Nowhere to Run, Nowhere to Hide by WhispersWW

Bali, June 2006, the island lashed by uncharacteristically wild winds and heavy rains that blanketed the mountains in deep, dark heather-grey cloud, bending palm trees and flattening rice; staining the sea a menacing charcoal and lacing its edges with spumes of bright white surf. Man and beast sheltering in the face of such unrelenting weather. Amidst it all an epidemic sweeping the island, one that no vaccine could have prevented nor medicine cure. Not bird flu, dengue fever or typhoid. World Cup Fever had struck. There was nowhere to run; nowhere to hide. There was simply no escaping it.

I may be British, and soccer seen as our national sport, but I have to admit that I am a cricket and rugby girl at heart. I have no difficulty watching men dressed in white hit a small red ball with a piece of wood, and then run between two more pieces of wood whilst their opponents chase around on the grass beside them trying desperately to get them ‘out’. Be it a hard and fast limited overs game or the strategic dance of a test match I really don’t mind. I love it all. And as for rugby, well, what girl doesn’t like to see big strapping men in tight shorts run up and down a pitch tossing and catching a pointy-ended ball? Scoring tries and kicking poetic drop goals. A tactical game that is as much brains as it is brawn and one I think is a delight to watch, either at test level or local. But as for soccer…well, I just have to admit, I have never got the point.

I am lucky to have been to rugby and cricket matches on several continents and shared the delights of those games with others of many nationalities but I have been to just one soccer match. In the late 1980’s, in London…Chelsea playing Millwall at home at Stamford Bridge. Those familiar with British football will recognize that this particular local derby would be one of high tension and aggression, however to me it was just another football game. It was only upon seeing the riot police with batons and shields and mounted policeman on horseback doing crowd control outside the stadium that I began to wonder what I had let myself in for.

In truth, I do not remember much about the match. I cannot even remember who won. What I do remember is the noise. The infamous songs sung on the terrace. I remember the energy in the stadium – so intense it was all but visible. I remember the vast quantity of missiles thrown onto the pitch – cans, bottles, rocks and toilet paper. And most of all I remember being terrified out of my skin. Just back from seven years in South Africa, well versed in self-defense, quite a tough cookie really and yet here I was, at a football match in England, reduced to mush.

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