AS a sports nut, one of the great joys of living in the UK is the overwhelming amount of live action to watch.
Anyone living in London over the past six months or so hardly needs convincing of the fact, but having shifted here from small-town New Zealand, it still takes some getting used too.
As to be expected, the rituals of watching a match at one of London’s famous old grounds are quite some way removed from the Cake Tin or Eden Park, so I take a look at what you may come across while getting your fix.
SENSE OF HUMOUR COMPULSORY
While Yellow Fever, the official supporters group of the Wellington Phoenix do a nice line in comedy, generally speaking, the most amusing comments you can expect to hear at a New Zealand sports ground are the rantings of a drunk 20-year-old, or the traditional “insert a name” is a w*nker chant.
Hardly belly-aching stuff.
The English, however, are a funny bunch, and you can hear some of the best laughs this side of a West End comedy club emanating from the stands.
I was fortunate enough to be at Stamford Bridge for Chelsea’s rematch with Manchester United recently where until the hosts drew level for the third time in injury time, the 6000 visiting poked fun at anything blue.
John Terry in particular was a popular target, and any Chelsea player who found their skills lacking was mercilessly taunted.
More subtle was the “Clattenburg – Referee, Leader, Legend” banner, a dig at the Chelsea fans who still hold Terry dear, despite his ban for racially abusing an opponent last season.
In the same vain was another banner announcing “Chelsea, kicking racism out of football since last Sunday”, in reference to the club’s complaint referee Mark Clattenburg made a racial comment to one of its players.
It’s often said that being ignored is worse than being abused, and Dan Carter, for one, has said the eerie silence that descends on British rugby grounds when he lines up to take a kick at goal is almost worse than being booed.
While Kiwis like to yell, boo and hiss when an opponent is aiming a shot at goal, the Brits prefer something more dignified.
It’s not an exaggeration to say you can hear a pin drop, and dare open you mouth to offer some “encouragement” to the opposition and your neighbours will shoot you daggers, even if you’re supporting the same side.
British rugby being what it is, it is also expected that any time the ball gets within 30 metres you start hollering, in the hope you may spure you side on to that most rare of things, a try.
SHARE A LAUGH
Wear the wrong colours in the wrong part of town, and life can get uncomfortable.
However being a Kiwi can work in your advantage, as while we may think we are everywhere, we are actually a novelty in some parts of the country.
A trip to Newcastle for the All Whites match against Brazil during the Olympics brought this home.
Helped by the fact Newcastle United were not involved, the locals were fascinated to know what we were doing in their city, whether had we come all the way from New Zealand for the match, and did we like their town.
You couldn’t go to the toilet or lineup for a beer without being engaged in conversation once it was apparent you weren’t from the area, and perhaps more importantly, not from Manchester or Liverpool.
New Zealand were unsurprisingly played off the pitch, but the friendliness of the locals meant the trip will be remembered for more than just Brazilian flare.