For my birthday my wife, with the help of my parents, sent me with my two eldest sons to Glasgow to see a Champion's League football match this week. Being a football fan in Canada means you have to skip work in the midweek to watch Champion's League or try not to hear the scores (which isn't hard in Canada I'm afraid) and catch the replays of the games at night. I never imagined I'd get to go to one. The following videos are basically me pinching myself.
The Champion's League Anthem.
Ready for kick off. Glasgow Rangers v. Valencia FC.
One thing I'll never forget is how after Valencia had owned the ball for the first 12 minutes, the Rangers got a break and just missed a scoring opportunity and it brought new meaning to the commentator's cliche that it "brought the place alive". It had been pretty quiet, a tentative start. Rangers playing defense. Then the chance, a near miss, and cheers. And then when the ball was back in play it was as if all 50,000 people woke up at once and there was this spontaneous, electric shock--almost a massive scream--that went up. We were in it! From then on it was songs and drum-beat clapping and opportunities and excitement.
Some game action.
The game ended 1-1, with Edu scoring not only the go-ahead goal, but then an unfortunate own-goal early in the second half. (Incidentally, we had no idea at the time that he'd scored on himself, and didn't start to put two and two together until the way back to the hotel when someone asked us about it.) Regardless, Edu was a delight to watch. He had a brilliant night, cracking one off the post at one point as well. In the end it was a draw that could have been a win, but a good draw against a good team nonetheless. Hopefully it doesn't cost Rangers down the line. A truly memorable night.
As far as my boys go, I do wonder what they'll remember. My five year old was pretty tired at half time, and lay his head on my lap asking if we could go home. An Oreo and Coke revived him though. The craziest thing was that in consequence by the 82nd minute he informed me he had to go to the toilet and so we ran out and missed a crucial couple minutes, listening for the tell-tale cheering from the nearby washroom. I left my seven year old in the "care" of the Glaswegian supporters sitting behind us so he didn't miss a thing. Needless to say it was one of the quickest restroom breaks in the history of parenting! But the gentleman behind us was all smiles on my return, and my eldest hardly seemed to notice I was gone. I'm pretty confident he was having the time of his life.
It is strange, however, to try to imagine going to the game as a youngster without sharing all the emotional back-story to the event. When I would try to get my boys to sing and clap along they just seemed awestruck and dazed (as the videos above show). But I remember quite clearly attending a Vancouver Whitecaps game when I was five, and I have a feeling this one will stick with these boys just as it will me--if for no other reason than that they heard their dad yammering on about it in build up and got to see him go bonkers along with thousands of other people! In the morning my five year old asked me whether I had already told Mom about the game and then proceeded to tell her about Edu's shot off the post. Whether he shares my love for the game or not, that was certainly cool. They were thankful to their Mom for letting them go instead of her, and I am very thankful for this great birthday experience, as I'm sure you can tell!
Speaking of back-story, it was five years ago that my team, Liverpool FC, won the Champion's League over AC Milan in what was one of the most dramatic games in sporting history. My friend Dwayne and I skipped work that afternoon and watched it in a sports bar midday in Winnipeg where they wouldn't even turn the sound on. This (slightly over the top) video of the game perhaps makes up for the lack of "environment" around us that day.