Sunday, 30 October 2011

All Fired Up

Slovan Bratislava 0-0 Paris Saint Germain
Thursday 20th October 2011
Europa League
Stadion Pasienky, Bratislava.
Attendance: 7242

Christmas, my birthday, International Speak Like a Pirate Day. All of these momentous occasions pale into insignificance when compared with the elation that greets the start of the European Football Weekends Oktoberfest; an annual big boys beano like The Inbetweeners Movie but with less girls and more floodlights.

I'll admit to being more than a wee bit excited about the chance to see Slovan Bratislava's former home, the now overgrown Tehelné pole. While circling the ground I'd made some new football friends (they're not my friends alright!!), including a legendary Norwegian who had quit his job and binned his filly to travel round watching European football (*doffs AiT cap*) and a couple of PSG fans.

Misery guts.

Sadly locating the magic door proved problematic, as did the presence of an angry security guard with a hefty baton and the dead eyed stare of a killer. With a group of fellow EFWers in sight in side I was so angry I could have sworn. For some decent pictures have a look here.

A few hours later my new my French friends (they're not my friends alright!!) and around 200 hundred of their onion necklace wearing pals were surrounded by about two hundred of Bratislava's constabulary and refused entry into the ground, despite having arranged their tickets through the club. It seems the police were a bit spooked about the presence of some of 'proper nawty' Boulogne Boys and the PSG fans were frogmarched (weak pun completely intended) to a pub in town. Subsequently some PSG fans have met with club officials to try and get full refunds. Poor form from Slovan there.

Look at them shine. Look at them shine.

The Slovan fans were treated slightly better and given a free t-shirt and a shiny flag to wave as they entered the ground. With the excitement of a magpie in a milk bottle top factory, I snaffled a flag and and shook it like a Polaroid picture as the teams came out; as did all those Slovan fans who weren't stuffing themselves on huge bowls of popcorn and the Zbrojovka Brno Ultras to our right (more of Brno and their fans here) and this served to create an impressive display.

See caption above.

Sadly the match couldn't match up to the impressive initial atmosphere, well – that's what I gained from my occasional glance at the match. My legs were shaking, my eyes bulging and my hands sweaty (yes, I had had a beer) at the sight of a beautiful fire engine in the ground. Yes, a fire engine can be beautiful, especially when it's ramshackle, features wooden ladders on it's roof and is parked up in an Eastern European ground. Don't believe me, just ask Danny Last, he knows, and he's won awards. When I was a young tinpot adventurer eastern European football could only be seen on Des Lynam presented Grandstand and seemed to be played in another far flung grainy world, on pitches surrounded by humongous stands illuminated by hulking great floodlights with numerous pitchside emergency services vehicles. To live this in real life was exciting for me and shows that I mentally still live in the early 80's Grandstand studio.

I can honestly say this was the second happiest I'd been in my life, the first being when I shook Welephant's paw at Weymouth carnival in 1986.

If that wasn't enough, and in fairness it probably more than enough, then my eyes were delighted when they clocked the monstrous scoreboard. The match was still 0-0, I knew this from regular checks of two giant zeros, made of smaller zero's which confirmed the score was, as I suspected, still 0-0. PSG, who according to the UEFA report of the game “arrived in chilly Bratislava looking for the gratifying warmth of victory”, were the better side but nothing much happened. So I used the forty five minute lull in proceedings to work out that this scoreboard contained a total of 12,500 bulbs. My workings are:

Each small square of bulbs measures 5 bulbs x 5 bulbs

Each row of small squares contains 50 small squares

There are ten rows of squares.

Therefore the scoreboard equation, where x = floodlight bulbs, can be explained thus:

x = (5x5) x 50 x 10 = 12,500

Half time sees the fireman head back into the vehicle, open a thermos, pull out some sandwiches and have a little pitchside picnic. I didn't know being a fireman could be this glamorous, it certainly wasn't all football and picnics for Assistant Divisional Officer (ADO) Nick 'Zorba' Georgiadis and Sub Officer John Hallam on London's Burning.

