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Location: London. Back.

Total Distance Cycled: 10,325km
Days Biking: 140
Longest Day: 174km (2/12/10)
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Sunday, 8 August 2010

Cobresol: 1 Bolognesi: 0

It is important to state right at the outset that I am NOT an expert on football.

I am strictly a light weight ´World Cup watching´ sort and even then I am as happy passing round the crisps and sarnies as I am being glued to the box. I have been to exactly two live football matches in my life. A Boxing Day game watching Watford play someone (!) back in the late 1990s and a trip to the Emirates Stadium to watch Liverpool v Arsenal in around 2001. On that last occassion I went with a Liverpool fan but we had to sit with all the Arsenal supporters and so the whole match was spent trying to stop my companion cheering at the wrong moment or punch the surrounding humans when they were celebrating.

So, as you can see a childhood spent watching cricket, rugby and ice dancing little prepared me for my latest experience in Peru. A live football match in Moguequa between the home side and that of the town two biking days back down the road, Tacna.
Over the days in we spent in Moquegua (I feel I should thank whatever dark hearted bacterium kept us there because it was so lovely) we heard endlessly about this major event . This was because Moquegua were playing Tacna for the first time EVER.

The reason these teams had never met before is that for time immemorial they had run about the pitch in completely different leagues. But last season Tacna were ignominiously relegated from the first division, just as Moquegua missed being promoted to it by one point. And so this was the first local derby and to say that the residents of Moquegua were excited is probably the biggest underestimation of the century.

Days before, as we sat in the cool of a wifi cafe, or wandered the pretty colonial streets we could hear, pounding out from the plaza, an endlessly repeated announcement (complete with mind alteringly mindless singing jingle) urging us at 110 decibels to buy tickets for the game.

We could hardly refuse to go.

Therefore we made a plan with our great new friend Beto to head to the game and watch the clash of these local titans unfold.

The day dawned beautifully. Sun again. Lord, how annoying it must be to live in a microclimate!! Phil went to source some brekkie and saw the team wandering around the plaza, chatting to local press and generally hanging out. They seemed calm and relaxed. Everyone he met was going to the game, they all seemed optimistic, confident even. It all boded well.

Then... the hour of our meeting with Beto dawned but there was no sign of him. We waited a bit but then started to become a bit nervous as streams of people headed past us towards the stadium. Finally we inquired for him at his restaurant only to learn that he was ill too with a stomach upset and wouldn´t be coming.

Well, this rather put us off our stroke. But in the crowds of excitement we decided to still attend and followed the locals to the stadium.

The area around the stadium was mobbed. Entrepreneurial types were selling team shirts, snacks, drinks and jelly to satisfy this keen and hungry crowd. Families, groups of mates, the young, the old and all the town dogs were milling about.

The stadium here is only a year old and is a great facility. It has three stands only one of which was in the shade at midday and we were very keen to be sitting there. We were told on arrival however that all the seats were sold. But then we found a diminitive lady with some up her sleeve to sell (perhaps the least likely ticket tout ever seen) and we nabbed a couple.

Thus armed we grabbed some water bottles and headed for the entrance. Only to be turned away.

No water bottles or indeed plastic bottles of any sort were to be taken in. We were a bit stumped. Until that was we saw the special stand for decanting the contents into plastic bags. And so it was that clutching what looked like two prizes from the village fete (minus the goldfish) we were allowed in.

Our terrace was packed. Those who owned them were wearing the Moquegua team strip, a very classy combination of gold and black. Those who didn't wore the football jerseys of whoever else they supported. We saw lots of Argentina shirts and those for the bigger national teams. Moquegua are a second division team in a country that came last in the Latin American qualifiers for the world cup. So lots of fans chose someone else to support too since this was very definitely 'local' footie.

There was a contingent of the hardcore celebrating fans who were given a special area in the stadium where it seemed they mainly did 'jumping'. Lots and lots of jumping. Perhaps there was a bit of gyrating in there too, but jumping and flag waving and letting off big explosions of confetti paper were the principle activites. They were called the Furia Dorada (Gold Fury) and they were jumping to out do their rivals from Tacna the Diablos Rojos (Red Devils) who were doing pretty much the same.

We sat soaking this up for a bit, admiring the shiny green pitch and the niceness of the arena when finally on came the refs. A palpable shiver ran through the crowd because shortly afterwards, to a huge whoop of joy, came the teams.

Now, I took a good look at our lot. They looked very nice. Not many I would want to take out for a cup of tea and a slice of cake (largely because they were all about fifteen) but reasonably fit, pretty bouncy and fairly dashing in their kit. The Tacna lot looked very dubious. Even younger I thought and whilst I guess that having an all red kit (socks included) serves the whims of the minimalist outfit designer it did rather have the effect of homogenising them and making them look like those spinny men on a table football table. Not that I was developing prejudice you understand. I am above all that. I was simply there to observe a local phenomenon. I would never stoop to passion.

And so in this impartial state I was delighted when the game commenced. I cosied up to the man sitting next to be, sipped genteely on the water in my plastic bag, crossed my legs trying to get comfy and prepared to let it all wash over me.

Fairly swiftly I realised that this was not going to be a contest where I witnessed unending displays of the beautiful game. It seemed, if I may use football parlance, scrappy. The ball bounded from end to end with ping pong like regularity and no one seemed to have much of a handle on anything.

