And this in essence is the dichotomy that runs through me as a Spurs fan. I have written before about Spurs are my first love – a love that can lessen with time, but the embers still burn and can be reignited through the right tinder. The right tinder is success. Or success is a right swipe on Tinder. (As a married man, I am not allowed to use Tinder although if anyone will let me I am happy to play for them. Love is just a game. Ahem.)
What is success for Tottenham? Beyond the obvious of beating Arsenal, success is qualifying for the Champions’ League on a regular basis. But I cannot stand the Champions’ League, a competition that embodies all that is wrong with the game today. A money making machine the serves the elite alone where fans are used as revenue sources, a commodity if you will. Once this equation is accepted, then the loyal fan who spends his money week in week out at NE17 (or whatever post code) is no more or less important than the Malaysian fan who pays his TV subscription and dutifully upgrades his replica shirt season after season. The community is gone. I once met a wonderful Spurs fan in Russia. And he was a fan, travelling whenever Spurs were in striking distance of Saint Petersburg to catch a game. Good on him. But something died inside of me when we once went for a post-game celebratory street beer. He insisted we drank Carlsberg because it was Tottenham’s official beer partner. And there we have it.
So I am caught in a dilemma. Wanting my club to win, but realising that success will bring the club even deeper into the world of modern football. But maybe, I have swallowed the propaganda myself. Until recently, I was not a regular football goer: a handful of trips to White Hart Lane as season was all I could afford. So I watched on television and watching on television takes away the enjoyment of football itself as then football becomes more about the success and less about the experience. Going to watch a team on regular basis eliminates some of the desire of success (it should never be eliminated completely). Do I still enjoy myself if Frem or MTK lose? Generally, yes. I do it for the experience. That experience does not exist when perched in front of a screen when enjoyment is far more dependent on the result.
Anyway, I can still be a loyal consumer (I just find it hard to say no) and as such I find myself heading to North-West London to watch Tottenham Hotspur play Monaco in the Champions’ League. I will close my eyes to the advertising. I may even boo the Champions’ League anthem (good on you, City fans) like I booed the Russian national anthem. As a plus point, the ticket was only GBP 20. I would like to think this is an initiative by the club to encourage people to watch the game. However, Spurs are never selling 80k+ tickets with a starting price of GBP 45 so I reserve my praise.
One of my ‘proudest’ moments in my relationship with Gy was when she burst into Chas and Dave’s 1981 classic “Ossie’s Dream”. Unfortunately, she is unable to make the trip although suspect she would have been stuck in loop mode for about six hours from leaving our flat in Budapest to going through the turnstiles. Her time will come.
My time is now though. I have not seen Spurs for two and a half years when they struggled to a 2-2 draw against Basel in the Europa League ¼ Finals. This is one of the problems with being an expat. Things have changed since that night with only Vertonghen and Dembele remaining (although Lloris was on the bench). Since then Bale has gone to the evil empire in Madrid where he doubled his muscle mass in about nine months (just saying).
I am not going to spend time writing too much about Spurs and where they are and how they play. If you are interested, you either already know or you can find out with a Google search.
Wembley is a big old stadium and I think one of the few that I have been to that is equipped with escalators to ferry fans like ourselves to the Gods. We were not alone in timing our journey so that we sat down with about 30 seconds to spare. Seeing 85,000+ Spurs fans bedecked in white is an odd feeling. I suppose one that is only natural given that this became a record attendance in England for a ‘home’ club game (versus other club games at Wembley which acts as a neutral venue).
Spurs were not great and looked surprisingly naïve: Monaco picking off two goals after some fairly lax defending from a normally solid looking Tottenham. Spurs nicked a goal back in the stroke of half time with Toby Alderweireld heading in from a corner. If Spurs had been as clinical as Monaco, they would have headed in at the break in the lead. However, they did not and that is a big difference between football at this level versus the level that I normally watch. Two chances, two goals.
The atmosphere was pretty good with quite a few fans getting into a song or two. The problem with a stadium that size is that it is difficult to get anything fully coordinated given the vastness of the arena. The atmosphere could have been a lot worse. It did tail off towards the end as it became increasingly apparent that Spurs were not going to get the equaliser (or more). People drifted off from about 80 minutes onwards. Daft, we thought, but as we stumbled around Wembley after the final whistle trying to find a quick and easy way back into town, perhaps it was we who were daft.
So Spurs lost. Did I enjoy myself? Absolutely. The opportunity to see Spurs in the CL does not come around that often especially not at a price more befitting of a game far down the league system. It will be interesting to see if they fill the ground for the next outing. Lots of people like myself had flown in for this one. I am not sure how many will be quite as willing/able to do it next time out.
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