August 10, 2012

Watching the Ladies


POOLIE IN NOTTINGHAM goes to the Ricoh Arena


When I heard that some of the Olympic footy matches were to be played outside of that London, I looked for a suitable fixture for me and the bairn to go to. I'm not a big Olympics enthusiast, but I felt like he ought to have the opportunity to go to an event whilst it was on.

Due to the times the games were played, the only suitable match was the double-header ladies' games of Sweden v Japan followed by Canada v South Africa, in Coventry. I've never seen much in the way of female football, and whilst I'd heard the quality was pretty poor, I was willing to give it a go.

I've got to say that it wasn't easy to get tickets. A complete pain in the arse, to be frank. The official website let you select the tickets for the game you wanted to watch, but then you had to register on the site and confirm your registration thing by email and so on. When it finally got to the checkout, you had to choose a 'delivery' option. Except the only option available was to collect the tickets from Stratford. I thought it was a bit odd having to go a few miles out of Coventry to Shakespeare's birthplace, and then I twigged that it meant Stratford in London, not Stratford-on-Avon.

Bollocks to that, I decided to just turn up on the day and pay on the gate. Having previously been to the Ricoh (renamed The City of Coventry Stadium for the duration of the games to avoid upsetting the sponsors) to watch Pools in the League Cup, I was pretty confident that the 30,000 + capacity would not be reached. So me and Ewan set off for Coventry expecting to bool up and saunter in.

I knew that the stadium car parks weren't available for plebs, and that we'd have to park and ride from the city centre. This bit was pretty good to be fair - plenty of signposts for the car parks, £3 to park all day, and loads of free shuttle buses to take you to the stadium. When we got off the bus we made our way round the ground to the ticket office (basically a tarted up portakabin). Not surprisingly, the merchandise side of it was right in your face, with loads of stalls selling overpriced gear to anyone willing to part with their hard-earned.

What we found was that every word of the much-publicised ticketing fiasco was true. After a long wait while the ticket office gadgie wrestled with a slow and on-the-verge-of-crashing computer system, I and many others were told that the match had sold out. I severely doubted this, so I thought I'd bide my time in the hope that the system would correct itself. Me and Ewan sat and had some of our picnic on a grass verge by the stadium, and saw dozens of distraught fans heading away, some of them on their mobiles arranging to be picked up as they couldn't get into the game.

After some scran we went back to the ticket office, to be told be the gadgie that another 1100 tickets had now been allocated. £23 for me and the bairn wasn't bad value really, and I made sure I paid with cash, in a one-man stand against Visa."The Swedes were mostly tall, broad, strapping lasses, with thighs thicker than your average Darloid"

The stupid ticketing arrangements didn't end there though, as a Japanese woman at the booth window next to me was told that she couldn't have the tickets she'd bought online for her family as she didn't have any photo ID on her. Even though she presented the Visa card she used to make the purchase, she had no choice but to pay for the tickets again. Poor cow.
The next thing we had to get through was the security. There were about three queues, each a mile long, containing people with bags that needed to be searched meticulously before they could enter the stadium. Thankfully, we were told that as our bag was smaller in size than a magazine, we could just get searched on the turnstile. Our bag contained some scran, a small bottle of water, and a few Matchbox cars for Ewan if he got bored. I started to panic, thinking that a small die-cast VW Beetle may be construed as an offensive weapon and the security gadgie would hoy it along with the others into the big bin for confiscated items. Thankfully, all we had to do was neck all the water, get patted down, and we were in.

Inside the concourse of the stadium the atmosphere was great. There was no fan segregation, everyone was mingling very happily and politely stepping aside for each other. As well as loads of fans wearing their team colours - Sweden, Japan, South Africa, and Canada - there were loads of other shirts on display, mostly Coventry City. I was pretty confident that Ewan was the only one in a Pools top, and I didn’t see any others. 

Needless to say, I didn't buy any of the overpriced food or drink within the stadium, so we made our way in. Our allocated seats were in one corner of the ground, and we had several hundred (if not thousand) to choose from. We decided to go right up to the top, which gave us a cracking view. I suppressed the urge to start the chant "They're here, they're there, they're every f***ing where, empty seats, empty seats" but stood up to applaud the teams as they entered the pitch. I thought of all the poor buggers that would have liked to have been there watching the game, but believed that it had been sold out and returned whence they came.

Ewan ...and those empty seats

The first thing that struck me was the difference in stature between the two teams. The Swedes were mostly tall, broad, strapping lasses, with thighs thicker than your average Darloid. By contrast, the Japanese bewers were diminutive and slight. This difference played a huge part during the game, with the Japanese on average being quicker, nimbler, and more skilful. They couldn't make it pay though, as despite getting round the back of the Scandinavians (fnarr) several times, their finishing was awful. The Swedes had their moments too, but the game ended goalless.

Despite the blank scoreline, it was an entertaining game, and having not seen any live women's matches before, I noticed a few differences with the men's game. Firstly, there was very little long-ball stuff, mostly short passes to feet. Secondly, it was nowhere near as physical, with little in the way of crunching 50/50s. Fouls were few and far between, and this meant there was very little simulation either.
After the final whistle, the tannoy announcer informed us that the next game would be starting fairly soon, but it would have been pushing Ewan's tolerance a bit, so we headed off to the shuttle bus with all the face-painted hordes back to the centre of Coventry. 

In conclusion, I think having the Olympics in the UK was a good thing, although the events should have been spread around a bit more rather than centring on the capital. I know Coventry fairly well, as our lass was living there when we first met and so I spent a fair bit of time there. Hosting some of the games seemed to have given the place a boost - at the very least the council had scrubbed up the bus station. What got on my tits with the thing was the difficulty we had in actually getting tickets, and the radged processes in place for security. I won't go on about the free seats for sponsors/Olympic family aspect as that has been done to death already, but it still makes my piss boil.

Ewan was a bit disappointed that there hadn't been any goals during the game, but I assured him that there would be some when we came back to Coventry in March to watch Pools in action. Hopefully they will be scored by Pools, but we'll have to wait and see...