Sunday, 21 February 2010

In a non-league of their own

The woman sat in front of me trained her digital SLR camera on the number 10 player. Every few seconds she would take a shot, hoping to capture him doing some fancy footballing move. It's a shame she didn't happen to take a photo of (presumably) her son dramatically diving following a legitimate tackle from an opposing player, prompting the ref to mistakenly show a second yellow card to the Tooting & Mitcham tackler. When her boy was substituted shortly afterwards the home crowd booed and hollered. Unsurprisingly his mum didn't take a photo of this moment either. But she was obviously still proud of her son as she resolutely applauded, and this was nice to behold.

 Dramatic skies over Imperial Fields (good old iPhone)

It was a freezing cold day yesterday, but that didn't stop me from going along to watch Tooting & Mitcham United versus Sutton United at T&M's smart little ground, Imperial Fields. The two teams play in the Ryman Football League Premier Division. I went to the match with legendary Two Footed Tackle podcasters Gary Andrews and Chris Nee, Gary's friend Rob and a chap off Twitter who turned out to be a fellow Gashead! It was a tenner to get in, which I thought was a little steep until I realised we had access to a stand with seats, and very nice seats they were too.

It was an enjoyable match for a neutral such as myself, although I was perhaps slightly biased towards Tooting since I used to live there. The quality of the football (and refereeing) certainly wasn't the best I've seen, and there were a number of amusing moments, including the strangest corner I've ever witnessed (I'm sure the odd move probably worked in training). Tooting went 1-0 up in the first half, undeservedly in my humble view, but Sutton pulled one back after the break. Tooting did well to hold on playing with only 10 men in the second half, and overall I think the draw was a fair result. 

One of the things I like most about going to football matches - especially the lower league ones - is the characters on the terraces. It took me quite a way into the second half to realise that the home and away fans behind each goal had swapped ends during half time to cheer on their teams from behind the appropriate goal mouths. There were quite a lot of Sutton fans mingled in with us in the stand with us as well, something you simply don't see in the football league. 

One Sutton fan in front of me was a very vocal gentleman, who seemed preoccupied with hollering at Tooting's manager rather than focusing on the actual football. At one point someone (who I later discovered to be Tooting's captain who wasn't playing yesterday) turned around and shouted to him "you should be locked up in a cage!" Another Sutton fan sat behind us was probably the least knowledgeable football fan ever, but still insisted on imparting his incredibly biased take on the game at every given opportunity, and VERY LOUDLY. 

After the match I travelled on the London Tramlink for the first time. This, combined with a Bovril AND a hot chocolate at the ground, nearly pushed me over the edge with excitement (you think I jest, but just ask Gary).

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