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I have a Bucket List. A rather long one. From some impossibly random stuff like training to become a Matador to some not-so random, like taking a boat cruise down the Seine, it is a list of all the stuff I want to do before I die.
Watching a match of English Football has always been one of them, which is why I was ecstatic when my University got us free tickets to one, Sunderland v. Tottenham Hotspurs at the Stadium of Light.
The Stadium of Light is the home ground of Sunderland AFC, a professional football club based in the North-East of England. It’s a 6-hour drive from London but, is close to Newcastle, a city known for its wild pub culture and its heated rivalry with Sunderland.
It has a seating capacity of 49,000 and has also been host to dozens of concerts by Beyoncé, Rihanna, Coldplay and the graduation ceremony of Sunderland University.
As we drove towards the stadium however, we didn’t see the iconic North Stand looming over the River Wear. We did however, see the long lines of people making their way to it, most bearing the famous red and white of Sunderland AFC in the raining, almost freezing temperatures of North-East England.
The name, Stadium of Light I think does incredible justice to how beautiful the stadium actually looks. On the outside, it would seem that it is huge but on the inside, in the midst of almost 50,000 rabid football fans, the Stadium transforms to become a hot cauldron of echoing chants and anthems.
The Stadium of Light has four stands, the Carling North Stand (The Upper tiers of which are reserved for away fans), the South Stand, The East and the West Stand. Seated in the North Stand (Albeit, higher than I would have liked), the view of the pitch and the stadium itself was beyond expression. It only got better as the kick-off loomed closer, with popular songs like ‘Can’t help falling in love with you’ and ‘By far the greatest team’ echoing through the rafters like a church gong.
Unfortunately, the match itself wasn’t much to report about. Tottenham Hotspurs is a great team with a very underappreciated manager at its helm but, despite the immense talent of Harry Kane and Dele Ali, they couldn’t score against Sunderland, a team who might as well be relegated by the end of the season.
Possession was scrappy, chances were few and the ones which did come by, were squandered by both teams in the cold drizzle of the evening. In fact, I came to feel sorry for the solitary figure cut by Sunderland’s Jermain Defoe, a man almost hugging the Spurs’ formidable backline but unable to get any balls or support from his rather disappointing outfit.
Bad day to have him lead my FPL team too.
Be that as it may, the lack of goals notwithstanding, watching an EPL match was an experience not to be forgotten. The match itself was forgettable but, the atmosphere was busy and electric. Right from the home fans chanting at the top of their voices to the same fans yelling ‘Screw you’ when Janssen ‘dived’ outside the penalty box, it was an experience to savor.
I’ll remember a lot of things from that evening. Right from the absolutely fantastic hamburger I had outside, to the corny/sweet wedding proposal being live-streamed for all in the Stadium to watch, to the roaring approval of one of the Black Cats cheekily tripping a Spurs man, to the audible sigh of relief that permeated the grounds as the home team salvaged a point, it was a night to remember. And sure, I couldn’t feel my fingers after (A result of furious clapping and waving in 2-degree weather) but, it was well worth it.
If any of you get such an opportunity, take it. Go watch a football match, live and preferably, in the evening while it’s raining. As for me, I pray that I feel the goosebumps on my arm, sitting in the Kop, singing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ at Anfield soon. And who knows? Maybe the Bernabeu and Westfalenstadion after?
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