Monday, October 19, 2009

Aaaaaaand David Beckham!

I'm not a huge sports fan. I played softball for ten years when I was in elementary and middle school, and moved on to volleyball in high school, but I couldn't tell you much about the Ravens or the Redskins - watching sports has just never been that entertaining to me.

But put David Beckham on a soccer pitch, and everything changes.

Those chiseled cheekbones, the six-pack that the Armani ads display......OK, before I get too distracted, let's explain: on October 14, England played Belarus in a World Cup qualifying match at Wembley Stadium. I was lucky enough to attend, with some fellow study abroad students from Japan and America, for the low price of £29 - roughly $48 American.

Kickoff was at 8:30, so my friend Yuko and I left our dorm at 5:30. As we walked through King's Cross with several people dressed for the game walking beside us, businessmen and women in suits were pouring out of the station after their workday finished. We got onto the platform to catch the Metropolitan Line train towards Uxbridge - although as it turned out, all Metropolitan Line trains were stopping at Wembley. We waited through one train for the second one to come along, since the first was too crowded. When we finally got to the Wembley tube stop, we met up with Serena, a fellow study abroad student from California. After we picked up our tickets we went into the Stadium Shop. It was the same kind of thing you would find in an American stadium: ridiculously priced items with team logos printed on them and a thirty-minute queue for the cashier. I got a bumper sticker for my family's car and an England flag, for under £5.

As we made our way to our seats, we passed the concession stands - where they were not serving alcohol. Apparently this is a fairly recent development, as there were signs everywhere apologizing for the inconvenience. Looking at the prices of the food, I decided to pass. It was stadium pricing, but it was ridiculous nonetheless. One hot dog would cost you £6 - about $10.

We got to our seats, which were almost at the top of the stadium. As it got nearer to kickoff, the stands started filling up quickly, and during the game it was reported that 79,000 people had attended. When the game finally did start, everyone around us leaned forward in their seat anxiously. When the ball was in play, there were moments of almost complete silence as the spectator’s eyes never left the pitch. The first goal was scored by England within 10 minutes, and after that it was England’s game and the crowd relaxed a slightly.

Then, after more than 70 minutes of the game had passed…David Beckham came onto the field. The crowd went crazy. The screams of the fans seemed to be mostly feminine, but there was definitely some cheering for the player from men in the audience as well. My friend Serena got some beautiful pictures of Beckham warming up to go in.

He didn’t do much, but he jetted around as quick as a shot on the field. He was easily the most agile player. At the end of the match, it was announced that he had been named “Man of the Match” – a fact that got made fun of in the papers the next day. One headline even claimed it was like “Obama getting the Nobel Peace Prize after eight months in office.”

More updates coming soon! Future topics will include:

  • Travelling within the UK
  • Going to the cinema
  • Food

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