vital things; (i) Platini has my internet usage monitored, (ii) Platini really hates hopeful Welsh people.

Yesterday (June 30th) I read this;

Uefa president Michel Platini says the 2020 European Championship could be spread across various cities in Europe, rather than having a single host.

Traditionally one or two countries have hosted the tournament, which is being held in Poland and Ukraine this summer.

The next competition in 2016 will be hosted by France.

“The Euros in 2020 could be held all over Europe,” said Platini. “It could be either one country and 12 stadiums, or one stadium in 12 or 13 cities.”

Turkey had been favourite to host the event in 2020, but their bid has hit difficulties due to a desire to host the Olympic Games in Istanbul in the same year.

Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland have also formally declared an interest in hosting Euro 2020.

Platini confirmed a final decision would be taken in January or February next year.

“This matter will be discussed very seriously,” he added. “We will have a great debate about 2020 and discuss the pros and cons.

“It’s an idea I feel really passionate about, it will be a lot easier from a financial perspective.

“We are not going to wait until we know whether Turkey are going to get the Olympics.

“It creates a problem for us. We do have other candidates. Everyone has the possibility to host it.

“It is easier to go from London to Paris or Berlin than Cardiff to Gdansk. It would be four games per venue. It is a great debate.”

Platini added: “We are just thinking about it. I have said 12 or 13 host cities, it could be 24 or 32. In these days of cheap air travel anything is possible.

“It is the political decision that needs to be made. We wouldn’t have to build stadiums or airports. That could be important in an economic crisis.”

There we go again, Platini’s taking out on me again. First he doesn’t want me to watch Bangor City in Europe, then he doesn’t want me to watch Wales play, now he doesn’t want me to live in a country that has hosted the European Championship. He’s a sadist too, he knows his power, look at the way he gave me hope and then snatched that hope away like a twat.

He definitely has it in for me and the clues are not subtle. I mean take this line;

“It is easier to go from London to Paris or Berlin than Cardiff to Gdansk…..”

If you haven’t got a vendetta against a Welsh person, why mention Cardiff specifically? Why belittle the Welsh so callously and so effortlessly in a vulgar display of mendacious bureaucratic elan.

My sources tell me that it wasn’t just the way he casually dismissed the dreams of a million Welshmen, it was the look of contempt on his face as his mouth was forced to spit out the word “CAR-DIFF“. My sources tell me that his face positively screamed “Ha, ha, you Welshies, I fart in your general direction!!!”.

Those sources also reinforced my impression. I know that Platini bares me a grudge. They told me that during the announcement he was mockingly stroking a white cat and he knows I can’t stand white cats. When he had finished the announcement he mocked me afresh by saying “‘ere’s to zat l’homme stoo-pid avec le stoo-pid CLAN-DOOOD-NO JET SET” and then sarcastically extending the ringed little finger of his right hand to the corner of his mouth. He knows that I don’t particularly care for the films of Austin Powers.

Why Michel? Why?





My curly nemesis just won’t leave me alone…….

17 06 2012
Bray Wanderers P Bangor City p
Friendly – IN IRELAND!!!!
16/6/12

Just when I thought I was safe, that I was clear, he reminds me of his bitterness and his power. Even though we’re separated by thousands of miles his greasy tentacles are still ruining my pies…….

2 months ago it was all so different…..

I was annoyed but upbeat on an April Saturday. On one hand I knew that my dream of a European football trip this summer was over by the 25th minute of the title decider on the outskirts of civilisation – You notice these little details when your team has collapsed to a 3-0 deficit. On the other hand I knew we were headed for the Europa League, therefore I knew that I would definitely miss the away trip; the Europa League qualifiers take place at a time when public sector workers of my ilk find it inconvenient to leave the country for more than a few hours.

Needless to say I didn’t care to be honest, at least I knew 4 months before the date of the match this time. At least I wouldn’t present my curly nemesis with a chance to prove his power over me. Yeah like I need to go to Europe anyway, travelling to club matches in Europe is like soooooo 2011. You can stick it all up your arse Platini.

Then Bangor City announced they were playing Bray Wanderers in a pre-season friendly on the 16th of June. I had to go!!! 2011 was sooooooo back in style!!!!

After a few brief conversations with blue army comrades I had plans to go. I started to look forward to the trip. I couldn’t help but externalise my joy;

“Yeah whatever Platini you cunt, you’ll never stop me from travelling to a Bangor City ha you curly fucker, what do you think of that eh. Oh you’re not so clever now are you fucking cunt, ha ha ha ha ha ha…”

“…..I’m sorry sir, did you what to the return journey to leave from Dún Laoghaire or Dublin Port?”

ermmmmmm, Dublin Port please”

Oh how sweet it is to book a ferry crossing!! I was going to watch Bangor City in a foreign country, finally!! Finally I would get to see my team play under another country’s sun. I started to count the hours until I was due to go!!!

Little did I know the carefree days were about to end………..

On Thursday night I awoke to hear the rain and wind battering our bedroom window. I thought nothing of this, it was June, the month of golden sun and flowers, for christ sakes. Besides it was the middle of the night, they don’t play football in the middle of the night, not even in June, the best of all months. It was raining a bit and the windows were rattling, so what, what did this matter? I thought nothing of my wife saying “I hope the ferry won’t be cancelled” That wasn’t going to happen, it was June for christ sakes!!!

On Friday’s drive to work, I thought nothing of the large branches lying at the roadside. I thought nothing of the fact they should have been swaying in the stiff breeze. I thought nothing of the fact they were lying at the roadside instead. I didn’t pause to worry, this was June, the best of all months, for christ sakes!!! I didn’t worry for the rest of the day, I just checked my travel details and thought about getting that Bray Wanderers fridge magnet. I had no worries, this was a Friday in June for christ sakes!!!

I arrived home and turned on my computer. I logged on to the Bangor City message board “Moidering Blues” because my excitement needed to read the excited posts of my soon-to-be fellow travellers. A glorious comrade had written the following;

“for all those who have booked day tickets on ferry– tough ,no refunds on them, if the ferry is cancalled or delayed there is a £10 voucher to be spent with the toerags!

A least a mugger looks you in the eye when taking your money”

I failed to twig what the message was about so I didn’t worry, this was June for christ sakes!!! Then I scrolled down the page and read this;

“Looks like a day out in Dublin instead then!!”

I forgot it was June. Then I scrolled down the page and read this;

“Confirmed as cancelled”

Something inside my head fell on its side. I checked in the Bray Wanderers website;

“The friendly game against Bangor City due to be played at the Carlisle tomorrow (Saturday) is OFF due to inclement weather.”

Then I realised something, that Curly fucker has done me again!!

The prick’s stopped me going to watch Bangor City away for a third, no fourth year running!!! He’s made it fucking rain in fucking June, the best of all months. It’s all because the curly prick didn’t want me to miss Poland v Czech Republic, an event brought to us by McDonalds and Hyundai.

I consoled myself with the thought that I would be able to get a refund on my ferry ticket. Roughly one minute after consoling thought came to me my hopes of financial restitution were in tatters. The law-talking community would calmly state that “Stena line’s terms and conditions” crushed my hopes of financial restitution but I know the real reason, and he was born in Joeuf.

The coup-de-grace happened at rough 6:12 last night. My fucking phone began taunting me. I received a text stating that my return sailing was currently on time and that check-in is now open. I read this sitting at home in north Wales. Platini must have shares in Alcatel.

You watch him draw Bangor City with a Finnish club for the 4th year in a row.





Scottish Sojourns

31 03 2012
Motherwell 4 Queen’s Park 0
Scottish Cup
6/1/12

Platini’s vendetta against me  (EVIDENCE PART 1 EVIDENCE PART 2 , EVIDENCE PART 3  ) has gone up a notch. This year he has scheduled all possible European club matches and international matches that I may want to go to (possibly involving Bangor City in June/July) at times when it is impossible for me go. It’s actually worse than I’ve just described however, the curly despot wants Wales to play on the wrong days in the wrong months in perpetuity. This represents another move against European public sector workers if you ask me.

Anyway enough of this justified paranoia, thanks to glorious winter break instituted by the man I had to decide what I would do with a Bangor City free weekend. Instead of fretting I used the weekend as a blank canvas without closed options. As a nominal Queen’s Park fan – when I’m pushed into an answer about my favourite Scottish club – I decided that this weekend would be the perfect opportunity to go and watch them again so I scanned the internet. Alas Queen’s Park weren’t playing at home. However it was Scottish Cup day and Queen’s Park were away to Motherwell. This sounded like the trip for me! Yes, my European trip this year will involve going to watch Motherwell v Queen’s Park!!!!!!!! Screw you Platini, you’ll never stop the Jet Set!!

