Last Saturday the weather was so gloomy that it dampened my high spirits of going to watch a live football game between Crystal Palace and Liverpool. As Liverpool fans, my boyfriend Adam and I hoped the team’s another win would chalk up their continuous top position on this season’s Premier League table.
At lunch time, we hopped onto a train to a London outskirt, Clapham Junction, and changed anther line to Thornton Heath, where the Crystal Palace stadium Selhurst Park is. The smooth train journey rewarded us 3 hours to relax in the town before the game. We finally stopped in front of The Prince George pub which was always packed with fans when Crystal Palace played at home.
Welcomed by 2 thickly wrapped-up doormen, we stepped into the pub. It was rectangular in shape and by no means special but many flat-screen TVs were mounted on the walls to ensure fans from every nook and cranny to seize a good glimpse of live football games. The barmen were beavering away and pouring beer from pumps. The noise from the home and away fans, mixed with the TV football updates, was levitating in the frigid air.
We ferreted around for seating but only managed to find ourselves perching on 2 stools at the corner of the Liverpool fans’ quarter. The influx of the fans quickly made this area crowded. My dispiriting mood was elevated by people’s singing a collection of Liverpool songs – Poor Scouser Tommy, You Will Never Walk Alone, Fields of Anfield Road, London Bridge, Live In A Red And White Kop, Oh Campione, We Love You Liverpool, Oh, When The Reds, etc. The singing seemed to raise the roof and through a window, I saw drivers decelerating vehicles and rubbernecking at the pub. The pub staff turned up background music, trying to stifle the Liverpool fans’ enthusiasm in order not let it irk the home fans but to no avail.
Adam and I decided to leave for Selhurst Park early. Outside the stadium was the hustle and bustle of peddlers selling poppies, bracelets, football scarves, game programs and fast food, stewards and the police vigilantly standing by and the fans converging from all directions. Unlike Anfield, Selhurst Park had an obsolete and tiny look but was easily accessible to our seats.
Only after we sat down did my heart begin to sink as an odd and tunnel-looking steel object was right across the stand and would restrict our view if we stood up to watch the game, as a tradition. Having vented my concern to Adam, I was shocked by how the Liverpool fans ignored this but continued with their chat before starting to fervently sing as soon as the Liverpool players filed onto the pitch.
The game started sluggishly so I could keep modifying my position and casting my eyes through the human gaps over the action on the ground…After 15 minutes, a surge of the exclamation erupted from Adam and the ecstatic fans and they all bounced up and down like kids – Liverpool scored! The fans turned ebullient, screaming their lungs out and seconds later the huge sound reverberated in the air, with the pungent smoke evocative of Chinese New Year’s fireworks.
While I was attempting to unravel the first goal scorer, the fans heaved a sigh of groan and clamped hands over their faces as Crystal Palace just conceded a goal and their supporters instantly jumped out of the seats and rejoiced at the victory – all peaks and valleys in 2 minutes’ time!
At one time, our stand could hear a pin drop but soon the devoted fans rallied their forces and sang and clapped their hands hammer and tongs ... One guy caught my eye at this time. He was listening to the game via a radio due to his sight-impairment but on no account did the disability prevent him devouring what happened on the ground. Like anyone else in the stadium, he started to leap in the air and boisterously crying out ‘Liverpool, Liverpool…’ the moment the Liverpool team ripped the defensive line of Crystal Palace to snatch the 2nd point…
During the whole game, I was especially deluged with the fans’ emotions of ups and downs and their passion and dedication to the team. We contentedly left the stadium with Liverpool leading 4-2 a few minutes before the full-time to catch our train.
Dashing towards the train station, uproarious cheering from the fans inside the stadium was ringing in our ears and echoing across the dark canopy with stars. 15 minutes’ jog led us to an entrance of the station where we bumped into several passengers in Halloween costumes. We finally sprinted through the gate down to a platform, lagging Dracula and his bride-to-be Mina behind…