Pass the scotch eggs Ivan.

Fire engine + bizarre mascot = too much for me to take.

After 64 minutes English referee Lee Probert sent off PSG midfielder Clement Chantome for a second booking, despite this PSG looked more likely to score in front of the empty away section. Like Blackwall Fire Station's Blue Watch after Sub Officer John Hallam tragically died in a warehouse fire in 1996 PSG were reduced to nine men unexpectedly when Chico Tiene was sent off 80 minutes.

One final look.

In a sensible moment here on AiT what followed after was a disgrace. Tiene's long walk off was accompanied by monkey chants from large number of the Slovan fans. It was disgusting, idiotic and made even more ridiculous by the fact Slovan had two black players, Bagayoko Mamadou and nationalised Slovakian international Karim Guede and in their own line up. This article on the excellent Britski Belasi website gives more information, including the complete lack of acknowledgement of the chants from UEFA or Slovan so far.

Token match shot.

Slovan put some pressure on PSG but seem content with the point, the final whistle sounding shortly after a free kick pings off the aerial of an ambulance next to the fire engine and around 400 of the bulbs on the scoreboard report the final score as 0-0, which it was.

For a more comprehensive review of proceedings have a read of Stuart Fuller's report over on European Football Weekends.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

GAK To The Future

Grazer AK 0-0 SV Tondach Gleinstaetten
Friday 14th October 2011
Regionalliga Mitte
UPC Arena, Graz, Austria.
Attendance: 360

Yesterday's walk to the Donawitz Stadium in Loeben was soundtracked by church bells and took me along beautiful rivers rippling between picturesque hillsides. Today's route to the UPC Arena in Graz took me past the Hip Hop World Championships (It's a little known fact that Public Enemy are actually from Salzburg and that 2 Pac was originally called Zwei Pac), an Aldi and a Hooters.

The sausage with cheese in it I was a big fan of, the student sick sauce not so.

The UPC Arena is home to Grazer AK and their big city rivals Sturm Graz. The stadium was formerly known as the Arnold Schwarzenegge stadium and was changed in 2005 as Arnie revoked the city's right to use the name.Sturm are the current Bundesliga champions while GAK, who were League Champions in 2004, are now in the semi professional Third Division as a result of being docked 28 points in 06/07 and not being allowed to compete in the professional leagues in 07/08.

Self explanatory this one. Doesn't need a caption.

It's clear to see who are the bigger team, Sturm adorned bars and a fan shop line the area around the bland stadium. While Graz's fan shop is a couple of tables inside the ground. The atmosphere builds up nicely; men are despatched amongst the crowd with beers and carrier bags full of pretzels for the sun drenched crowd, fans take their places on piles inducing seats, a battered drum is set up, the 'Red Firm' and 'Graz Society' Ultras banners are taped precariously above the moat that surrounds the pitch and then the most ripped off song in the history of tune is played over the PA, "Football's Coming Home" - GAK style. Lyrics are dicked about with to create "Tears for heroes dressed in red" and the frankly nonsensical refrain of "Heroes in the shirt, everybody's gleaming."

Grazer AK Ultras

Everyone in the ground is (not gleaming) situated in one side of the ground and this creates a decent atmosphere, despite the 15,400 all seater stadium being largely empty. Two Kapo's work to get the Graz fans going and songs are sung about the clubs formation in 1902, about their enduring support; "Dritte Liga ist OK schiess egal" ("3rd division is ok, it doesn't matter"), the obligatory German language "schiess ein Tor fuer uns" (score a goal for us) and, naturally, songs against the opponents, and Sturm, "Ihr seid schiesse wie der SV Sturm." (you are shit, like SV Sturm)

Token match shot.

