Standing Allowed At St.James’ Park
When it comes to watching games not involving NUFC, I can quite easily get bored and start flicking between the channels within 15 minutes or so. Olympic Football arrives at St James’ though and the decision is made to tag along to a couple of live games just to say ‘I was there’ in person.
So a midweek group game double header attended for Japan against Morocco, followed an hour later by Spain v Honduras. In terms of a spectacle the first game was entertaining for a game that was goalless until the last ten minutes, when it then sprang to life. The second game pitted the underdog against a potential medal winner and provided an upset, seeing Spain eliminated.
Then the luck of the draw saw my second and final Olympic football trip to St James’ to see Brazil take on the outsiders again of Honduras, this time a quarter final.
I didn’t really care who won and in some perverse respects I kind of wanted Honduras to win, just to annoy all the token Brazil fans who undoubtedly appeared from the woodwork.
Anyway, a couple of observations from these games I thought I might share with you.
Firstly, the Honduran team. Against both Brazil and Spain it would be fair to say that despite the opposition being far superior in terms of on the ball skills, they battled well which endeared them to the crowd. Some bloke called Roger Espinoza looked a canny turn and might suit black and white stripes and give Colo a run for his money in the barbers. However, two things did annoy me about the underdogs.
One was the deliberate kicking of the opposition and then complaining to the referee when he brandished yellows, then in the second game two reds. You could argue the officials at times were being quick to judge some crunching tackles as misdemeanours worth punishing. But then as a player you need to adjust your approach or you’re going to run the risk of an early bath.
The other annoyance was the blatant diving and subsequent rolling around on the floor when they themselves were victims of crunching, or in some cases non-challenges. The only conclusion I can draw was that their manager was…wait for it…LUIS SUAREZ…and I actually wasn’t wrong (Google if you don’t believe me), fact stranger than fiction!
My other observation, given that I am an advocate of standing at the match was, well, standing at the match.
The Japanese fans had a corner vantage point where a couple of hundred stood for 90 minutes, banging drums and singing songs, generating an atmosphere. If it hadn’t been for them then the atmosphere would have largely been as sterile as a surgeon’s instrument (ooer missus). I did note that when the Moroccan fans near the dugouts stood up, they were quickly asked to sit down and eventually did so.
Then in the quarter final game a group of Brazilians (men, not tidy lady gardens) were playing their instruments (stop it) in the gangways before settling in the second block of seats behind the Leazes goal. There they ‘stood’ and continued to play their instruments and sing and wave their flags without any intervention for 90 minutes, brilliant.
So tell me why that is ok?
Well in my opinion it is ok as they were bloody well enjoying themselves like people should at a football match. I expect NUFC will be banned from holding future events like this though as they have clearly broken ground regulations about persistent standing, haven’t they? Or maybe it’s not legally binding, more guidance and open to interpretation depending on the circumstances. A bit like Derby day when most people stand persistently and that’s ok. Or Level 7 for 3 years without sanction. Or any away end in the country. Or maybe it was lost in translation with our foreign guests so we aren’t to blame.
I also reflected about the standing issue while at a couple of concerts at Grozny on Wear this summer. Thousands of people in a football stadium standing persistently in seated areas. They’ll be closed down too, won’t they? Or maybe it’s somehow safe during a music event, as dancing in the seated areas is obviously safer than singing and clapping your hands at a football match. It’s actually more dangerous to be in the designated standing area at a concert when the pints of dubious liquids are discarded over the shoulder from some clown 20 yards in front of you.
Anyway, Olympic football, it’s alreet I suppose but I can’t wait until we start our 40 point countdown in 2 weeks time when I really will give a monkey’s chuff who wins!!
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