Saturday, 27 December 2008

Grounds Without Games: Slovan Bratislava

The aptly named Tehelné pole (Brickfield) is near the end of a tramline about five kilometres north of Bratislava's old town. Built during World War Two, it's now the dilapidated home of Slovan Bratislava, likely to remain the only team from Czech or Slovakia to ever win a European trophy.

Whatever fans of Sparta Prague might think.

Ground 106: Arnott Stadium

Durham City versus Newcastle Blue Star, a top-of-the-tableish clash in the Unibond North. I'd lost all feeling in my feet by the time a chubby Paul Brayson (once the next big thing at Newcastle United) angled a shot across the keeper to put Blue Star ahead. There was a lesbian couple leaning on the metal rail, a man dressed like a berber and, in the seats behind, someone with uncombed hair kept up a running monologue until Durham's second goal. "Are you going back to Durham? Do you have a car? 'Cos if I can get back to Durham, my mother will pick me up."
"He's played with some top class referees. George Courtney, Keith Hackett. Good referee was Keith."

Tickets: £6
Date: Boxing Day, 2008

Friday, 26 December 2008

Ground 105: National Stadium, Tokyo

Adelaide United versus Waitakere United, match one of the 2008 FIFA World Club Cup. The National Stadium was only a quarter full and the upper tiers of the cheap seats completely empty. All three goals came from set pieces, Adelaide coming from behind to win 2-1. Polite to a fault, the Japanese supported both teams at once.

Tickets: 2,000 yen
Date: Wednesday December 11th 2008

Ground List

English League Grounds [new and old](48)

Newcastle United; Manchester United; Manchester City (Maine Road); Arsenal (Highbury) Chelsea; Liverpool; Everton; Aston Villa; West Ham; Blackburn; Spurs; Birmingham; Bolton Wanderers (Burnden Park and the Reebok Stadium); Middlesbrough (Ayresome Park and The Riverside); Sunderland (Roker Park); Derby County (Baseball Ground and Pride Park). Stoke City (Victoria Ground); Bristol City; Charlton; Ipswich; Crystal Palace; Barnsley; Southampton (The Dell); Sheffield United; Sheffield Wednesday; QPR; Coventry; Norwich; Leicester City (Filbert Street).Nottingham Forest; Leeds United; Tranmere Rovers; Swindon Town; Hartlepool; Oldham; Luton Town; Peterborough United; Bradford City; Notts County; Grimsby; Lincoln City; Wrexham; Darlington (Feethams and the Darlington Arena); Bury.

Non-League (15)

Oxford United; Stevenage; Rushden & Diamonds; Bishop Auckland (Kingsway); AFC Murton; Hebburn Town; Jarrow Roofing; Gateshead; Ramsbottom United; Holker Old Boys; York City; Whitley Bay; Newcastle Blue Star(Kingston Park); South Shields; Durham City.

Neutral (1)

Wembley (1996 Charity Shield; 1998 FA Cup Final)

Scottish (6)

Berwick Rangers; Hearts; Celtic; Rangers; Ayr United; Queen of the South.

European (21)

Barcelona; RSC Anderlecht; AS Monaco; FC Metz; Ferencvaros; Halmstads BK; Dynamo Kiev (Olympic Stadium); Dinamo Zagreb; PSV Eindhoven; Bohemians; Royal Antwerp; Slovan Liberec; FK Jablonec; Catania; US Siracusa; Crusaders; Lansdowne Road; Windsor Park; FK Teplice (Teplice vs Celtic, UEFA Cup); Estadio Manuel Martinez Valero, Elche, Spain; Olympic Sports Centre, Riga, Latvia.

Asian (16)

Daejeon Citizen (Hanbat Stadium and Nonsan); Suwon Bluewings(Suwon Sports Complex);Busan Icons (Gudeok Stadium); Anyang Cheetahs (Anyang Sports Complex); Seongnam Ilwha (Seongnam Stadium); Ulsan Tigers (Ulsan World Cup Stadium); Daejeon World Cup Stadium (South Korea vs Italy, 2002 World Cup); Suwon World Cup Stadium (South Korea vs Australia, 2001 Confederations Cup; Spain vs Republic of Ireland, 2002 World Cup); Gwangju World Cup Stadium (South Korea vs Spain, 2002 World Cup); Seoul World Cup Stadium (South Korea U17s vs Argentina U17s).Yokohama World Cup Stadium (Yokohama Marinos vs JEF United); Saitama World Cup Stadium (Urawa Reds vs Sanfreece Hiroshima); Omiya Park Soccer Stadium (Omiya Ardija vs Kyoto Purple Sanga); Ajinomoto Stadium, Tokyo; Tokyo National Stadium, Tokyo.

All About Me

I was taken to my first game of football when I was nine years old. It was a sunny, end of season evening but I was more worried about falling off the concrete crash barrier than what was happening down on the pitch. Newcastle lost one-nil to Coventry: if you’re a Geordie you get used to sporting disappointment early on in life.

Regardless of the result, I was hooked. Since then I’ve seen football matches at more than a hundred stadiums around the world, from where it all began at St James’ Park  to the Nou Camp in Barcelona, and the Yokohama Stadium, Japan. Most came in the mid-1990s when I went two-and-a-half years without missing competitive Newcastle game. Later, after moving abroad, I got to see three games in the 2002 World Cup and temporarily adopted teams in South Korea, Sicily, the Czech Republic and Japan. Like other obsessives, I’ve been driven through industrial estates to take photos of breezeblock stands and rusty metal turnstiles (Stirling Albion), broken through gaps in fences to stand on empty terraces (Nice, Plzen and Bratislava), or craned my neck in excitement at seeing floodlights from the sky.

This is my belated attempt at recording it all.