After a bit of internet research, and posting a few questions on the When Saturday Comes message board I not only had a trip, I had a minute by minute itinerary, a map, a contact, with a t-shirt, to meet and a chance to go for a few pre-match refreshments with a Motherwell fan. Don’t you just love the internet?

When I left Rhyl it was dark. I always think that leaving in the dark adds an epic tone of a trip. Unless you’re a moron long train journeys provide wonderful opportunities to see a lot of a country around you, I find that train journey offer the space to relax, to think, to dream. They offer enough of a taste of other places to allow one to speculate about what it must be like to live in other places. I’m particularly drawn tothe idea isolated farmhouses on hillsides, I imagine what it would be like to see the sunset as I pulled open the curtains, the windows would shower the bedroom in warming sunlight….. ahem, please excuse me, I appear to turned into the smug presenter of a channel 4 property programme. Please let me assure you, I haven’t turned into Kirsty fucking Allsopp.

Right, on with the main story…..

Long train journeys offer the chance to catch up with When Saturday Comes. I always try to take two, one for the way there and one for the way back. At some point last year I started to wonder whether the convergence of me, copies of When Saturday Comes and a train had some greater cosmic significance.

On one journey I read a WSC article about the use of reclaimed parts of stadiums in other football grounds. The article talked about how Bangor used seats from Ninian Park in Farrar Road. As I was reading that WSC on a train to watch Bangor City in south Wales I started to think something was afoot;  Firstly I was one of the people who unloaded the seats, secondly I was making the same journey as the seats. I thought things were spooky for roughly 5 seconds.

It wasn’t until this journey up to Glasgow that I was reminded of the spookiness. During the journey I began to realise the extent of the cosmic triangle I was part of. At about 9:05 I was looking at pictures of a ground, Lancaster City, that I’d never even thought about before. At about 9:20 the train passed by that very ground. At about 10:55 I was introduced to a place called Uddingston in a review of John Robertson’s autobiography (He came from there), at about 11:10 the train passed through that place. This was too god damn spooky. I hoped that I would read about the liquidation of the XXX XXX XXXXXX on the way home (Unfortunately I didn’t).

Unfortunately my cosmic powers didn’t extend to making the train run on time. We were half an hour late getting in to Glasgow because of a cracked windscreen. This was the first blemish on my day;  I missed my contact in Glasgow Central, which meant I missed out on the pinnacle of fashion – a “I Still Hate Thatcher” T-Shirt – BUGGER, BUGGER, BUGGER.

Eventually I found myself in a Celtic shop. I saw an intriguing poster that advertised Celtic match tickets for £25, an idea was planted. I managed to find a 1970s style silk-esque scarf for £2 but this didn’t cushion the blow of the missed t-shirt. The bloody Virgin train delay meant that I suffered a second blemish; I missed out on my pre-match refreshments as well because I had to get a later train to Motherwell, curse you Branson and your corporate hippy ways.  I left for Motherwell in a mood.

Luckily I was able to find Fir Park quite easily after a few questions. Whilst I was in their spacious club shop I managed to find something I’d actually planned to bu;y a Motherwell Fridge Magnet for my fridge and a Motherwell scarf for Bangor’s club shop.

It was when I was standing in the Davie Cooper suite that I finally realised that wearing a blue Bangor City polo shirt to a match near Glasgow probably wasn’t the best idea I’d ever had. Despite Bangor’s worldwide fame I tend to forget that some people have yet to be touched by our appeal. As I sat there I felt stares burning into me. No-one seemed remotely inquisitive about the badge on my polo, the colour, Rangers blue, was obviously clouding  their view. I left while I still could and bought a match ticket off the incredibly polite staff. I then went the wrong way and ended up in a school car park, unfortunately you can’t walk all the way around Fir Park. This may have been a problem for some people but I like to envelop myself in the urban landscape, I love it when football grounds are surrounded by houses, it shows that football clubs are part of a community.

My ticket was for a stand with a few empty seats. When I’m presented with such a situation I like to mingle, I like to find the best place because I need a bit of legroom for my chronic 6-a-side wounds. I thought that it would be fun to sit near the away fans. When I saw the Queen’s Park fans putting out their flags and then start to sing I wanted to be up there with them, especially on account of me being a nominal Queen’s Park fan – when pushed about it of course. The desire to be among my nominal brethren was strengthened by the fact that Motherwell’s  teenage ultras also choose to stand next to the away fans. I wasn’t quite sure why they wanted to taunt the fans of a famously semi-pro club but that’s the football culture we enjoy nowadays.

When Queen’s Park conceded their first goal the taunting began. This was an unfortunate goal to concede because the Queen’s Park keeper let the ball slip out of his grasp. There’s nothing more wretched than that for a semi-pro team than that. You’re already up against enough; the aura of fitter professional players, a big, unfamiliar ground, lots of fans, that you don’t need luck to go against you.  I felt for the keeper on this big day for the Spiders. When Motherwell doubled their lead the taunting continued briefly.

There wasn’t much action after the second goal, the Motherwell attackers now looked confident but their last touch continued to let them down. As is my wont I began to look at my surroundings and the most noticeable detail about Fir Park is the unfinished stand. I already knew a bit about the stand thanks to finding out where the ground was on various websites. It turns out that the stand was unfinished because Motherwell tried used the money from the sale of Ian St. John and others but …….I’ll leave the rest of the tale to wikipedia;

“To minimise disruption to the old stand, the steel frame was built over and behind it.Construction of the main stand stopped 20 yards short of the south end, however, because a local resident successfully objected to a completed stand.The objection was made because it would have restricted light to the garden and reduced the value of the property.By the time the property owner had decided to sell, Motherwell did not have the funds or will to complete a full length main stand. The club instead bought the house and used it for their offices.”

Consequently there is a skeletal feel to the main stand. To judge from the seemingly good condition of the exposed part of the stand there was a lot of skill in1960s civil engineering, the stand has been exposed to 50 years of changing seasons and it’s still standing firm. Anyhow, the scoreline remained unchanged until half time.

I moved to the other end of the stand at half time and this led to Queen’s Park enjoying enough second half possession to push Motherwell back. They even created enough chances to make the match very uncomfortable viewing for the Motherwell fans, to judge from the cursing and the sucking of breath through teeth. When the Spiders began to force a few corners and then miss the goal narrowly the tension and he amount of tutting rose tangibly.

In the week preceding the match I discovered that Motherwell had signed an Estonian international. His arrival on to the pitch seemed to change the course of the second half. He was quick, as were the other subs,  and this pace was too much for tired semi-pro limbs. Motherwell managed to score an extra three goals. The Estonian scored a particularly good goal.

I didn’t manage to speak to anyone until the last five minutes, I tried to speak to people of course but I didn’t get past a grunt or three on a couple of occasions. When I did manage to have a conversation it turned out to be with a bloke that used to live in Blaenau Ffestiniog. Unfortunately the warmth of this human contact couldn’t warm my frozen feet. Not even the mad dash to Motherwell station helped my feet.

I must say that I enjoyed my trip to Scotland. The poster in the Celtic shop had planted an idea in my head, I’m sure that I’d be back soon.

Queen’s Park 3 Stranraer 2
Scottish League Division 3
25/2/12

Another Bangor City free weekend, another chance to go somewhere different. I can’t think of a better way to go somewhere different than visit the same place that I went to 7 weeks ago? I couldn’t help but hear Glasgow calling. The idea planted by the poster in the Celtic shop began to germinate when I checked the SPL fixture list and saw that Celtic were at home. Queen’s Park were also at home; I had two options!!

I was definitely charmed by the idea of watching Celtic, who wouldn’t like to go to see one of Europe’s great clubs?  We’re not talking Newcastle, Chelsea or Lyon, we’re talking about a club with a genuinely rich European history, isn’t it? you know………………..

…………………….Finals, semi-finals, Lisbon Lions, glorious floodlit nights , Jinky on the wing, Kenny up front, Chalmers banging them in, McGrain and McNeil unmovable – the very definition of rock-like, shirt numbers on shorts, jumpers for goalposts, wee urchins in the park “Oi, Yer cannae play there son!!!”……………………………..

I can’t say I wasn’t tempted by the tangible weight of history but the hurdles of making  accounts, leaving details, premium rate hotlines and the like put me off.  Then it looked as though there were only tickets for seats with obstructed views left. It felt like I had to make too much effort for just any old league match and I’m sure Celtic will still be there next season. I just wanted to turn up without needing to prove my identity in triplicate, is that too much to ask for? This meant Hampden Park was going to be my destination, now I could go to the Scottish Football museum as well!

At first the train up to Glasgow felt blissful, I had a history of Italian cycling and When Saturday Comes to read, I had a raison bagel for breakfast. I had a table all to myself. I had the legroom………. Then THEY showed up , Mr. & Mrs. Nimby. They arrived like clouds to the sunshine of my reverie with their petty, moaning, middle class ways.

You can always tell their sort so when I come across these people I like to play Nimby Bingo.  I unfolded my mental bingo card. A certain style of attire, dabbed!!!!! A certain sort of hairstyle, dabbed!!!! A certain way of handling their luggage, dabbed!!! Barely concealed judgemental opinion in every sentence; “They bought that house for……..They want to put something in the garden……My god did you hear the language back there, there’s no need for that so early in the morning!!!” , dabbed!!!. Then they pulled the Daily Mail and Sun from their bags. I was able to call “HOUSE!!!!”; I’d awarded myself an imaginary £20,000.

I imagined how happy Bangor fans would be when I donated this money towards building a covered terrace. I’d meet the architect and discuss designs. I’d make sure we had an eco-friendly ground with ethically sourced materials, I saw myself helping with the murals. I had to visualise this,  I had to take my mind off the fact that I was stuck with these two legroom thieves  for 2 and half hours, oh how the nagging pain of my historic astroturf wounds nagged. Not even the extra wide tables of the Virgin Pendolino helped. Needless to say when the Nimbys left the train they did so in a contemptuous shuffle, thinking their rubbish was a Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen-esque embellishment on the lives of ordinary people.

The streets of Glasgow were slightly damp by the time I sauntered around the centre of the metropolis. I cut quite a dash in my new New York Cosmos tracksuit top. Then I saw another bloke in one and I sauntered no more, oh the scandal of wearing exactly the same clothes as someone that I casually passed!!!! I felt like horsefaced Carrie from Sex in the City until the bloke’s friend saw the humour in the situation of two men passing each other whilst wearing the same clothes and turned to say; “Up the Cosmos” to me. What had been monumentally embarrassing moment became an affirmation of human solidarity. I went to the Gallery of Modern Art with a spring in my step.

To be truthful I wasn’t sure what to make of the museum’s  installations. For example one piece was an old wooden dining table suspended from the ceiling. The top had been removed and one of the legs had been pointed upwards. I looked at the piece for fully 4 and a half minutes without grasping the point the artist was trying to make about society. I couldn’t decide whether I was a philistine or not.  After a brief promenade around salubrious Sauchiehall Street I set off for Hampden, via Catkin Park.

I managed to find Catkin Park by accident, I was actually standing by the road that the ground was situated on when I asked for directions. This was very lucky because another helpful person had sent me off in the wrong direction when we were outside Mount Florida station. Catkin Park was quite an eerie sight; it was redolent of glory days and failed promise.

After a quick walk around Hampden I found my way to the entrance for the museum of Scottish football. The museum is as much a museum of Scottish social history as it is a museum of Scottish football. The less than genteel parts of football culture; hooliganism, mammoth drinking sessions, clubs going out of business, Billy Bremner, were also covered. I heartedly recommend the museum as it contains loads of interesting items that not only provides another view on football they provide a better view of the past as well, for example there’s the lifesize sculpture of Archie Gemmil’s goal against Holland and the collection of begging letters sent by pro clubs in England to entice skilful Scottish amateurs southwards. There were also mementoes of an old British olympic football team from an obviously less contentious time.

There is also David Will’s collection of mementoes on display. Mr Will was a vice president of FIFA until he passed on and as you would imagine his collection provides an insight into the gilded existence of a FIFA dignitary. At each World Cup these people receive a small solid gold replica of the World Cup with the particular tournament’s  symbol on the base. If you’re like Mr. Will you will need those symbols to keep track of the replica world cups. Speaking of gold trinkets, did you know that the FA of the countries that qualify for the world cup receive a gold plague stating as much, I didn’t know this until I went to the museum of Scottish football. After I bought an SFA fridge magnet I went to find the right turnstile to go in. As expected there was only one section open.

Maybe it was the vague sense of drizzle in the air that led to me think I had made a mistake by swerving Celtic Park. Did I really want to go in and see semi-pro footballers? The reason I’d gone all that way, the reason that I’d made all that effort was to watch semi-pro footballers, something I did every week. Was I an idiot?

My doubts had vanished about 10 minutes later; firstly I wasn’t going to change my mind as I’d already bought a match ticket as part of museum ticket deal. Then several happenings happened; I’d bought a Queen’s Park / SG Wattenscheid 09 pin badge, I’d had a chat with the bloke in the club shop (Bangor’s has more stock by the way).  I’d taken my seat in Scotland’s national ground after making a choice between a left opening and a right opening. Most importantly I had held two pies for a bloke as he climbed over a row of seats to get to the rest of his friends.

It wasn’t just the simple act of holding two scalding hot pies that changed my view, it was the way it happened. The bloke just thrust them into my hands. At first glance it may seem odd that I chose to find this act appealing; the act of  aggressively thrusting pies in someone’s direction can result in violence. But I’m not like everyone else, I chose to see the act an expression of Scottish civility. The bloke was obviously expecting to be helped to his seat without complaint; he was expecting me to help him. I was touched by this little display. But then Glasgow does seem full of polite people, full of people who say thanks when you hold a door open, full of shop workers that say Cheerio when you’re about to leave.

The fact I had taken the decision to go left meant that I had placed myself amongst the Stranraer fans. When the players came out there was a small crescendo of noise but like the last time I went to Hampden  I was struck by the cavernous space in which the match was being played. Queen’s Park is one of the anomalies of football; an amateur side playing in a national stadium. Sadly there aren’t enough anomalies.

I found the match to be quite entertaining. Queen’s Park controlled their possession quite well but Stranraer looked quite dangerous. To continue the friendliness theme I’m sure that the bloke sitting next to me was being friendly but I struggled to make out what he was saying. All I could make out was “Offside”, “Cunt” and “For F____ Sake Stranraer”. I just nodded at the right time.  I couldn’t quite pinpoint the constituent parts of the Stranraer  accent; I noted a lot of Scots, a hint of Northern Irish, a touch of Cumbrian. Halfway through one of our one-sided conversations Stranraer scored a fantastic goal, their striker (I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t know his name) scored with a skillful curling shot into the top corner. There was relative pandemonium in the Stranraer end, well it was a fantastic shot.

Shortly afterwards Queen’s Park equalised and some of their young fans acted in a rather unseemly way, they turned to taunt the Stranraer fans, even though the Stranraer fans had remained placid. This is the legacy of Sky’s hype, a world where people feel compelled to taunt at everything possible opportunity.

Queen’s Park certainly deserved something for their play but they couldn’t relax with Stranraer’s attacking players looking very dangerous. needless to say Stranraer scored again. The shot was quite good but it wasn’t that good and it looked like it wasn’t going in. Then the Queen’s Park keeper made a cock up for the second time in succession that I’ve seen him play (I checked and it was same keeper as the Motherwell match). To think that some people say semi-pro footballers are too inconsistent!!! I must apologise to the lad if ever I see him because I seem to have a hex over him.

Based on the fact that I sort of identify myself as a nominal Queen’s Park fan – when I’m pushed to –I decided to change sides at half time, I decided to go down the right path. I came out amongst  padded seats. I was almost overjoyed because I’ve never sat on a padded seat at a match before, well posterior protection is not normally for the likes of me. Not only was the seat padded, there was legroom as well. Now I knew how the other half watched football.

It wasn’t long before I released that I was sitting next to a charming group of supporters. They were very erudite, very wind-swept and very interesting. Even when a person behind me started moaning;  “They don’t give 110% any more”, “They don’t tackle properly”,  “They don’t tackle with enough force and that’s how players get hurt” I was charmed rather than annoyed; the criticism was delivered with enough style in a Still Game style accent. Consequently I willed the Spiders onward.

If I needed another reason to be won over by Queen’s Park I had one; their choice of music. There was no clichéd rubbish. Before the start of each half they played a rock version of the Spiderman theme. After each Queen’s Park goal they played the classic tune; “Enjoy Yourself!”

Unfortunately we didn’t hear Enjoy Yourself for the first part of the second half. Then Queen’s Park equalised after about an hour. I was quite happy with this situation, even if I was starting to feel the cold. The match appeared to going the way of the Spiders when Stranraer had a man sent off. The player that received the red card incredulously rooted himself to the spot before leaving the pitch whilst performing a shrug. Queen’s Park continued pressing and brought on a couple of subs to help them. One of those changes directly led to a goal because one of the subs managed to score the winner in the last ten minutes. I left the ground with very cold feet.

On the way to Mount Florida I saw that a restaurant was showing the England v Wales rugby match on TV but I couldn’t see who was winning. I managed to see the score whilst I looked through the window of Glasgow Central’s pub. Wales were losing. I went for a Subway and by the time I came back it Wales were drawing. Thankfully by the time I left Glasgow central Wales had scored a try to go into the lead against the Public School fun boys. I’d had another lovely day in Glasgow.





