Friday, 13 June 2014

Top 5 Sporting Events I attended

It seems there's some sort of ball kicking competition about to start so it feels like a good time to consider the greatest sporting events I've ever witnessed. If I was being completely factual it's possible this would actually just be a list of Fulham matches but to keep things interesting I've limited the football a bit and only allowed myself one Fulham entry.

1. Fulham 4 Juventus 1 (18/Mar/2010) - The 2010 Europa League run was the absolute peak of my years following the Fulham. It made the seasons watching us struggle, get relegated and reach the brink of extinction all worthwhile. There were plenty of games worthy of a mention, not least the final itself (even though we lost) but the home game against The Old Lady in the Round of 16 was undoubtedly the greatest football game I have ever seen in my life. Fulham were 3-1 down from the away leg in Turin and conceded another goal within 5 minutes of this match. At 4-1 down the game seemed up, there was no chance we could get back into this so the crowd relaxed a little, decided to just enjoy the fact we were playing one of the European greats and had a good old sing-song.

Fulham dusted themselves down as well. Bobby Zamora collected a cross from left back Konchesky, brushed aside World Cup winning captain Cannavaro and fired a bullet volley into the bottom corner of the net. Then Zoltan Gera was through on goal and seemed certain to score but Cannavaro fell over and took him down in the process. There was a pause then a red card for the Italian. Zamora sent the resultant free kick towards the top corner but somehow the big hand of 3rd choice goalie Chimenti managed to push it over the bar. The atmosphere was rocking now and before half time Gera made it 2-1 Fulham and opened the glimmer of hope a notch.

Fulham started the second spell at full pace. Damien Duff fired in a cross that glanced off a gold shirted arm. Gera whipped a fine penalty whipped into the bottom left corner and suddenly we were level on aggregate. A double somersault from Zolo who was then mobbed by the rest of the team. There was a lull during which Clint Dempsey joined the fray. With less than 10 minutes to go Dempsey received the ball on the edge of the box, his back to goal. He turned into space, leaned back a little and floated a chip towards goal. From where I was sitting everything happened in slow motion. The ball rose high into the air, it looked like Clint had over hit a cross but no ... it dropped down towards the top corner and, unbelievably, wonderfully, perfectly finds it's way into the net.

There was a cheer like no other I've heard at the Cottage or anywhere else. The noise of 25,000 people who cannot believe what they've just seen. Football is never like this. From 4-1 down to 5-4 up against one of the biggest teams in the world. It was a magical moment. I can't remember anything after the goal but the whistle eventually blew and we were through. There were more thrills to come in the Quarter & Semi finals but nothing would ever quite live up to this game.

Photo courtesy nicksarebi via used under CC2.0 license

2. Olympic Rowing (1/Aug/2012) - The chance to attend one of the world's greatest sporting events isn't something that comes along very often so I was very excited when we managed to get a couple of tickets for a day at Eton Dorney to watch the Rowing. By sheer fluke this turned out to be the day Great Britain collected their first gold medal of the London Games. Heather Stanning and Helen Glover won the coxless pairs with a stunning performance that left their rivals literally in their wake. The atmosphere was incredible and got louder whenever there was a GB rower involved. British rowers also claimed a thrilling Bronze in the Men's eight and qualified for two finals (Alan Campbell went on to win single sculls bronze whilst George Nash & William Satch also won bronze in the coxless pair). We were back a few weeks later to see Paralympic rowing and I also got to spend a day at the Olympic Stadium to see Paralympic Athletics & Swimming but seeing GB win gold was a special moment.

3. England 33 South Africa 16 (14/Nov/1992) - Beyond one fairly shoddy lesson at school I hadn't played any rugby until we started a regular touch rugby session at work. That grew in popularity and resulted in us fielding a 15-a-side team for a few years. I had no clue of the rules and remember playing wing in one of my first games, receiving a pass, looking up to see some massive bloke running towards me and just chucking the ball into touch. As a club we were able to apply for tickets to test matches and a group of us went to Twickenham to see what would be my first non-sevens game. Unsurprisingly we got very drunk. Very very drunk. We played spoof beforehand, drank a bit more during the game and carried on afterwards as well. England won 33-16 in a really entertaining game of which I remember very little.

4. 81 Ashes: England draw with Australia (31-Aug-81) - This was my first test cricket match and the final day of an amazing test series that saw England win the Ashes and ignited my interest in the game. We made a late decision to go to The Oval after hearing tickets were still available and were listening to test match special on the drive up when Geoffrey Boycott lost his wicket with England only on 1. I'm not entirely sure why but Chris Tavare was a favourite of mine. He had a reputation for being a reliable if rather slow opening batsman and I think I admired his stubbornness. Typically he was also out before we were parked. Having made it in to the Oval things improved somewhat. Mike Gatting steadied the ship and wicket-keeper Alan Knott scored an impressive 70no (despite Dennis Lille's best efforts). Man of the series Ian Botham went lbw for a disappointing 16 but we held out to draw and ensure we didn't end an incredible test series on a downer. Not the most amazing game of cricket but a chance to feel slightly involved in what had been an incredible series.

5. Euro '96: England 1 Germany 1 (England lose 6-5 on penalties) - The country went mad for football in 1996. The St. George's cross was everywhere, Three Lions topped the charts and everyone believed this was going to be the year England finally won a major competition. I'd watched the group games at various friend's houses. A dour 1-1 draw with Switzerland, a 2-0 win over Scotland including a brilliant goal by Gazza, and a 4-1 romp over the Netherlands. I went to the quarter-final against Spain. That was a tense game in which neither side could break through but ended with a penalty shoot-out that saw Stuart Pearce lay the ghosts of 1990 to rest and Paul Gascoigne send us through. The semi-final was a repeat of the 1990 World Cup semi-final. Alan Shearer headed in after three minutes but the elation was short lived as Stefan Kuntz equalized less than 15 minutes later. In extra time Gazza almost won it for us but, with the goal gaping, was inches away from a Shearer cross. Penalties again. Both sides scored their first five kicks and the tension increased with every one. Sudden death meant there was nowhere to hide and it was England that finally flinched. Gareth Southgate had his penalty saved, Andreas Möller scored and it was all over.


No comments: