A few weeks ago Jon’s dad very generously invited us to come along to a West Ham football (soccer) match. We said yes, because a) sporting events are fun, b) I’ve never been to a football game in England, and c) it would mean we’d get to hang out in the fancy schmancy executive box Jon’s dad has tickets too. Yes, please!
I don’t really know why it’s taken this long for me to get around to going to a game. It’s probably a few things. Jon’s not into football. I’m only vaguely into it in that I think it’s a “good” sport, and I’ve gone to a few Columbus Crew games back in Ohio. And also, football here has a fairly….icky reputation, with lots of casual violence, racism, misogyny, and other shitty things prevalent in the industry, being done by very highly paid individuals. Like the NFL in the States, the premiere league is full of issues too. But I don’t want to paint the whole sport (and its fans) with one brush! That being said, I’ve never been scared when being around a bunch of American football fans (even after a loss!), but UK football fans can get pretty aggressive with a pack mentality after a match-not fun on a packed train full of fans, let me tell you. And drinking alcohol isn’t even allowed in football stadiums here, which is saying something! Finally, chants of O-H (I-O) are preferable to the seriously rude and/or offensive songs coming from the footie fans. Those stadiums have children in them guys, no need to work the word wanker or fucking c**t into a little tune! (To be fair, sometimes the chants can be pretty clever….sometimes). On the positive side, all the team’s have nice little songs that they sing…..West Ham sings “Forever blowing bubbles” while actually blowing bubbles, which is amazing and magical.
The box itself was really fun. We met some of Jon’s dad colleagues, and their kids, sort of a “bring your grown up kids to the match” thing. There were ten of us overall. We had drinks, watched the game, and there was a nice meal that introduced me to yet another English institution (since colonial days, anyway) of chicken tikka masala. Being the most bland and boring of curry types, I’d never actually had it, having immediately skipped over it for other, more delicious fare over the years. But this, the most English of English days….well, it was meant to be. Followed by another not-English-but-incredibly-popular thing for dessert, a pavlova. Which was pretty.
Those Brits, taking delicious parts of other cultures and serving them up while people run around kicking a ball on a field! And here I’d just wanted a hot dog and a pretzel. How wrong I was! Jon’s dad actually laughed at me when I asked if there would be hot dogs….But I did see them being sold outside in a few street carts, so I wasn’t completely wrong about the venn diagram that is sports/food.
It was a really fun day. West Ham ended up losing to Crystal Palace 1-0, but it was a fun experience anyway. I’d go again, especially as soon the stadium will be razed to make way for more housing, and West Ham will move sticks to the former Olympic stadium. I think that’s right anyway. It’s so interesting in that neighborhood, as it is the polar opposite of all the old white men in the stadium, completely different from the inhabitants of a scant 40 years ago. It’s like two different worlds-one outside the stadium, and one inside, and never the twain shall meet. But such is modern Britain, I guess.
Shout out to Jon’s dad for inviting us-you’re the best! Thanks Stephen!
Oh, and one more thing…..this sign is down the street. Think “English is not my first language, and I own a launderette”. Oops.