Adorned with Marion Dorn

Adorned with Marion Dorn

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

I want to go home

I was in high spirits about the day. It was to be a bit of a break from things, and a bit of fun. Of course we would win as well, my team Blackburn Rovers were bound to make light work of throwing over Wigan and we could all have a bit of a sing and a drink and like I say, a bit of fun. The heavy rain as we set out didn't bother me unduly, it would probably go off and anyway, it doesn't rain in the pub.

We got the train there and took a swift walk to the pub to meet with the gathering of other Rovers fans. I couldn't help but notice that it was still raining. Hard, fat raindrops ran down my face and bounced off my coat, slick with water. It bounced off the canal, dappling its grimy surface.

Not to worry. The pub was already well stocked with our fans singing, swilling the shit beer and in high spirits. We had a bit of catching up to do so sat down with our pints and chatted.
Time crept on us quickly, and as none of us were entirely sure how long of a walk it was to get to the ground, we spilled out of the pub just before 2pm and cantered off, an unruly disjointed crocodile of Blue and White, some a little worse for wear; all harmless.

It was still raining. We made our way across to the ground through anonymous streets marked only with half derelict nameless pubs, along new roads and past DIY superstores. A chant rose up : "Wigan's a shithole, I want to go home.."I remarked on the irony. They're all shitholes: Blackburn, Burnley, Preston, Wigan, Bury, Bolton..need I go on? How starved of beauty we all are that we don't see the ugliness on our own doorstep anymore, yet oddly notice it in the streets of neighbouring towns.

The concourse beneath the stands was packed hard and exploding with volume. Our fans were in a good voice, fuelled by cheap tickets and fizzy lager, the noise was deafening. Getting out in to the stand, we took our seats. As is the way with this kind of fixture though, nobody sits. The atmosphere and sense of urgency to see action means that the whole 4,000 something crowd was aloft and swaying from the off. Though the rain continued to fall we were under cover. It all started off well enough, the display on the pitch was slightly laboured but the intensity of the occasion seemed to dilute its importance. Before very long we scored and whilst it seemed a bit harder work than I had hoped for we were off the mark. My friend went down to stake his place in the beer queue early, and quite suddenly Wigan equalised. Half time happened, a beer and a laugh and back in to the intensity.

This was when the atmosphere started to change. Rovers started throwing it away, making stupid mistakes, losing focus. Wigan scored again. And again. I became aware of some voices behind me, several that stood out against the wall of noise. The voices threw casual racist insults on to the pitch, scattering them like verbal ticker tape. I imagined I watched the words form shapes of arrows and penetrate those for whom they were aimed. Piercing their skin. Their skin that just happened to be a different shade to their own. For all the years I had religiously attended Rovers games I had never heard this before. The insults continued, seeming to spread like a contagion across the crowd. I felt my throat start to burn and my heart race. I felt like I was being made to stand there out of my right to be there yet every part of me rebelled against listening to it. A few times I turned to direct a withering stare at those who spat forth this easy, lazy, ignorance but it didn't do enough to quell my inner rage. Then someone spat at the back of a fan who was quietly watching the footballing horrors unfold and the spark took fire. My friend voiced his outrage at the utterly repugnant behaviour of a few and the torrent of fury flew from within me into verbal ammunition of my own. A nasty scene unfolded and I placed my hand on my friend's back and pushed him forward. Nothing could now make me stay there. Rushing away to the exit I felt the quite unexpected presence of tears rising up in my throat. Silly feminine tears. I wanted to throw punches but instead I stood there and wept.

As we looped our way along the road from the stadium, I cast a glance back to the sad, dark, pointless scene. I saw our fans, my fans of my team, in a visible slice framed by the hulk of the stands; a homogeneous undulating being, moved with frustration and anger, and I wondered if I would ever feel the same way about it again. I knew now what was within; the murky depths. And still it rained. How I felt every drop soak through my clothes, through my skin and make me swollen. Swollen, not with the joys of victory and of team camaraderie, but swollen with hurt. It seemed like the longest trudge back to the railway station to transport us from one grey puddle of a northern town to another as I wondered how long it would take for me to dry out.