I know, I know, I am an Arsenal fan, a Gooner… but today I am going to let you in on a shameful secret. The very first stadium that I visited during my stay in England was Old Trafford. Yes, home of Manchester United. And yes, today will be another story that happened back in 2007…
It wasn’t a voluntary choice. I had plans to visit London after my semester ended and after we got back from Europe, and I totally had plans to visit Arsenal’s stadium when I was in London.
But then, midway through our summer semester, one of ’em tour agencies came to our accommodation hall and began selling cheap football tickets for a friendly match between Manchester United and another club from Italy.
You know there’s only one thing that would happen, right? I was not going to get another chance to watch a football match live from the stadium in England. Without a season pass, a ticket to an Arsenal EPL match would cost more than my entire month’s expenses in England. So, much as I hate ManUre, it was time to pay up and go to Manchester.
The match happened on 1st of August 2007. The tour agency got buses to take care of our transportation between Liverpool and Manchester. But the bus would only pick us up in the evening and drop us off specifically for the football match. So we made arrangements with the tour guide such that we would get to Manchester in the morning by ourselves and we would meet them up at the stadium in time for the match, and then use the tour bus to get back to Liverpool.
That means we got to spend a whole day in Manchester doing other things. But those would come in future posts. For now let’s focus on Old Trafford…
Because we came early, we got to be at the stadium much earlier, when the crowds for the football match have not shown up. This meant I got to do this without being killed by actual ManUre fans.
But really, I was the only Arsenal fan in our little entourage. In fact, most of them are with the Red Devils. So we also got a picture of this.
But really, mostly my friends who came just want to get their hands on (relatively) cheaper club merchandise. An original, latest, best grade quality jersey could be purchased here for £30 – £40. Even at £1:RM7 exchange rate back then, it was still cheaper than buying them in Malaysia.
Okay, let’s get to the football match. I guess I overlooked telling you which Italian club exactly Man Utd was up against that night. And how much our tickets cost. Here you go.
It was really a bargain for us international students. I mean, yeah it is just a pre-season friendly match which means absolutely nothing in terms of trophies and silverware, but it is still a glamorous match. Inter Milan is a very big football club in Italy. In fact, they came into this match as the reigning champion of the Serie A (Italian football league). And we got to watch these two football powerhouses go against each other for only £15!
To put things in perspective, a regular English Premier League match, even between two less glamorous clubs, would set you back at least £50. So £15 to watch two glamorous European clubs was most definitely a bargain for us.
To further illustrate my point, I will show you the crowds that came to this game. Mind you, this is just a pre-season friendly. If the opponent was Yeovil Town or Morecambe or something, nobody would bother. But it was Inter Milan, so…
As our tickets were the cheapest, we got to seat at the top sections, furthest away from the pitch (we call it pitch, not field). So we got to enter the stadium earliest. That’s a great thing too, because being inside the stadium when it was still relatively empty means we got to see this,
Stretford End, I think that’s the part of the stadium where the most vocal home supporters would be found.
Anyway, the stadium quickly filled up, and soon the players made their entrance…
And then the match was underway…
It was a really entertaining match. And I’m sure you have heard many people repeat the same thing over and over again: watching a football match from the stadium is totally different compared to watching from the TV.
I finally understood what those TV pundits kept saying about home advantage, and how important the support is. Imagine, the stadium holds 70 000 people, and when some of them started singing the MU anthem, the entire stadium started singing IN PERFECT SYNCHRONIZATION. When Ronaldo or Rooney were making attacking moves, all (okay not all, most) 70 000 cheered. When Adriano or David Suazo (Inter players) got the ball, all 70 000 booed in unison.
And then there’s the Mexican wave. Now it is quite common to see a Mexican wave in a stadium, but it was the first time in my life to see a Mexican wave that went on for 10 minutes! It gave me a shock of my life, and it was freaking incredible!
Most of the football stars from both sides made their appearances throughout the match. And there were goals. Lots of them. The match ended with Inter Milan winning 3-2 (YES!!!).
And we were served a bonus scene. As the match was midway through the second half, suddenly one fan succeeded in getting past the tight security and made his way to the pitch. He showed up at the goal where Edwin van der Sar (Man Utd goalie) was. Then he took of his clothes and pants and threw it at van der Sar. Then he ran into the pitch with the stewards chasing him. They finally tackled him to the ground at the center circle.
What an incredible night for us. It was money well spent. We got to experience a full scale, high quality football match live from a big stadium in England. All the important ingredients were there. To quote what we discussed after the match: “Got atmosphere. Got passionate fans. Got football stars. Got great goals. Even got kuku (dick). What more can you expect from a football match?”
Indeed, it was true. What more could we expect? It was a perfect football match for us. And we traveled back to Liverpool with the tour bus, extremely tired but also extremely satisfied…