Nov 19, 2007

Among The Thugs...in real time






During an amazing trip to London I decided to buy tickets to an English Premier League match.I traveled with my friend John into this intense culture.It was the mid 90's and stories of Hooliganism were well reported,Questions were asked over many pints as we mapped out directions and etiquette from some true "football" fans the night before.

East London was our destination,the match was West Ham-vs-Chelsea,A cross town "derby" or Rivalry in American terms...in English terms....."Foo-ball Dahrbee" said with a nasty sneer.We were admittedly wide eyed and a little nervous as we headed out from our hostel fully primed up with insane tales from one of my favorite books"Among the Thugs"and first hand warnings from liquored up locals.

After shaking off the cobwebs of the night before with a bizzarro British breakfast and beer, we followed our public transit map east,switching trains twice on this quiet London morning,everything seemed tranquil and proper,for now..........

If you've ever traveled on a subway in any major city,you know,occasionally two trains run side by side,it can happen unexpectedly,a little unnerving if your not used to it,well....Imagine,one rocketing up inches from you,completely packed to the gills,arms and shaven heads bursting out out of every single open window as if trying to escape from an insane asylum,A mobile coo coo's nest adorned in Blue,Chelsea Blue... The inhabitants are all Scream singing the most amazing insult ridden cruel songs I have Ever heard,while proudly showing off their broken and missing teeth...The hair on the back of my neck stood strait fucking out as both of us looked at each other with the same stupid grin,"aw shit we're in it now".Within 5 seconds we went from a peaceful English site seeing tour to ....The Belly of the Beast.

Every stop now.. more and more of these hard looking characters with incredible beer drinking chops boarded our train(or should I say,we were on their train)all were toting paper sacks filled with cans of golden goodness,They would belch endlessly,sing and scream abbreviated statements chock filled with choice morsel's such as"Fuck,Tossa,Cunt & Wanka",The Train car smelled like a dirty pub at 2am blended with oo de mechanic and essence of locker room.It was obvious from the jump,they were committed to a cause and this was the Most important thing in their lives,I mean any place where gangs are named "Firms" there is a seriousness deeply inbred......

We were silent,eyes forward like two fresh fish in a maximum security prison on their first day.....

Finally the mother train arrived at the Match exit,birthing all of her subhuman inhabitants out its doors,thankfully we escape the packed train,following the Damned towards the stadium.As we marched up to street level in mass,John and I took notice that every single shop on the street had its metal gates drawn shut covering all windows and doors,Once again we look at each other,both taking notes internally for later conversations when we're hopefully reunited with our friends back at the hostel.

The closer we get to the stadium,Mounted Riot police on giant draft horses appear every fifty feet,The crowd surges ahead oblivious,completely filling the street like a screaming,singing and belching river of maniacs.I remember thinking"where are all these fucking people gonna fit",Eventually we make it to the stadium gates and find our seats in the balcony all the while being serenaded by the "supporters" of both teams taunting each other as loudly as possible.We sit..... surrounded by scarred faces and seasoned scowls..

The match is amazing and intense,we're were right on top of the action since the venue only held only about 16 thousand people,very intimate.At the mid point we ventured out to find refreshments,since there were no beer vendors in sight.... In each corner of the stadium there was a little pub with a yellow line painted on the floor and sign stating"no glass past this point"We worked ourselves in and ordered a couple,chugged em down and made it back to our seats just in time for the second half whistle....

Chelsea ended up winning the match,much to the delight of the visiting fans who were separated by a fence,like animals at a zoo behind one of the goalies,Missiles launched back and forth,rival Firms taunted and spit thru the fences and the Chelsea fans were forced to wait until virtually everyone was outside the stadium before they could leave..........

The walk to the train and the long ride back to our hostel were just as Intense ....and it all ended as it started,At our exit,peaceful,quiet ..................and ready for more