So that’s the season started then

28 08 2011
West Ham United  P Aldershot Town P
Carling Cup Round 1
9/8/11

Everything was alright on the Monday 8th. I walked around London, I  went to a few museums, I bought a few things, I had a bite to eat at a lovely place near Covent Garden. The evening saw a walking tour of Westminster. I had the expected “nice day”,  you wouldn’t have  known that London was on the verge of destruction.

Let me enlighten you if you are unaware of what I’m talking about. On Saturday and Sunday (6th and 7th) there’d been a bit of rioting in different parts of London. The cause was unclear but that didn’t stop our 24hr media speculating.

As I’ve already said I didn’t see any hint of trouble – although I didn’t leave central London – but when I arrived back at my charming hostel and went to the bar I was presented with another interpretation by the 24hr news channels. They opted for the sensational “LONDON WAS BEING DESTROYED” tone (Obviously I’m not saying there wasn’t any damage or that some  people’s livelihoods won’t suffer). I could see the tone of the presentation even though the sound was off; the channel  showed the same clip 3 times in roughly 15 minutes.

They were only showing one street in London out of  tens of thousands, yet their tone was “More trouble, worse trouble, look at this as evidence”. The Swedish friend I’d made at the bar agreed with my point and then  left for a “Headbangers’ bar”. Just after he left I wondered how Cameron could use the “Destruction of Britain” as an excuse to beef up police powers to make himself look like a man of action.

I read the Evening Standard on the bar. I was even more convinced the media were sensationalising the situation. The headline said:   “LAWLESS LONDON”  and the first five pages presented us with a load of pictures and hot air. “A WAVE OF DESTRUCTION”………. “BATTLEFIELDS” …….. “CHILDREN BETWEEN 10 AND 14 RAMPAGING THROUGH STREETS”.

Even with the evidence supposedly in front of me I still wasn’t convinced this was a truthful view of the situation. Therefore I tried to find all the  figures quoted for the groups of rioters in different areas. I added those  figures together and they  totalled roughly 1,500 troublemakers (I’m being generous). The biggest single group was “about 200 troublemakers”.

In a city of nearly 8 million it’s interesting to note that about 1,500 troublemakers constitutes a “WAVE OF DESTRUCTION’. In World War Two London suffered  an actual  “wave of destruction” during the Blitz. During the Blitz  1.4 million were made homeless and 40% of Stepney’s housing was destroyed. So according to the media about 1,500 young people were responsible for a similar outcome.

I received a text at 11:30 pm telling me the West Ham game had been cancelled. I checked the web and found that Charlton’s match was also off . I was rather annoyed but not surprised. At this time Crystal Palace’s match was still on so I might have a game to watch.

About 5 minutes later I realised that Platini is in editorial control of 24hr news channels and he was deliberately manipulating the coverage to portray a bad impression. Through his contacts he  found out I’d bought a ticket for the West Ham v Aldershot match and he used the tv to get this match called off.

I awoke on Tuesday 9th to find that Platini’s coverage had led to the cancellation of the Crystal Palace match as well. I scanned the internet for possibilities of a match to go to. I had one condition; the match had to be in London, or within roughly 45 minutes of London. This left Stevenage’s match, Nigeria V Ghana at Watford, and Oxford v Cardiff plus Brighton’s match. I did my calculations, a process that wasn’t helped by the slowness of the wi-fi connection, and came to the conclusion that Nigeria v Ghana was the most exotic choice. Therefore this was the right choice.

The first thing I did the following morning was to  take down Watford FC’s number. My next step was to find a payphone. The voice from the other end told me to pay when I got there. I knew I would be off to a football match when the voice at the other end assured me there wasn’t much chance the match would be called off. With this knowledge safely stored away I set about sight-seeing.

My first stop was Book Marks, the left-wing book shop, and this led me to my first exhibition of the day in the TUC ‘s HQ, Congress House. The exhibition commemorated the industrial dispute caused by Murdoch’s decision to move New International from Fleet Street to Wapping. I had a great chat with the curator and it was good to be reminded of solidarity.

I left the exhibition and immediately experienced the most eloquent example of Murdoch’s effect on the British media. Apparently I was setting foot into “Lawless London”. When I looked around, this part of  London could be more adequately described as “Lively London”. The sun was shining and the streets thronged with traffic and people. I could hear the hustle and bustle of Tottenham Court Road. In fact this area looked and felt almost exactly the same as it did the last time I was there. Then I went to the national Portrait Gallery safe in the knowledge that I was going to watch international football later in the evening.

I arrived back at the hostel at about 4 o’clock needing a drink and a seat. I checked the internet, surprise, surprise Nigeria v Ghana had been cancelled on “Police advice”. If you ask me Platini is a fan of Gene Hackman and he’s been watching “The Conversation”. I think he’s tapping the pay phones of London as well.

I thought about the police’s decision. The so-called troubles were happening  in London but the police decided to call off a match in town 20 miles from London. I can’t figure this one out totally, the only possible reason for the decision that I can think of is the police like to curtail civil liberties when it suits them.

What possible security problems could a friendly between two African countries being played  in Watford actually present? The match could have been “policed” by stewards. It just further highlights the arbitrary powers of the police and their negative view of the British people.

 I frantically scanned the internet for a game. I appealed on twitter for help. Stevenage was suggested, Oxford v Cardiff was suggested. These two choices involved too much hastle or were too expensive – it costs 18 quid to stand at Stevenage.

 I checked non-league websites. I found the Ryman League didn’t start for a week and a half, curses. I checked another website for friendlies. Conrinthian Casuals were at home again the Metropolitan Police, this was bound to be on as one of the sides was the Met. They could police the game as they were playing. The subs could act as security and then go off duty if they were  needed on the pitch, the substituted players could then go on duty on terraces. Easy!!

I phoned the Casuals, the game was off. I think their remarkably prescient poster tempted fate (look at the top of it), there was a riot.

The Casuals were in on Platini’s conspiracy. The curly French demagogue had ruined another Jet Set trip. Not even my new jeans could truly comfort me.

As I was in need of something to do and I was hungry I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone so I went searching for a nice pub. I found a nice one  just off Leicester Square. Just after I arrived a group of suit wearers arrived in order to have a conversation that was just that little bit too loud for polite society.

Just after I was forced to listen to their bullshit an idea struck me; maybe people like this had something to do with the riot. Watching them was like watching a toned down version of one of those clips of Yuppies  from the ’80s; they had the brash cockiness, they had the facial expressions of contempt the only thing missing were the red braces.

If I lived a poorer part of a city and I had to share my city with people who adopt such a nonchalant air of arrogance I might feel a little peeved about it. I might wonder why these cocky people should have all the success whereas I have to make do with metaphorical crumbs because I don’t live in the right area. Looting is never justified but you could say it was an expression of the alienation felt by people in living in a city riven by class divisions.

I’ll bet this kind of idea will be dismissed as political correctness gone mad or the effect of a liberal elite diluting traditional British values. I eagerly await Mad Melanie Phillips’s view.

Bangor City 3 Llanelli 2
Welsh Premier League
13/8/11

I knew there was a new season starting today because sky sports told me. I thought it was great that they are finally giving the Welsh Premier League the coverage it’s due. I wondered how they would sell the WPL. I wondered who they would get to front the coverage, who would be our very own Andy Gray?

Then I realised I my mistake, they were talking about “proper football”. Oh yes, “proper football” was starting today as well.

A friend on facebook confirmed that “proper footbal”was back. When I casually suggested that “proper football” had been back for about 5 weeks – I know this because I’d been to a “proper football” match, they used corner flags, goal nets and everything – I was given short shrift. It turns out what I had seen wasn’t part of the “proper season” (the “proper season” was “Premiership football”).  Bloody hell the country has been hypnotised by Murdoch’s media empire.

With this being the first game of the season, and televised to boot, I decided the flags were coming out. I thought the best place for them was them was the unpopulated part of the stand. Then I changed my mind as they wouldn’t be on tv very much and I needed the viewing public to see that BANGOR IS AN ENERGY.

Unfortunately I missed the start of the match because some people like to come in the shop and talk instead of watching the match. Consequently I missed the first goal (scored by Llanelli). To compound matters my flag display nearly blew off in the wind, flags were  a no-go today.

I saw Alwyn and Dave near the bar so and I thought it would make a nice change to watch a home game from the side of the pitch. It was a good view too, I may stand there more often. I managed to see Bangor equalise and several of the other chances we created. Unfortunately I also had a very clear view of a Llanelli header hit the top of the crossbar. Bangor City generally had a settled first half and this was a great comfort to those worried souls that feared the season after Helsinki.

Thanks to more unreasonable customers I missed the first 10 minutes of the second half as well. This meant I missed Dave Morley’s goal. When I was able to watch I saw City apply some concerted pressure. We managed to win quite a few corners and Llaneli’s keeper made a couple of fantastic saves too. Llanelli still offered a threat but this was a little  unfocussed. Consequently I was lulled into the worst state for a fan, a sense of security.

 This was going to be a good season ………  Helsinki hadn’t happened ……… We just keep mopping up, Pejic looks good ……….  I must say the passing’s good ……….  I like the kit, even if it has about 8 sponsors ……….. Then a Llanelli player hit an innocuous pass down the middle of the pitch ……..

Jordan Follows did that annoying “Look at what I’ve just down, aren’t I amazing” style of celebration that goes straight to the part of your brain that hates hearing nails dragged down blackboards. Football, you’re a bastard.

Eddie Jebb came on and within about 10 minutes left and within 30 seconds he unleashed a piledriver that the keeper just about saved. A couple of minutes later there was goalmouth scramble and, if I’ve recollected things in the correct manner, the next 5 seconds saw Llanelli clear the ball of the line twice and Bangor hit the post. The last few minutes was a nervous, yet exciting, period of play. It was worrying yet I was calm about it all. I was hopeful yet disappointed. I felt a bit odd.

Then the moment happened. Les headed the ball down for Kyle Wilson to stroke the ball in the last minute.

We’d won our first game and the league adventure had begun!!!

 
 
Llandudno Junction 2 Llanrwst United 1 (When I left)
Welsh Alliance
20/8/11

It was played, there was a bit of shouting and two long range goals. I left early to watch the Vuelta on ITV4.

 
 
Neath 2 Bangor City 0
Welsh Premier League
21/8/11

When the train was in Stafford I could tell there was a festival on somewhere; there were entire regiments of young women wearing the Wellies/denim shorts ensemble, just like heat magazine has told them too. One of the more depressing parts of the present epoch is the gentrification of the music festival. There used to be a time when music fans would be the only people to go but as I said earlier the past is a different continent.

Thankfully the rest of the journey only featured three other twats; a trio of “stylish” yet inexplicably rude Brummies slumming it on public transport. I arrived in Neath on time.

I’ve been asked some odd question at football matches in my time but the response of the steward to my question is possibly the oddest.

Imagine the scenario, I’m in town to see the latest chapter in “Lee ‘Magic Dabs’ Trundle and his Battle against Gravity”. As per usual I have decided to bring my flags to ensure a bit of colour. I casually asked “Can I put my flags over there?” – “over there” being an open terrace. The reply was bemusing; “Have you got a fire certificate for them?”.

Call me odd if you like but I have never thought it necessary to have the flags assessed by the relevant authority, so I replied “No, this is a joke isn’t it?”. To which the steward replied  “I’ll have to check with my superior then.”  In the end everything was normal and I could make a display.

There’s no finer image of Britain that an over-zealous jobsworth needlessly applied stupid rules as if the fabric of British society depends on what they’re doing at that precise moment. The whole thing reminded me of the time that XXX XXX XXXXXX prevented me from displaying a flag behind the goal because of  “the rules the FAW had sent them”. I remember suspecting that “the rules” had been made up on the spot by a steward puffed up by a smidgin of power. I suspected the same thing this time.

The first half was a case of Bangor not being able to  make the most of the pressure exerted. We had the clearer chances but we just couldn’t take them. Sometimes the ball didn’t bounce in the right way either; I think they may have used a rugby ball at one point. Neath had a few dangerous breaks and Idzi made a few saves as well so it wasn’t all one way traffic. Neil Thomas looks to have added something to the midfield; he was everywhere and constantly managed to apply a deft touch when trying to tackle any Neath player within his orbit. He seemed to tackle “Magic Dabs” quite a bit.

The second half was particularly frustrating as it looked like Bangor were going to score. We had a lot of pressure, we had a few chances and Mash articulated what everyone was thinking; “We gonna score, I can feel it!!!” Unfortunately a Bangor goal didn’t happen.

I’ll tell what did happen though. Neath scored two, the first of which was partly due to indecision. Lee Trundle lost his battle with gravity, Lee Kendall did his comedy villain routine to waste time and Kai Edwards entered the Llandudno Jet Set’s Hall of Infamy.

Last season Edwards brutally fouled Smithy and was then was heard to say “I should have broken his leg”. This season the chip seems to be back on the shoulder only in a nastier and more petulant style. His MO seems to be horrible little fouls and needless aggression. At one point Les challenged for the ball and knocked him over. In reply Edwards just smashed him in the knee while Les’ back was turned. Les was booked but the contemptible little shit Edwards wasn’t. He seems to constantly display the pumped up body language of a drunk teenager with an ASBO and an attitude problem. This is a shame as he’s obviously a good player.

Bangor City 1 Aberystwyth Town 1
Welsh Premier League
27/8/11

Thanks  to an estrangement with the worldwide web I forgot  that this match kicked off at 3:45. Hence I turned up at 12:20 ready to sort the shop out. By 12:40 the shop was ready for business. By 12:45 I was bored.

I decided a walking tour of Farrar Road was in order. By 12:47 I was sat in the Press Box and I must say it was a very pleasant vantage point apart from the view (you’re obstructed by pillars), the lack of leg room and the draught. I became  transfixed by the hypnotic green hue of the playing surface ……..

The next thing I knew it was 12:52, so I read the programme. By 12:57 I needed a new challenge. I knew what to do, I could document a day in the life of Farrar Road. By 13:05 I’d taken everything  all the photos I needed. By 13:10 I noticed the grass had been was cut in a circular pattern. By 13:15 I had blinked a few times and noticed the grass was actually cut into a stripy pattern. By 13:20 I noticed that I was right the first time, the grass seemed to be cut into a circular pattern.

At 13:21 someone walked past, at 13:22 he walked the other way, at 13:24 he walked back the first way, at 13:30 the pies and pasties arrived. At 13:40 I contemplated life’s important questions. At 13:50 I was ready for business. At 15:00 I saw my first customer of the day. At 15:40 I closed the shop to watch the match.

At 15:42 the referee signalled a change of ends. At 15:45 we were stood at the uncovered St. Paul’s end. At 15:46 it started raining. At 15:49 it stopped raining. At 15:50 at started raining again. At 15:55 it stopped raining. At 15:56 it started raining again. At 16:05 it stopped raining. At 16:15 some rather exciting match action happened but I forget what happened. At 16:25 we won a corner. At 16:30 the referee blew for half time.

At 16:50 ish the second half began. At 16:51 I missed the Aberystwyth goal due to being stuck in the club shop. At 16:55 I saw Sion Edwards volley an equaliser.

At 17:55 I struggled to work out whether I’d just witnessed a masterclass in brutality from Aberystwyth’s “players” or a tour-de-force in officiating ineptitude. Either way Bangor City had been prevented from winning a match they should have won easily (In the second half anyway)





World football has it in for Wales – Proof

30 07 2011

Today sees the latest draw for Wales’ national football team; the qualifying the draw for Brazil 2014.

This represents the latest installment of the hard luck story, the latest chapter in a life of unremitting bleakness, underachievement and disappointment, the latest glimpse of deferred glory, the lates………….. Well you get the idea.

At the moment we should think every possibility is possible, we should think that there’s no such thing as an easy draw and there’s no such thing as a hard draw. We should think that there’s just a draw. Unfortunately every Welsh person knows it’s not just a draw, we all know it’s fixed against Wales and we all know it always has been. Now it’s just got worse;

The final Fifa world rankings before the 2014 World Cup qualification draw make bad reading for Wales.

Despite climbing two places to 112th, Wales have been overtaken by the Faroe Islands and will be among the sixth and last Uefa seeds in Saturday’s draw……….

…….The Faroe Islands have been given the same 112th postion in the rankings as Wales but a slight points coeficient in the Faroe’s favour means Gary Speed’s side will be placed amongst the eight lowest ranked Uefa sides for the draw.

In June’s Fifa rankings the Faroe Islands were initially placed below Wales, but a 30-year-old Romanian computer programmer, Eduard Ranghiuc, who runs a football ranking website spotted that the Faroes should be 0.07 points better off than Wales.

That means Wales will be grouped alongside the likes of Liechtenstein, Iceland, Kazakhstan, Luxembourg, Malta, Andorra and San Marino.

So now it’s not just Platini and his cabal of corrupt bastards that are prejudiced against Wales. Romanian Computer programmers are in on the act.

Let’s re-read this part to check;

In June’s Fifa rankings the Faroe Islands were initially placed below Wales, but a 30-year-old Romanian computer programmer, Eduard Ranghiuc, who runs a football ranking website spotted that the Faroes should be 0.07 points better off than Wales.