Gleinstaetten defend resouletly for the first half and Graz fail to break down the defence. The Graz, Red Devil, mascot prowls pitchside and is probably the shittest mascot I've ever seen.....and I've seen Weymouth's 'Terry the Terra-dactyl' mascot - a man wrapped in a purple curtain. The Red Devil is a man dressed in full kit and with an ill fitting cheap beelezebub mask. Must try harder.


Half time sees a pack of kids appear and they work tirelessly to clean the stands of empty beer cups. They work as a team, those pitch side directing troops in the stand to ensure no freshly drained glass remains uncollected. Their spirit to cleanliness is noble but then the cent drops, they're after the Euro deposit for the glasses. Good for the environment and entrepreneurial spirit.

The 'Red Firm' and 'Graz Society' are given little to shout for in the second half, so the focus falls on the ref who appears to be in cahoots with the cup collecting kids as each increasingly controversial decision is greeted with a light showering of cups pitch side, which are then instantly fought over like pigeons chasing stale breadcrumbs in Trafalgar Square.

Insane scenes Geoff. *doffs AiT cap to kid vaulting into moat*

Gleinstaetten defend deep and break up play with numerous fouls and deny GAK chances, the first clear chance is hit just over on sixty five minutes. Despite the lack of action the Ultras continue their support and hope a couple of English chants may help things along. Sadly"Come On You Reds" (Come On You Reds) and "Ohhh GAK We Love You" ("Ohhh GAK We Love You") don't help and offering the ref a yeasty incentive by lobbing large amounts of beer in his direction doesn't persuade him to give a penalty shortly before the end.

When the Gleinstaetten keeper dives to get a GAK striker booked with the last foul of the game the fans are rightly outraged. The Red Devil runs behind the goal, rips off his mask, shakes his trident at the keeper and gives him barrels of abuse. The kids are ecstatic with the decision though, it's gonna be a night of endless ice cream and fizzy pop for them as untold riches rein down from the stands.

Token match shot II. Judgement Day.

The final whistle blows and the mascot storms onto the pitch and gets right in the face of the keeper, hundreds of plastic glasses thud down pitch side (a fair few after richocheting off young skulls first), a photographer steps into separate the devil from the keeper and the kids go into a frenzy to build their towers of glasses which, in some instances, are now as tall as them.

BEST.MASCOT.EVER. When Mascot's attack.

Banners are taken down, flags folded away ready and kids stagger under the weight of their new found wealth. Despite the draw GAK remain seven points clear at the top and look well placed to return to professional football. Maybe if they get into financial trouble again, perhaps in Ian Broudie sues for copyright infringement perhaps, they can be safe in the knowledge they can seek financial support from their generation of entrepreneurial fans.

For match highlights click here, although I wouldn't waste your bandwidth to be honest.

Monday, 17 October 2011

I'm Loeben it, Loeben it, Loeben it, Loeben it like this.

DSV Loeben 1-0 SK Sturm Graz II
Friday 14th October 2011
Regionalliga Mitte
Donawitz Stadion, Leoben, Austria
Attendance: 360

When the opportunity arose to go and watch a Austrian 3rd division match I was fairly interested. When I found out DVS Loeben have their own rap song I was keener than R Kelly at a School Disco. The hills are alive with the sound of music and that music is Austrian rap! Oh yes.

I am not a groundhopper.

I am not a groundhopper.

I am not a groundhopper.

It was a trip well worth making. The 6000 capacity Donawitz Stadium is superb, with two long stands on either touchline directing the focus to the stunning views of tree lined hills set against bright blue skies behind each goal. Around three sides of the ground are small steps and behind one goal stand five small sheds which suggested a premature Christmas market could break out at any time.

This is not a groundhopping blog.

This is not a groundhopping blog.

This is not a groundhopping blog.

They are a bit behind the times in Austria. It's still legal to smoke in bars, sadly, so when the third Cumulo nimbus cloud formed in my face it was time to depart The Volley Bar', which really was more of a half volley as it was full to capacity with 12 people in it. It's also still legal to have a mullet haircut, thankfully, and men are sat in barbers in Vienna and beyond clutching and pointing at pictures of their style icon, Toni Polster circa Italia 1990. I counted 5 (funf) mullets and was ecstatic to see a man coiffured like Terry Nutkins.

Textbook mullet. *stands and applauds*

The rap song, some say track, is given a spin, some say rotation shortly before kick off and is predictably woeful. The rap is from MC Shabusta, who is also the stadium announcer (real name: Gernot Tändler) and is titled 'Der geilste Klub der Welt' (The greatest club in the world) which is clearly a lie. A massive lie. Why not have a listen here.

I am not a groundhopper.

According to the club website “The rap will appeal to younger visitors at the stadium and will not be seen as competing with the DSV song by "Johnny & Mary", which is soon available for sale.” Someone phone iTunes, this is going to break the internet. I'm lucky I get to hear both. The second club song has the chorus "Wir sind dabei bei DSV" (we are there with the DSV) and is sung Mary, who I imagine is probably in her mid 40's and works long days as a glamorous shift supervisor in a frozen food warehouse. A banner with the words 'Green Elite' is hauled from one of the garden sheds and stuck to a railing and we're ready to spiel fussball ja!

The DSV Loeben team from 1980. Click and enlarge to have a look at that womens suit jacket. Please wear protective glasses.

Loeben line up with a Vier-Vier-Zwei formation and the Sturm kids go with Funf-Drei-Zwei. Loeben's tactics focus around their left (links) back. He receives the ball from every goal kick to instigate attacks and when he hasn't got the ball he focuses on booting the opposition.

Token non shot of hills.

As the match continues Austrian radio booms from the one garden shed selling beers to their solitary customer; one hammered non mullet sporting bloke. He chants " hier regiert der SV Sturm" (SV Sturm rein here) to no one and breaks out some ironic dance moves, while everyone else moves only to shiver. Cold beers are offered to cold fans by a couple of cold small kids walking around the terraces with what looks like an adapted joiner's toolbox full of pints and a basket full of pretzels just before half time. No one buys anything and I'm shaking like a shitting dog by now.

A bit of Lady Gaga on the shed jukebox signals the start of the second half and Loeben push forward, sadly their corners are shocking, three in quick succession slapping the forehead of the first Graz defender. Graz should have taken the lead after an hour but over indulge themselves by trying to walk the ball in and after that the play is all Loeben.

Token match shot.

They bring on Marco Pigneter, a tricky winger, and his dribbling and crossing ability causes all number of problems for Sturm and I'm willing them to score. Chances hit the post and shots are desperatwly hacked off the line then, on 89 minutes, the Sturm keeper fails to hold the ball and Norbert Kerek taps in the rebound before sprinting away leading wild celebrations from the team and their mulleted fans.

Der Tricky winger or, as the German say, der Tricky vinger.

Sadly, once again the sound of music rings out across the Donawitz Stadium and that sounds is the pissing Fratellis, this time even those permed scottish berks can't spoil what's been a great evening's entertainment in superb surroundings. I mean the mullets, not the hills - just to clarify. I've not gone soft and neither am I a groundhopper!

For a proper match report and pictures clicky here.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Nuthin' but a 'Tinpot' Thang

Larkhall Athletic 0-2 Bishop Sutton
Sunday 8th October 2011
Toolstation Premier League
Plain Ham, Larkhall, Bath
Attendance: 80 (ish)

It would be lazy and a cliché to type a blog on a Bath based team based on how posh the city is.

Well, at AiT we love laziness and clichés more than we love parrots being sick over the moon Geoff.

Obligatory shot of regulation Toolstation League blackboard.

Larkhall is a suburb of Bath with a small square housing it's own theatre (of course it's own theatre - welcome to Bath) and a Cafe where the jacket potato of the day is Hummus and Carrot (*shakes head*) and the Sport section of The Guardian remains untouched while possession of the Review section is keenly contested.