But then patterns started emerging. Firstly 'our' team (a certain loyalty was burgeoning) seemed to be trying harder. They seemed to 'want it more'. They had more possession, they had some nice little displays of action where they moved the ball neatly down the pitch towards the Tacna goal and got it well within striking distance. However, they also did two other things. They kept MISSING, because they never had anyone in the right place at the killer moment AND they kept being off side. Really, didn't they understand the off side rule?

I didn't, but they are footballers so I would have thought they might. AND since I worked it out about thirty seconds after it had been explained to me SURELY they could. I mean, for pity's sake, WHAT WAS WRONG WITH THEM!!!

And so, myself and my fellow supported started leaping in expectation, sighing in disappointment and shaking our heads and mumbling.

The second pattern that was emerging however was a repeated display of time wasting and outrageous faking by those juveniles from Tacna. Any time a player from Moqeugua was within a hair's breadth of one of them they fell to the ground clutching some imaginary wound and rolled around a lot. The ref would have to stop play, a little crowd would gather, the Tacna management would start gesticulating and then four gorgeous little medics would run on with a stretcher. I loved the medics. They had fab blue jackets with a red cross on the back and they were really funny runners. They made me laugh every time they waddled on, trying not to trip over the stretcher to attend to these miserable fakers. And they were, because EVERY time the poor dying player was laid out at the pitch edge, up they'd bounce, ready for action and start waving their arms about to the let back on. In the meantime ALL their team mates would have had some water and a bit of a stretch and be ready to play again.

It was laughable how often this happened. I think that every Tacna player took to the ground at one point or another during the match and the stretcher must have gone on ten or eleven times.

We, from Moquegua, worked all this out pretty quickly I can tell you and formulated a very rational response of booing and shouting and all round general objection during each sordid episode.

And so it was a rather subdued crowd that popped out of the stadium for a break during half time. The refs had been seen safely off the pitch by the riot police (almost as waddly as the paramedics) and the teams had sloped in and we all sat ruefully wondering what the next half would bring. The game was anyone's frankly, although clearly the moral high ground lay with Moquegua.

We were sitting right by the Tacna goal line for the second half. We were in the hot seat. And boy was it hot. I kept wondering how the poor players were managing in such stiftling temperatures. Our lot were managing a whole lot better in this half though, whilst the collapsers of Tacna shuffled about looking as if it was all rather beneath them.

It was all happening beneath us though. As the half wore on Moquegua were excelling themselves at spectacular and completely unbelievable near misses. They must have come within a whisker of something in the region of eight goals. There was the completely empty goal, with the goalie miles away where the player hit it wide, there was the header that bounced off the cross bar, then the side bar before gleefully spinning away from actually going in, there was the simplest cross destroyed by too much zest so that it shot wide when a two year old should have been able to tap it in. It was all too much.

Now that I was a confirmed fan, I spent forty four minutes in a state of stomach churning tension, now leaning forward, now half standing, now on my feet my hands up on my head then sinking back a crushed look of horror to the man on my left as they missed yet again.

And then at last when I couldn't take it anymore I turned to Phil and uttered the immortal words....'I just can't bear it, they HAVE to score'. I was all for heading home, it was ALL SO UNFAIR.

And at that moment, as if it had been a magic spell, there was another rush forward from Moquegua. They moved quickly down the pitch, the ball rushing between them, and finally in a beautiful, wonderful, glorious, precious, amazing moment, they scored.

GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLL.

I was on my feet. I was waving my arms. I was screaming. I was JUMPING. It was so, so, brilliant.

And all of a sudden, with a minute to go, with about three hundred minutes of injury time to play Tacna started running about as if they were on fire. After ninety minutes of indolence they woke up.

We were all still jumping when the most horrible thing imaginable happened. The Moquegua players, high from their goal, took their eye off the ball and Tacna knocked it in with staggering ease.

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.

I was sinking, I had my hands over my face, I was moaning, I was NOT jumping.

This was all too much. After such a magical finale, HOW, HOW, HOW could this happen?????

And then....

A flag went up.

Tacna's arms all went up.

IT WAS OFF SIDE.

I was on my feet, I was waving my arms, I was screaming, I was JUMPING.

And so was everyone. Either in joy or in fury.

And then the sweetest sound of all.

The whistle blew.

It was over.

The Cobresol Team of Moquegua had won. The visitors, Bolognesi, of Tacna (stupid name anyway...what are they a sauce?) had lost. Our team was truimphant.

I was ecstatic. I finally got it. I finally understood why all my (previously considered to be a little weak in the head) friends who love football, LOVE football so much. It was completely thrilling.

And then there was a fight.

The Tacna management were less than thrilled with the events of the final five minutes and were objecting vociferously. Now I understood what the riot police were for as they tried to manoeuvre the refs off in a hilaious crab like formation. And the paramedics had another job too. They had to pick up all the plastic bottles (the ones sneaked in) that were being energetically chucked by the Moquegua fans at the Tacna folk.

It was a proper barny. It was priceless.

I shook the hand of my new friend from the left. I started breathing again and we wandered home buzzing from the stadium and grinning.

Cobresol: 1 Bolognesi: 0. I wonder who'll be in the first division next season??

:-) x

2 comments:

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  2. Notts County.... 0-0. It was a classic for all the wrong reasons.

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