They say you’re not paranoid if they’re really after you, well I’m not paranoid.





On the continent special – 2011 edition (Or…….The week that social networking sites made possible)

28 07 2011
Bangor City 0 HJK Helsinki 3
Champions League 2nd Qualifying Round 1st Leg
13/7/11

Thanks to UEFA’s corrupt dealings a fortnight previously this tie had become a mere unwelcome intrusion. With time and logic my mind was at  peace.

Sadly turmoil resurfaced in  a  battle between the positive and negative parts of my mind. First there was a chance I could still see Bangor away, then there wasn’t, then there was, then I didn’t want to go. Then those Honka bastards won in Estonia.

Then I thought “Sod it, I’ll go to Finland anyway“. Next stop Rhyl!!!

It felt quite odd to be in Rhyl on a July Wednesday evening but a couple of drinks sorted my confusion. Thanks to twitter I had a loose plan to bump into  a couple of people; 1the man behind European Football Weekends and someone from the When Saturday Comes message board. I waited around the assigned location of the meeting, the  Vegas bar, but I didn’t notice any new faces. In fact there weren’t as many of the usual faces as usual but this was due to a delayed train from Bangor. At about 5:15 I left for the ground to try and sell some stuff.

The ground was alive with people, including some flag carrying dudes from Helsinki. ‘Twas a great day to be alive!! Bangor City were in the European Cup, the sun was on our faces and victory was in our hearts.  Unfortunately Litmanen wasn’t present which was disappointing as you don’t get many chances to be that close to football legends. It’s rather sad to think that I’ve seen Robbie Savage play.

In the first half Bangor were doing ok until the combination of  a defensive slip and a failed offside trap enabled HJK to score. This was rather dispiriting as the club that tends to score first in Bangor’s European matches tends to win (most of the time it’s not Bangor City). Fortunately Bangor City weren’t finished and attempted to push HJK back. Unfortunately we only had a couple of dangerous shots on target. When half time arrived things were still hopeful, we just needed a good start to the second half.

The second half was excellent for the first ten minutes. We had the pressure, we had the possession, we looked like could do something, unfortunately we didn’t have many shots and most of the time the ball didn’t seem to bounce in the right place. HJK didn’t look light years away from Bangor, they just seemed to be more clinical with scoring opportunities. For example  HJK’s second goal was a scorching breakaway preceeded by ten minutes of constant Bangor pressure.  The fact that HJK didn’t look that fantastic meant the blue army still held on to the embers of hope for next week.

The match wasn’t just frustrating because Bangor hadn’t turned their possession into a goal or two, three characters – number 11 Mathias Lindström, number 17 Dawda Bah and number 19 Aki Riihilahti – sullied the evening,. These three have been added to the Jet Set’s list of infamy. (Present members; Martyn Naylor, Lee Hunt, Neil Gibson.)

The first one that came to my attention was the rather precious Bah, he seemed to be a bit of a player but clouded this idea with his antics; he got into such a tizzy lecturing Bangor players for attempting to tackle him he forgot he was a dirty bastard, he also got so worked up while castigated Bangor players for “diving” he forgot he liked to win free kicks. I cursed his soul.

Lindstrom was a masterclass in defending, if you like the cynical violence style. A push in the back here, a nudge here a full frontal assault there. At one point he literally dragged Les from the pitch just before a corner was taken. Then this fucker laughed about it. I cursed his soul.

As for Rihiilahtii, he tried to sexually harras Les at every available opportunity. He was literally  all over him and when I say literally all over I mean LITERALLY ALL OVER HIM. At first I struggled to recollect his vaguely familiar face. It was the assassin’s smile that reminded me that this fucker used to play for Crystal Palace. I checked Dylan’s programme, he was Aki Rihilaahti, and to think I nearly went for a drink with him in Aston Villa’s player’s lounge ( it’s a story that’s too long and tedious to recount). I cursed his soul.

Unsurprisingly UEFA’s bent ref failed to see any of this nefarious activity.

Just before we left Rhyl FC they remembered that Bangor fans were scumbags, therefore  we had to leave in the manner of Andy Dufresne; via a narrow alleyway next to an open sewer. What a charming way to treat visitors.

For an excellent, and  less partisan, view of the day read  European Football Weekends.

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XXX XXX XXXXXX X FC Midtjylland 3
Europa League 2nd Qualifying Round 1st Leg
14/7/11

A match happened this evening.

When the draw threw these two clubs together it appeared to be the perfect opportunity to reacquaint myself with the Black Wolves. (Bangor City fans and the Black wolves developed a bit of a friendship when we played each other in 2008.) Fate was on my side as well, during the week before the match Hekler (one of the main faces in the Black Wolves)  got in touch via Facebook. My doubts about giving XXX XXX XXXXXX money evaporated in thoughts of comradeship.

I was looking forward to a trip to Wrexham until I checked the match details and found it  was due to take place in the Marches, another sign Platini is conspiring against the Jet Set! Well big sweaty bollocks to UEFA I was still going to go. I made arrangements with Hekler; we would meet near the XXX XXX XXXXXX five-a-side pitch with country club accoutrements.

Thanks to the staff of Arriva Trains Wales, those unsmiling bulwarks against anarchy, I missed the train. Despite my entreaties about missing a train to a very, very important  football match the man with a heart of purest granite refused to let me pass. I promised to buy a ticket on the train but Mister “I don’t make the rules” wouldn’t have that. There’s just no trust anymore.

I finally arrived in Gobowen, down the road from XXX XXX XXXXXX, 5 minutes before kick off. My taxi driver was dissappointed the FCM fans were less numerous than the hundreds of Irish fans that had used his services. He continued wittering until I told him I was Bangor fan, whereupon he was struck dumb. The anti-Bangor omerta over Shropshire was obviously biting hard

Park Hall thronged with three empty sides, all I had to do was find Hekler and the boys in the vast crowd. I put on my honourary black and red Black Wolves scarf  and sashayed past the admiring glances of the bovine masses in the temporary stands. I saw the envy in face after face.

I eventually found Hekler on the front row just past the halfway line. There were 4 FCM fans and they were all very friendly. Hekler’s welcomed me with the international “Where the fuck have you been?” shrug  and we settled down for a pleasant chat whilst the match passed by.

FCM seemed just too good for XXX XXX XXXXXX as their speed, movement and skill wasn’t impeded by the plastic pitch. Some notable Welsh Premier board posters hoped this wouldn’t happen. Hekler told me that FCM  play on plastic all the time in training so it wasn’t a surprise they were comfortable. The half time score was 0-0. Half time meant a few beers with the Black Wolves and it was good to spend time with people from far away whilst pursuing a common activity.

The second half was more of the same; FCM in general control while XXX XXX XXXXXX offered a threat from occassional bursts forward. XXX XXX XXXXXX supplemented these original threats with some set piece work, which was this avenue by which they constructed their goal. A corner led to Steve Evans heading the ball home. This wasn’t meant to happen and I could see that a bit of tension had developed in the shoulders of the Black Wolves.

It turned out that we only had to wait five minutes for the equaliser and a few more minutes for FCM’s second. FCM scored a third just before the final whistle. The goals made me feel distinctly better. Nobody really like seeing XXX XXX XXXXXX win, even their fans secretly realise each victory is a football crime.

After the match FCM’s players came over to say hello, I even had a few high fives!!! We all entered the Venue for some strange looks and a few beers before I made my excuses and left in another taxi. It was nice to know that football can bring people together.

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HJK Helsinki 10 Bangor City 0
UEFA Champions League 2nd Qualifying Round, Second Leg
20/7/11

As you may know I wasn’t able to go to this match. But I didn’t let a small detail like this stop me from going to Helsinki.

Postmodernists have told us that “pseudo-events,” are  common occurrances. The Heysel Stadium Diaster, the Gulf War and September the 11th didn’t happen per se, even if we watched them happen on the news. Postmodernists tend to say that we don’t actually watch events happen, we watch representsations of events, stuff that looks like events; “pseudo-events“.

The educated amongst you may dispute these ideas becuase they sound like a load of crap or meaningless gobbledigook. The more charitable may limit their praise to the fact these ideas helped The Matrix to come to fruition.  I certainly doubted postmodern ideas until today, now I see that the ideas are very plausible.

First postmodernists tell us that meta-narrtives no longer explain the world. They tell us that each person’s version of reality is as valid as the next person’s view of reality. They are right!

My first act in Birmingham airport to find a computer. I then paid a pound for 10 minutes of internet access in order to read one line updates on UEFA’s website.

At the same time as I was reading a computer screen other Bangor fans were in Helsinki watching Bangor play. Who could decide  which group of fans (me or them) was having the true football experience? Weren’t we both doing the exactly same thing on one level? We were both hoping a short match incident would bring joy. I let the surreality of this situation slide.

