The London derby off the pitch

25 Mar

It is quite hard to explain why a derby is so special for a football fan. There is some complex there to make it stand out from other games.

London, capital of the country where the modern football originated, has its own interesting derby games. It will be a good idea to attend one of them as part of the course of stay in London.

However the tickets can be expensive and hard to get. Sometimes you need to give up to your fate, as bad luck looms.

But it will be a great shame if you miss it, still. So why not reach out to the stadium on a match day, stay there for a while, wait for the final whistle and feel the post-match atmosphere?

I went to the game of Tottenham Hotspur v.s. West Ham at White Hart Lane with my colleagues on Saturday 19 March to get a touch of the London derby.

A place like there is no such a game

Due to the complicated transport routes and the place that Hotspurs’ home stadium locates, we only managed to arrive the White Hart Lane during the half time. The score was 0-0.

It was somehow weird to see such a scene. Massive rubbish was lying on nearly every square metre of the street and the pavement.

It was like a demonstration of football fans’ beverage. Beer bottles, cola cans, newspapers, take-away boxes, you name it.

Every sign is telling that there used to be a huge stream of people passing by, only that they were not there anymore.

Even souvenir sellers were doing something else while keeping an eye on their goods, which were right now sun bathing in London’s early spring.

When we got close to the south end, we could hardly hear any scream, any sighs of pity, any whistle blowing, which were supposed to belong to a football match. Not to mention this is the derby.

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“Is there really a match going on?” One of my colleagues asked. That was exactly what I was asking myself.

It was a place like there was no such a game.

Policemen standing by

But there is a game going on, only that we did not feel it and that the game in the massive cereal building is taking place too quietly.

Thank God we finally heard the announcement from the stadium, of course in such a subtle way that the content could hardly be identified.

As the match went close to the end – according to the clock not the sound – we started to get a sight on a lot of policemen.

The shiny yellow shirt and the black too-stylish-to-fit-a-policeman hat of the London Metropolitan Police began to appear in a massive number.

Police vans were lined up at the cross, blocking the street. Another team of policemen with anti-violent helmets was disposed in a line in the middle of the street, separating the street into two passages, half and half.

Of course for such a massive event, human beings would also have to ask their animal friends for help. Horses with the police atop joined the group that separated the street.

They stood by, and were obviously waiting for something or hopefully nothing from the match.

Weren’t we waiting for the same thing?

Fans as stars off the pitch

We were.

“There they come.” I could almost hear this from those police as well as from my colleagues, as those first group of fans came out of the stadium, not even before the match finished.

Something strange caught our attention again. Those who got out first were all in a worried face and literally running. My colleagues would hate this, as they could not even get a proper interview.

Those fans were running for the transportation. It would be a nightmare to get the car out of thousands of other cars and make it on the road after such a game. Not to mention the public transportation. Crowds could almost be impossible to avoid if not sacrificing the last minutes of the game.

Then there went more of running fans, and more. Within five minutes fans filled the previously vacant street.

Some of them were in quite good mood. We heard that the final score was still 0-0 – a good news for my colleagues and the police. Fans of both Tottenham and West Ham could accept this for a derby, which meant no extreme emotion were among the crowds.

For most fans, 90 minutes without a single goal on a lovely, sunny Saturday afternoon could not let all of their energy out. Hence songs started to be heard from the crowd. It would be quite easy to get your song echoed when being around thousands of people who have the same favorite team.

Fans of Tottenham, who were playing home, naturally outnumbered West Ham fans. Their supporting songs for the team and their hero Gareth Bale were of course of a higher volumn.

You could also hear the minority sang back, waving their team colour, they did not cause of trouble for the police.

My colleagues seemed getting lucky there, as they managed to stop some fans to talk to.

Towards the media, fans were quite enthusiastic. Those who stopped by were very willing to share their opinions and to show off their love for the team.

Everyone was walking in order in the two passages separated by the police. Everyone seemed to just want to go back home and enjoy the rest of the weekend.

For less than half an hour the biggest wave of fans had passed. We joined the rest of them to the public transportation. There was already an endless queue at the tube station. Oh no…


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