It was the first football match I’d ever attended, and before Cardiff City’s championship play-off against Reading on Tuesday I was jokingly called a ‘glory supporter’ by friends. By the time the final whistle blew, I was a ‘bad luck charm’.
I never did get to see that eagerly-anticipated Ayatollah. The Bluebirds were defeated 0-3 at home by the Royals, putting paid to the Wembley all-Welsh final that could have been.
Reading striker Shane Long scored 28 minutes into the game after Bluebirds keeper Stephen Bywater erroneously left the net wide open. Long scored again near half time, doubling the lead and leaving many Bluebirds fans to question if it was all over. Jobi McAnuff affirmed it once and for all, rattling in a third goal for Brian McDermott’s side.
Even as a relatively new spectator to the sport, it was clear to me that the Bluebirds were really trying. There was plenty of possession throughout and some fierce attempts to score, notably from Bothroyd and Olofinjana. However, it was also apparent that there was some tactical confusion and serious flaws in Cardiff’s defence – or, as I put it, ‘faffing about’ – which culminated in a disappointing end-of-season once again for the Bluebirds.
The Welsh side’s frustration was clear to see throughout the game – particularly when referee Howard Webb refused them a couple of penalty opportunities. Furthermore, the Bluebirds’ lack of promotion once again has inevitably raised questions over Dave Jones’ future with the club.
However, the outcome certainly wasn’t down to a lack of support from loyal Cardiff fans, who shouted, chanted and utilised their ‘happy clappers’ for all they were worth. Even when McAnuff’s goal sealed the Bluebirds’ fate, most supporters magnanimously remained in their seats until the final whistle (not me – I escaped to beat the queue for the loo).
A win would have been the proverbial icing on the cake for my first match, but this time it wasn’t to be. Despite this, I’m glad I was there for the atmosphere, if nothing else, which was incredible – if a little overwhelming at times. I can’t say I fully comprehend the undying loyalty of football supporters, but I didn’t feel ostracised or segregated like I imagined I would. The camaraderie must be wonderful for the extended Bluebirds family, and I can see why supporters are so fiercely passionate about their team, although personally I won’t be rushing to book a Cardiff City tattoo any time soon.
I did wonder if losing a football match was worth getting yourself arrested over (as I saw happen to one aggrieved fan) but I suspect that was primarily down to one too many Brains (pints, naturally). I daresay a few shandies would have made me equally as impassioned about the outcome; alas, I was designated driver.
I once questioned why so many people become emotional over twenty-two grown men kicking a piece of leather around a pitch. I’m sure I’ll occasionally revert to a similar train of thought, particularly concerning football hooliganism, which I simply cannot tolerate regardless of the excuse.
But my first match allowed me a glimpse into the world of the avid football fan, and it has certainly given me something to consider. J.B. Priestley puts it far better than me, so I’ll let him conclude this blog post:
To say that these men paid their shillings to watch twenty-two hirelings kick a ball is merely to say that a violin is wood and catgut, that Hamlet is so much paper and ink.