I knew potmodernism was right, I just knew it. I mean If I couldn’t take heart in postmodern ideas how the fuck am I menat to explain this all to myself and retain a degree of sanity? I’d have to pretend that I was sitting in FUCKING BIRMINGHAM AIRPORT READING ABOUT A FUCKING MATCH THAT I SHOULD HAVE WATCHING IN THE FUCKING GROUND, PLATINI YOU’RE A FUCKING CUN……………….

Then the moment came, the 29th minute of the match according to UEFA’s match text, and I realised that the postmodernists had the monopoly of truth. A single line was the clincher;

29′ – Hoy (Bangor City) makes a save.

This line was the clincher because, as you know,”Peter Hoy Football Genius” is a full back.

After reading the line I couldn’t feel the match any longer, I couldn’t visualise the stadium, I couldn’t visualise the crowd, I couldn’t visulise the corrupt refereee, I couldn’t visualise the bounce of the ball, I couldn’t visualise anything, I had no way of knowing if the match was happening? All I had was only a representation of a match, a match via the cypher of a typist’s imagination – I was in the middle of a “pseudo-event“.   When I left, to check in, the score in the “pseudo-event” was 0-0.

Unfortunately I was 20 minutes too early so I had to visit WH Smith to kill time. I was suddenly surrounded by instructive books and with 20 minutes to spare I owed it to myself to develop my personality. Before I knew it I had killed 23 minutes, forgotten about the treachery of Platini and developed my personality.
I say “developed my personality” so flippantly but this skeleton of a phrase doesn’t do justice to the period of self-development I went through; Yes!!! Today would be the day I would change myself (or at least by tomorrow, when I’d changed my socks). I knew that I had to change my leadership style. I was now on the road to blu-sky thinking, the road to becoming a faciliator / caretaker / Jongleur.
After reading another philosophical opus I knew that I could  make changes like a “The Boardroom Tiger” but I still needed the vision of “The Workfloor Osprey” and  the wise direction of “The Car Park Owl”. On the plus side I now felt able to delegate, legislate and fornicate at the same time. I could survive and thrive!!! I was a Tiger!!!!!!! ROOOOAR!!!!!!!!!!
Just after I’d developed emotionally I had to check in, sadly the strain of removing my belt before the almighty security scanner meant my new found business acumen disappeared as quickly as my dignity, and my share value fell quicker than my trousers, now I knew why Gordon Gekko wore braces!!! (although they would have to have plastic clasps to make it through the security gate).
The carbonated drinks industry and Platini are obviously behind the ban on taking more than 100ml of liquid in your hand luggage. My unopened bottle of pepsi was considered so offensive it had to be surrendered. In the strain of all this I forgot I was a Tiger, I was a dormouse yearning for another overpriced internet terminal.
I found one and my heart skipped a beat, I logged on in the hope that Bangor were 2-0 up. The screen decided to tell me that Bangor were losing 8-0. Then I remembered this match was a “pseudo-event” and it wasn’t actually happening . However my habitus as a football fan predates my postmodernist epoch so I remained logged in until the end of the “pseudo-event“. By the end of the “pseudo-event“, it appeared that Bangor City had lost 10-0.
Even though I knew this was a “pseudo-event” other people had been hoodwinked into believing this was a real event. The message boards hummed; “Ha ha ha Bangor are shit” they said, “This is the worst day for Welsh Football ever” they said, “Bangor, you’re an embarrassment” they said.
If only the poor saps knew they’d been hoodwinked!!!
———————————————————————————————————————
 