The square also has a notice board dedicated to current Western League Champions, Larkhall Athletic that signifies the start of the hike to Plain Ham ground (I've no idea, sorry). The trek takes me past numerous extravagant houses hosting violin practice, the 'Headquarters and Training Ground of the Second Victoria Scouts' (what kind of scout troupe has a training ground - someone needs to keep an eye on these woggle twirling jihadi's) and sprawling mansions with names like 'The Grange' and ehh...'Ian'.

A mansion called Ian.

The clubhouse is quaint, of course it is. A sign on the bar highlights the slow pace of life here “all our bar staff are volunteers please be patient”, an ornate certificate commemorating a bell ringing session in honour of Larkhall winning the Western League Division One in 2009 is displayed proudly and the tinpot classic of the ham bread rolls behind the bar are not only a step above those of most tinpot grounds but whole flight of stairs ahead. The clubhouse is populated by the usual small bunch of dishevelled OAP's, slowly supping real ale and thinking lustful thoughts as Sue Baker appears on the TV in the corner of this idyllic bar room scene, a scene that is sound tracked by the music misogynistic marijuana-addled Gangster rap of Dr. Dre.

The tinpot lunch of Kings.

Yep, you read that right. Dr. Dre. First up 'Forget About Dre', and then 'Still D.R.E' boom out of the tiny speakers. Sometimes, even I think I make this shit up, but this shizzle's real mothafuckers. Don't believe me? You dissing me? I'll pop a cap in yo' arse. Or something like that. I dunno, I'm from Dorset.

Representing for the gangsters all across the world. Still got love for the streets. Still not loving police.

A few more old boys turn up, no doubt hoping to hear some N.W.A. They offer the staggering combo of being as deaf as a deaf post and fair pissed and struggle to communicate their order consisting of whiskies (“with 2 lumps”) and pasties. A glimpse into their staggeringly hedonistic lifestyle is offered; “what was that we were drinking last night....I'm anybody's after that” whille one octogenarian slurs “I can't drink any more beer today.” It's like looking at my future and I think I like it. *doffs AiT flat cap to sozzled old men*.

Nowadays everybody wanna talk like they got somethin to say but nothin' comes out when they move their lips just a bunch of gibberish.

Get Rich or Die Tryin'

The ground offers picture postcard views of the Somerset countryside; a sloping stand, a tiny roofless wooden shed doubling up as a gents that can only be accessed by walking sideways and a steep grass bank around one corner of the pitch. It's from here that the old boys cling tightly to the railing, with one muttering the optimistic "right let's see some football” followed by the much more accurate “they seem to have a lot of yellow outs there.” It's called double vision sir. You're bladdered.

Pay at the what now?

Oh right. Pay box.

Both sides play some really nice football and Bishop Sutton take the lead after seventeen minutes. Opposite me one man breaks tinpot protocol by actually shouting, “Come on You Larks”. No need for that sir, this is Bath, pipe down. While behind one goal little Tarquin and Isabella (names changed to protect the absurdly posh – they were equally as preposterous though) continually roll care free down the slope and nearly on to the field of play.

YOU ARE THE REF not by Keith Hackett and Paul Trevillion.

1. In a tinpot game a striker runs onto a through ball, goes around the goalkeeper and is about to knock the ball into the empty net when he is taken out by a posh kid called Tarquin, who has just rolled down the grass bank behind the goal. What do you do?

Not Keith Hackett's answer.

The rules on this are quite clear. Re-start the game with a drop ball. Boot Tarquin in the stomach. Thanks to Kenny Legg for the question.

The old boys aren't impressed with what they think they're seeing. Throw in's are greeted with shouts of “rubbish pass”, a nice 1:2 awarded a “noooooooo”” and a goalmouth fight is too far away for them to see “ something's going on there.” Ten minutes before half time one of the old boys imagines he's seen enough, “I'm going in for a cup of tea.” If they drunk tea then my name is Andre Romelle Young.

