Christmas saw me head back to the Motherland. A massive queue at the airport enabled me to spit on all the immigrants with their burgundy passports. Red, white and blue! Only blue. Someone had dropped a bottle of red wine in the queue. It smelt like Christmas and the broken glass made it look like the UK. Home.
The existence of family who wanted to see me strongly limited the opportunities that I had to watch football. Fortunately, a spare Saturday afternoon gave me the chance to head to South London’s very own Dulwich Hamlet with a friend who happens to be a season ticket holder. Up the Hamlet. Down with MacBeth.
From my limited knowledge of British non-league football, Dulwich are a popular team who have succeeded in attracting many on London’s expats (no one really comes from London) who are tired, priced out or underwhelmed by the fare churned out at the city’s numerous top flight clubs (except Spurs, who are the very bestest). The supporters are strongly anti-every thing bad (discrimination, racism, Nigel Farage) leading to a nice liberal live and let live feeling around the home ground, Champion’s Hill. (Did you know Phonm Penh has its own Olympic Stadium, which plays host to all of the country’s top flight matches, played host to a 2007 Ronan Keating concert and was used as an execution site by the nefarious Khmer Rouge?)
Football this way. Bar this way. What a day!
Champion’s Hill is the focal point of a story surrounding the club’s very survival. The club is currently heavily funded by a property developer (which saved the club with minutes to spare from bankruptcy in 2014) that plans to convert part of the current stadium into residential properties whilst shifting the football team 150 metres away onto an unused piece of scrubland which will be turned into a new 4,000 (likely to soulless) new stadium. The council have initially refused on the grounds that the proposal does not include sufficient affordable housing (a somewhat sore point for those of a left lean). The developers are threatening to pull the plug on the club unless they receive the green light from the council. The football club is caught with a live or die outcome (or so say the developers) in a game of cat and mouse between two other parties The story is ongoing (and probably significantly more nuanced than the version I have mashed together here). Given the club clearly has a groundswell of local support and 120+ years of history, it can only be hoped that it can continue to exist in its current form for a good while yet.
It cost GBP 11 to get in. An odd price given the amount of people who will probably pay with notes meaning that the club must ensure a fair number of pound coins are at hand (I look at the important administrative details of running a club.) Entrance is in one corner of the ground. Each end has a small, concrete terrace. One side has the grandstand with spacious bar at the back. Special marks for serving a decent selection of beer. The other side has a small covered area. A chip shop van in one corner and a bar in the other. Lost points for a lack of toilet facilities. Also there are quite a lot of dogs and babies/children. Watch out if you are scared of dogs and babies/children. No puppies though.
Line markings leave much to be desired
Dulwich are doing ok in the league. In fact, they have been doing ok for the last couple of seasons. In a league where one team is automatically promoted and a second through the play-offs, Dulwich have lost in the play-off finals in the last two seasons. They go into the game in second again behind moneybags Billericay Town whose side includes ex-Premier League players Jamie O’Hara, Jermaine Pennant and Luton’s own Kevin Foley. Boo. Billericay.
Today’s opponents are Leiston who sit in a more than respectable fourth; however, when the game settles down after some furious head tennis, it is clear that Dulwich are the better team. I wasn’t paying a huge amount of attention to the game as the occasion represented a good opportunity for a chinwag. Dulwich scored quite early before going on to ease to a 3-0 victory that was concluded as we polished off some chips. English chips. Fingers crossed for the club in this season and beyond…
Santa also owns a tan coat.
That is all for 2017. MTK got relegated before turning into a winning machine that will likely see their return to the top flight next year. I toned down the football watching to MTK and a few other scraps along the way. Take note Mrs Timmy B. Now it is time for a winter break and I will be back with some Hungarian cup action in mid-February.