Sunday, 5 August 2012

Hope Solo And Baby Horse Light Up The Toon

I imagine the visiting American soccer fans had mixed thoughts about their visit to Newcastle. The fancy dress shop had pushed the boat out by dressing one of their mennequins in a Stars and Stripes bandana.

They might have been a little worried by the outsized fashion shop which was close to the stadium. And the city had not let the visiting fans down in the perceived image that British cities can sometimes not be the cleanest by depositing some rubbish close to St James' Park. rather than sweeping it under the carpet, the old pizza boxes and greasy fish and chip paper had been swept under the bushes between the Metro station and the turnstiles.

We were off to see the football. The Olympic football. The Olympic Women's football. Having sponsored a women's football strip in the 1980's as one of the staff members was involved, I had been forced by my boss to show some support, so I had to trundle out to some damp field somewhere to the West of London on several Sunday mornings. The standard was awful and the only excitement was when the ladies took against each other and found a variety of surreptitious and underhand ways of causing the maximum possible injury on their opponents.

When it rained, it became more like a bout of  Amazonian Mud Wrestling.

I expected the worst as we arrived at St James' Park to see the U.S.A take on New Zealand. A surprisingly good crowd of 10,000 turned up, admittedly mainly free tickets, but still a healthy turnout. The Americans looked as if they had been to a session with the makeup artist at the Theatre Royal. The Adams Family were there, as were half the cast from Airplane, and at one moment I thought I spied the main character in the The Grinch.

A gargantuan woman stood  for the whole match grunting in a neanderthal way:


She waved a scarf which had messages from the team scrawled over it. She had an effect as during the match, some of the players would look up to her and seek inspiration. One scored shortly after. 

But I had to eat my words. I have never enjoyed a football match so much. It was elegant, professional and entertaining. The U.S.A were talented. New Zealand were grafters and made a match of it. There was none of this passing from side to side, back to the goalie and diving for penalties by overpaid and vain primadonnas which you often see in the English Premier League.

For 96 minutes, both sides tried their hardest to score goals. Whenever they got the ball they ran forward. It was a great display. The American striker (by accident) nearly killed the Kiwi goalkeeper by kneeing her in the nose and both players lay prostrate for several minutes. But they both got up as soon as they could and continued.

I am a convert. I would like to go again. And no - it's not just 'Dirty Old Man Syndrome'. It hwas just enjoyable. I will look out for the likes of Hope Solo and Baby Horse Morgan.

I hope they win a Gold medal. 

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