Token match shot.

The second half starts with me fuming after being 1 (one) number out on the raffle and 4 (four) Bishop Sutton subs sent to warm up, with 1(one) immediately sent back as the lino only lets 3 (three) warm up at 1 (one) time. Quite why he was concerned I don't know as the warm up routine consisted solely of leaning on the barrier and chatting to the crowd above. Larkhall switch to three at the back with twenty minutes left, not that I realised – I don't do tactical analysis, I heard the manager shout it. It doesn't work though. Sutton score an amazing second shortly before the end, the nine dances round three players before setting up a team mate to chip it over the keeper. I applaud. This doesn't happen often.

Notorious T.I.N.P.O.T

The old boys know the game is up, “ aint gonna happen”, and stagger off to the clubhouse where they probably remain discussing the impact of Death Row Records, the solo careers of N.W. A and just what would have happened if Skee-Lo was a little bit taller, a baller and with a girl who looked good, all the while being Still D.R.U.N.K

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Groover's In The Heart

Hungerford Town 1-3 Weymouth
Monday 4th October 2011
FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round Replay
Bulpit Lane, Hungerford
Attendance: 214

Previously on AiT - Weymouth v Hungerford Town.

Warning: This report does contain some flash photography.

We absolutely massively love a mega superlative in Weymouth. Prior to Saturday's FA Cup game the local newspaper had predicted that “FA Cup fever will engulf the area” when Weymouth “go to war” with Hungerford and apparently the “stakes could not be higher.” Hmm.

So when the players entered the field of play to the sound of four people clapping ,amongst a sparse crowd in a stadium made of corrugated iron and breeze blocks it was fair to say the the outbreak of FA Cup fever had been quarantined long before it reached Hungerford.

Thrilling photo this one. Really makes you want to read the rest of the blog doesn't it.

Almost seven years ago a Weymouth side, which was by far the greatest team the world has ever seen, as it featured such football gods as the mercurial Bernardo Cariata, midfield genius Danny Byrne and the ehh....Kieran Keen were beaten 4-1 by Dorchester, a result that shook the football world to it's grassy foundations. Dorchester striker Matt Groves scored a hat trick that day and in between time found time to cynically foul, aggressively elbow, confrontationally back in to defenders, make keeper Francisco Ramos look like a mug (fairly easy that one) and cup his ears to Weymouth fans as he ran off to celebrate his hat trick. The big humongous stinky turd.

Now, I didn't expect this to happen. It wasn't suppose to. Groves is a maggot. He's been tainted by the black and white stripes. But, 2474 days after Boxing Day 2004, I'm going to have to change my mind and concur with the chant that “he use to be scum but he's alright now.”

Every football stadium should have a speed limit. Hey, groundhopper you're walking too fast! Slow down! You'll drop those three programmes you maniac!

For every single reason I disliked the guy I know like him after his performance at Hungerford. Our first goal came from him harassing a defender into a mistake, winning the ball and then scuffing a shot that Byerley converted from the keepers save. He's also assistant manager so that gains him an additional AiT thumbs up, any one that takes on a role of responsibility at Weymouth deserves respect, especially as it means they have to deal with Mr. Rolls.

Hungerford equalise as we defend badly, Groves shouts encouragement and urges us to maintain our composure, which we hadn't managed to do on Saturday. He manages better than this and is able to give us the lead, some shoving of a defender goes unnoticed and he manages to knock the ball in. It's definitely the greatest goal that has ever been scored in the universe of football ever, sadly the Hungerford defender – at this point receiving treatment for the pain caused by being crushed by the footballing talent of Groves – shouts “shit goal...fucks sake.” Not very sporting that. Unnecessary.

Token match shot.

Groves runs around non stop, expertly holds up play, uses all his experience to draw fouls by backing into a Hungerford defender, which results in him struck with tourettes and unable to mutter anything but sweary words for about thirty seconds. Good work Matthew. This wasn't the last time the Weymouth striker backed into him, so much so that the Hungerford defender must have feared Groves would reverse his car into his later.

The second half continues in much the same way. Groves backs in, holds up the ball, indulges in banter with the crowd, chases lost causes, annoys defenders, causes the keeper to miscue clearances and we look fairly comfortable. The Hungerford keeper, Stuart Moore, keeps them in the game, with one save drawing a pat on the back and a “how d'ya save that” from Groves.

AiT is sponsored by 'The Gentlemen's Shop' of Hungerford. For all your shaving brush and leather goods needs.

But even Moore can not defeat the worlds greatest footballer, Matt 'Groover' Groves, for long. The ball is crossed into the area, Groves backs into his man, the ball bounces off his expanding gut, loops up in the air and with the grace of a rhino falling over backwards Groover leans backwards, punts the ball in the air and somehow the ball loops into the net to give us a 3-1 win! flicks the ball up with unbelievable precision and unleashes a textbook unstoppable overhead kick that Mark Hughes would be so proud of he'd keep it on his mantelpiece and it thunders into the net to give us a 3-1 win!

You don't get top quality photos like this anywhere else. Groves (left), King (right).

Some more superlatives? Not a problem. According to the Dorset Echo, (the journalistic heavyweight bringing you all the breaking news from Affpuddle to Winterborne Whitchurch (including Tincleton and Minterne Manga)) their keeper pulled off some It was pretty impressive but not as impressive as our 8-0 magnificent mauling of the miserable Maggots on Boxing Day 2003. For the record, Groover was an unused sub for Dorchester that day. If he'd played I'm sure the scoreline would have been very different.

Do I balls! 8-0!!!

Up the Terras! Ohhhhh Groover, Groover.....

Oh - a match report through the gift of poetry anyone?
For some great pictures of the match have a look see here.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Oh no Korona and Polonia!

Polonia Warsaw 0-0 Korona Kielce
Monday 26 September 2011
T-Mobile Ekstraklasa
Stadion Polonii, Warsaw
Attendance: 3500

Previously on AiT does Poland - Widzew Lodz v Jagiellonia Bialystok.

Monday night at 6:30 means one thing at AiT HQ; it's time to stick the tele on, devour a Fray Bentos pie and ogle the girls of Hollyoaks. This Monday though things are different, I'm in Warsaw, they don't have Hollyoaks and 6:30 means its time for a football match to kick off. 6:30...on a Monday? *shakes head*


5:45: leg it out of the meeting room, throw some different clothes on, grab some photo ID, bound into the lobby, shoulder charge a small child out the way, hurdle piles of luggage, meet Kaspar the Friendly Dane, pile into a taxi, point at the stadium on a map, screech out of the car park at a frightening speed and STOP! 5:53 - Welcome to the back of Warsaw's slowest moving rush hour traffic. Arsecakes.

Who doesn't like football grafitti.

There are brief periods of insane acceleration, frantic weaving in between lanes, but mostly it's long immobile periods of realisation that making kick off is as unlikely as the Polish dumpling being the dish of choice of this years Masterchef winner.

With ten minutes to kick off the driver senses our frustration, almost as much as we sense his staggering body odour, and decides to ignore the inconveniences of red lights and junctions as he mounts his ramshackle automobile on the pavement and causes pedestrians to scatter as he stamps on the accelerator! Good man!! To give you some indication of how slow we were previously moving it’s pretty safe to say communism declined quicker than this. Meanwhile, back at the hotel, our colleague Richard gives up trying to re-tune the TV to find Hollyoaks and sets off to do battle with the traffic. **

No balaclava's, no guns, no chiwawa's.