FC Honka 0 SK Hacken 2
Europa League 2nd Qualifying Round 2nd Leg
21/7/11
Aeroport Charles de Gaulle may be many things but it’s not a place to spend the night. There’s no absolutely no light relief; No shops are open, no change machines are available, the only entertainment is walking past the same disgruntled would-be passengers every 20 minutes. The authorities won’t even let your imagination flow as they turn off the departures board. The only thing you can do is wait for madness to take hold.
I tried to obtain change but my polite  requests for change were usually met with a shrug of condescention, when I found someone behind a desk that was willing to help they gave me a 10 franc piece as part of the change, Euros had only been legal tender for nine years.
For the first three hours of my stay the only thing I had to occupy my mind was guessing the cause of the crack in the pane of glass that faced me, and the thoughts……
……………….. FUCKING PLATINI, YOU AND YOUR BASTARD IDEAS LOOK AT WHAT THEY’VE LED TO YOU CUN………………..
When this became boring I began to bet against myself. I wondered which person would walk past next. I was right 3 times!!!
………………….. I’LL COME TO SWITZERLAND ONE DAY, JUST YOU SEE IF I DON’………………..
 I thought it prudent to sit near people but unfortunately the seats I picked were near a snack machine. People taunted me with their copious amounts of change, the elusive bounty of the machine glistened, taunting, silently taunting. I looked at the clock, there were only 6 hours until my flight
……………………….. I’LL SHOW YOU HOW TO MAKE A FUCKING DRAW YOU CURLY PRI ………………………..
Then I hit upon a novel idea to pass the nightime, I would try to fall asleep!!!!!! This is harder than it sounds in an airport where bench armrests prevent comfort. Even with the armrests my plan worked beautifully until a couple of rough shoves  awoke me. I slowly awoke to find 4 thick set policemen.
The  most intellectual flic asked the dealbreaker; “En Vacances monsieur?” Luckily my startled brain rememebered enough GCSE French to produce a passable answer; “Oui monsieur, Je vais au ‘elsinki parce que le grand connard Platini est un grand connard”. Halfway through my answer they’d seen a gentleman of north African extraction lying on the opposite bench. They thought putting the fear of God up him would be more satisfying.
This was probably the most unsettling 10 minutes I’ve ever spent; The whole quartet glared at a fellow human being as if they’d just trodden on him in the summer sun and he was smelly. It sounded like the head Policeman didn’t trust his story. He checked with HQ, HQ  called back, he asked the confused guy more questions and then checked those answers with HQ. The tone was very threatening. Then they just left, as if their Pizzas were now ready. The look on the man’s face said it all; resignation. If ever ten minutes could partly explain scoial problems in a country this was a good example.
…………………………. FUCKING PLATINI, YOU AND YOUR MATES IN THE POLICE, YEAH VERY GOOD YOU’VE SEEN THE IPCRESS FILE……………. LOOK AT YOU, YOU SICK BASTARD, USING ONE OF MY FAVOURITE FILMS AGAINST ME ……………………………….. I’LL GET YOU ONE DAY, SEE IF I DON’T…………………..
…………………… Platini’s plan worked; I had forgotten my name, I had forgotten the Ipcress noise, I had forgotten the Ipcress File, I had fogotten why I was in Paris …………….
Anyway, I still had 5 hours to kill in a closed airport………….
…….. I’LL GET YOU CURLY TWAT IF IT’……………..
Somehow I made it through with 20 minutes of sleep, warm thoughts of cold Helsinki hospitality and drunken Bangor bonhomie helped immensely. I touched down in Helsinki just in time for the Finnair bus to leave without me.
Helsinki was very warm, all I needed was a warm Olympic Stadium hostel welcome, a cold shower and socket to recharge a phone. For most of the way to the hostel I thought was safe in the knowledge that last night’s match was a “pseudo-event” and not a football match.
I arrived at the hostel in a state of shock, on the last stretch of the walk to the hostel I had walked past the Sonera stadium – HJK’s ground – as it sits next to the Olympic Stadium. This was very upsetting. I suddenly remembered that I should have been there to watch Bangor, In fact I was going to be there until that curly prick Platini intervened.
After a cold drink and a sit down I remembered that yesterday’s match was a “pseudo-event”. The combined effect of tirdeness and stress upon the mind is terrible.
Unfortunately I became unsettled again, just before I entered the hostel I thought I had  noticed the car of the Bangor fans that were supposed to be staying in the hostel (they had spent the last three months travelling around Europe in it), for a second I comforted myself that it was a hallucination but there was an unmistakable Bangor City car sticker in the back window. I tried to find my friends but they weren’t in the hostel and he person on the front desk hadn’t seen them, had I actually seen the car?
As I was getting ready I noticed that Cabs had sent me a message. I was to meet them in “Henry’s”. All I had to do was take a “3 or 4 tram” and get off by “the station’. There only problems I had were that I didn’t know the location of the tram stop, the station or the famous Henry’s.
After 30 minutes I sent out like De Gama. I found the tram stop, I found the station, I found the famous Henry’s. My only problem was that I  couldn’t find anyone I knew. Jesus, Platini had even hacked my phone to give me false texts. I began to think the whole idea of Bangor playing in European competition was a “pseudo-event“.
Without many other option I walked the streets of Helsinki to drink in the continental atmosphere. During my promenading I found evidence that  the “pseudo-event” was actually a real event and Bangor had actually lost 10-0, which was a bit of a shock I can tell you. Of course this  “pseudo-event” could have conned the Finnish tabloids too. I would continue to believe that Bangor had lost heroically on away goals until I saw someone from Bangor.
I noticed that the Finnish tabloids went to town over Bangor City. One screamed 10 -0 on the front page of it’s sport pullout. The other seemed to make a big thing about the Bangor players being in a pub after the match. This seemed a bit of a shitty thing to do but that’s tabloids for you and they seem to have a morbid fascination with Bangor City being Pub Fatties in Finland. I continued my walking tour in a daze.
I must say that they do like bricks and wood in Finland. My reference point for Helsinki was the film “Billion Dollar Brain” so I tried to find the main landmarks associated, I found the big catherdral upon whose steps Karl Malden and Harry Palmer have to shoot a spy. I found the department store where Harry Palmer bought some snow shoes…..
When I finished this whistle-stop tour I managed to find a pub showing le Tour de France, which was a first for me. I could have watched snooker in another part of the pub.  Finland was certainly a groovy kind of place.
As I made my way to the hostel in the Olympic stadium I saw there was a match taking place on the pitch next to the Sonera Stadium, HJK’s women’s team seemed to be playing against another club. Then I remembered that the Sonera Stadium was the ground that I should have been watching Bangor play before Platini stuck his oar in. By scheduling this match Platini was taunting me, really rubbing my nose in the dirt.
I scanned the sparse crowd and saw my nemesis there, unrepentent and aloof in his unmistakable suit and curly wig. I could hear his actual taunts delivered in a voice like a velvet mace;
 “I don’t know wh-at zee pwoblim is Monsieur, you wanted to watch a match in ‘elsinki on this day, the too-wenteeth of Jooo-ly. Well ‘ere you are monsieur, hee haw hee haw he haw haw haw, ‘ere is a match……. Zat’s what you get for standing up to Platini, mwah mwah mwah, ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha”.
I decided a lie down was prudent, Hitchcock was directing my life.
After my lie down I found the owners of the ethereal car and the joy was indescribable. Before long we were all off in the direction of Henry’s to meet the rest of the Blue Army. Unfortunately the rest of the Blue Army confirmed that last nights match was not a “pseudo-event“.
Everyone seemed happy that I’d made it anyway although they were a little concerned that I’d gone missing; somehow everyone thought I had arrived last night. Thoughts of conspiracies and revenge  were well dulled with litre cans of lager and a lovely local brew known as a “Long Drink”. The next thing I remember is waking up at 2:30am just as the tram was coming to the end of the line. One of two things had caused this situation; either I was a little drunk, check, or Platini’s agents had spiked my drinks. By the way, have you noticed how all buildings start look the same after an hour’s tired staggering?
Thursday meant “Honka protest day”. The flag was ready, the stickers were ready, and I’d had 3 hours and 20 minutes sleep in two days. Those FC Honka fuckers had ruined my summer so I was determined to go and support Hacken.  Just after Alwyn and I bid the blue army a fond farewell we had time to kill. The remaining members of  the blue army (Alwyn, Alex and Guto) were due to leave on a ferry later but  I had several hours after that before I would be able  to meet Egan, my guide to Espoo and the north of Helsinki.
I’d made contact with Egan via the WSC messageboard and Twitter a couple of weeks ago and he’d suggested that I could go with him to watch Honka, thankfully Egan didn’t seem to like Honka much. Just after I’d met Egan in the station, he confirmed that I was on the right path, Honka are not only less than a proper club they’re quite arrogant with it.
The ground we were due to visit wasn’t in Espoo (home of Honka) it was in Vantaa. That’s right, the game wasn’t in the Sonera so the reason for moving the match no longer applied. Our destination was a constant reminder of why Platini must be held to account.
My feelings veered towrads apoplexy as my source suggested that HJK moved Bangor’s match a day forward because they knew we’d have less chance to prepare, they knew most of Bangor’s players were working on Monday. My source also insinuated that Platini was in favour of this.
The train to Vantaa was rather warm. Because Bangor had played in Vantaa last year the Blue Army told me of an Irish bar near the station, we found the bar to be considerably cheaper than the Central Helsinki bars. We spent a very pleasant hour in the summer sun. After the thrist quenching we tried to find the ground, which was not as easy as it appeared on google maps, the council estate didn’t look like a cul-de-sac on google maps. We found our way through thanks to Imperial resolve and a small view of the floodlights.
Egan’s day job, television journalist, meant I was able to enter the ground as a photographer, or as I prefer to remember it, esteemed journalist. I proudly wore my press pass into the press room. I proudly accepted a free bottle of pepsi as a proud member of the fourth estate. I’d finally arrived. Jet Set 1 Platini 10, I was back in the game! And my fame had spread, a friend of Egan asked me “Are you the Bangor fan that was messed around by the Machivelian machinations of Platini” (I may have paraphrased for dramatic effect).
As I grew accustomed to my new role I casually spoke with a fellow journalist, he disputed my view of last week’s Bangor v HJK match as he didn’t think Bangor were unlucky. Mind you he also thought Rhyl was a nice place so I began to doubt the validity of his thoughts. Then said that he liked Les Davies so I thought he was alright after all, in fact I would go as far as saying that I liked my new friend!! Egan then  suggested that we venture around the ground.
As is my want I tried to put the flags on display. This step is usually fuss-free but today it was different. Firstly a steward thought I was besmirching a Finnish national symbol with my subtle protest. He had to check with his boss whether my flag was ok. With Egan’s explanatory skills I passed this stage, the thumbs up of the supervisor were very welcome. I hung the flags up.
I could hear that my protest flags had created a bit of a stir in the bottom tier. I thought nothing of this as I reasoned that it was the usual bewiderment. When I tried to revel in my handiwork I noticed a couple of white shoelaces, one of which featured a spinning brass eyelet, were where the flag should have been. The spinning brass eyelet only underlined my grave loss. Bloody hell you can’t turn your back for five minutes in Finland!
About a miunte later another steward appeared. “Can you take the flags down? It is not allowed for another club’s flags to be there. They won’t like it (Pointing down at the Honka Ultras.). You will have your flag back in a minute“. Cue another steward with a sheepish grin.
As a result of the flag action the first steward glared at us for the rest of the match as if we were dangerous criminals. A Scouse bloke came up to me to check whether they were my flags. He couldn’t believe that I’d been the one being tutted at when he’d seen Honka fans actually tear down the flag. The pettiness of beauracracy seems to the most international of all languages. This attitude was actually pointless, I didn’t need another reason to wish for an FC Honka defeat.
I managed to recover my composure to hear the pre-match rock soudtrack, it was the only time I’ve heard Rage against the Machine before a match. Thankfully Honka’s defeat arrived without too much fuss. I’ll leave it to the a Swedish newspaper (via google translate) to fill you in;
Hacken went to Finland with a 1-0-lead after last week’s game and is also in qualifying for a European League.

 John Chibuike opened the scoring in the first half (42) and Daniel Forsell permanently closed the match with only ten minutes left to play, 2-0.

– We make a good game, tactically speaking, and when we do 1-0, it will be a long journey for them, while we are growing, says Hacken coach Peter Gerhardsson who think like this about advancement to the Euro League qualification round 3:

This was a charming result as the Honka fans were less than charming; they couldn’t let last year’s defeat against Bangor go so they ripped my flag, they were too loud and had boring songs, apart from the ones they’d pinched from Bangor City. But the worst aspect of the Honka fans is that after one of Hacken’s black players had the temirity to “dive”.Egan and I distinctly heard them making monkey noises at him.
Their attitude was not only rather odd  – they didn’t seem to mind their own players diving – it was also a disgusting throwback to the twentieth century, fortunately only a couple seemed to be doing this.  I felt a bit sick at hearing this but words can’t really do justice to my feelings about hearing real terrace racism for the first time. Thankfully Honka lost. Egan and I left feeling smug in victory.
It was nice to have met Egan, another part of the network of good football fans in Europe.
On the way back from Finland I had another lay-over, this time  in Amsterdam. Upon landing I felt the need for some fresh Amsterdammer air, which meant leaving through a through a passport control gate. The policeman took one look at my shirt, saw the words “WELSH PREMIER LEAGUE CHAMPIONS 2011” under the badge and asked “What is this?”  Bloody hell, a customs official with a streak of humanity, well I never!! I replied with “Well it’s a bit like the Eredivisie but not as good!!”. The look of admiration upon his face was eloquent enough; Bangor City had yet another fan!!!







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