With ten minutes of the match gone, the driver attempts to induce another multi car pile up so, with nerves shot and floodlights in sight we decide to sprint, jog, walk quite quickly straight into another queue! A torturous process ensues of showing photo ID, getting our named tickets printed and oh just hurry up Poland!!! There's football going on!

Those red lines mean I can't see that Legia Warsaw grafitti now.

Twenty minutes late and were in and, thankfully, it's 0-0. The small group of Polonia ultras in the pitch side spanning stand opposite are chanting away, the fans in our identical stand are stuck on mute and the ten away fans, an athletics tracks width behind one of the goals away, are strangely silent.

Five, ten, fifteen minutes pass and nothing notable happens on the pitch. The ultras "do a Poznan" in a noble attempt to shun the match, our stand of mutes silently fills up with travel weary Warsovians, there's now twenty away fans and it's debatable whether it's worth the hassle.

There's one thing to tackle the boredom, food and beer. Sadly alcohol is allowed in the ground. If ever I needed a beer it was now. So tonight’s Fray Bentos substitute is one sausage, one impenetrable bread roll, two (2) gherkins (more gherkins in football please!) and numerous molten jets of grease that have left a scorched wasteland where the roof of my mouth use to be. Every bite firing a new trajectory of grease, my hands are covered, my face an inferno and my seat so swamped I had to perform a one man bail out of grease (Bail out of Grease!! Come on ladies and gentlemen!)

Token match shot.

Like the speedometer on our taxi while navigating inner city pavements the Kielce fans are up to about 80. The banners have arrived and an ear splitting bellow means the Kapo has defeated the traffic and the chants can commence. Half time also signals the arrival of Richard and his travel tales. His taxi driver, controversially, stuck to the roads but did decide to trade punches with an irate cyclist from the window of his cab! Superb stuff! A failure to bring photo ID meant his evening could be stuck in reverse before it had started but he beat the strict ID requirements by showing a credit card and a mobile phone picture of him and his wife on holiday!! What this proves I have no idea!

This photo will secure your access to any Polish football ground.

Kaspar and Richard are introduced and all those around us the crowd suffer unspeakable boredom as the match continues in a similar vein, the TV public no doubt now all watching the end of The One Show. Both Ultras occasionally try to spark an atmosphere and the miseries in our stand only liven up once; when there's a strong shoulder barge in front of them. That's right, the highlight of the second half was a shoulder charge.

Not that any of that matters, the three of us swap stories of football matches past and tales of bizarre grounds in far flung foreign outposts as numerous over hit free kicks float out of play and shots fly laughably wide.

Friends! Football friends!

Unfortunately there isn't a Dignitas clinic equipped to put football matches out of their misery and we suffer on. Kielce are awarded a dubious free kick in the last minute and one home fan overestimates the ability of the player to deliver the decent free kick needed to create a winner and lambasts the Kielce bench. He needn't have got upset, the free kick is lobbed out of play and even the volley of abuse the Kielce subs respond with is mishit. Shortly after there's the magical final whistle and the sprinklers are immediately turned on to try and rinse away the foul stench of the match.

We played very well, it was important to get a result, we're not getting carried away with our league position, we take each game as it comes bla bla bla.

We sneak into the stadium bar, swap more stories over frosty beers, creep into the background of post match interviews, pose for our own photos pitch side and reminisce on this great evening’s entertainment in spite of the match. It's experiences like these that being a football fan is about; making an effort to get to the match, having a laugh with friends over a beer and not sitting at home with your dinner on your lap and watching it on your telebox.

Now, buger off. I've got 3 days of perving at Nancy from Hollyoaks to catch up on. See yourself out.

** I'm sure Richard has never watched Hollyoaks in his life. I apologise for any embarrassment and distress this sentence has caused to Richard and his family. He should watch it though, the birds are well fit! Phwooar!

For some proper reading on Polonia Warsaw have a read of Ryan Hubbard's article over on Twisted Blood.