The Unmentionables

My pathologically biased servant has suggested I avoid using the most commonly recognised name of today’s visitors to fortress CCS (Cardiff City Stadium). So, in the interests of balance here comes the greatly anticipated game between Riverside FC established in 1899 v Newton Heath (Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway) FC established in 1878. The esteemed visitors were originally named after their local railway depot, so in one sense they are being welcomed today by their hosts Canton Sheds. Since the turn of the 21st century the visitors have been attributed a new name after the theatrical exploits of some of their more balletic personnel. Cristiano Ronaldo was determined to perfect the art of the pike, twist and tuck before he moved to Real Madrid and learned how to stand up for relatively longer periods of the match.

         The Trafford Park Diving Club was born and is now in the rudest of health through the single-handed efforts of Ashley Young as he stuttered from

  Watford into Aston Villa, and then tripped the light fantastic up the M6 to the dangerously lurking rinks and pools of Salford and district

      Its November, and the recent spell of colder weather could be treacherous for the visiting delicate flowers. The Cardiff players will be under strict orders by the local Magistrates to observe a 5-metre exclusion zone around any of the opposition wearing gloves outside of the penalty areas, to avoid giving anyone reasons to revert to an artistically horizontal game plan.

We approach 4.00pm on another unusual Sunday afternoon kick-off, c/o the Sky-dollar. It is time for the Red Dragons/Bluebirds (Purple Dragonbirds) to measure themselves against the existing English champions in the form of the Red Devils:

    V.     

The visitors display the early tactic of getting the home team to play the opposite way to what they prefer to do… thus reducing the impact of the home support on their team’s attacking play in the second half.

City v Man Utd [1]

The away team have been heavily dependent on the goals of the attacking Dutch/Anglo partnership of ‘White Van Man’ and ‘Join the Dots’; as their defence of ‘Dutch Junior’, ‘Peckham Twitter’ and various ‘Treatment Room Recliners’ have been even less convincing than a midfield that is still occasionally relying on an old guy born in Cardiff 40 years ago next week. Master Wilson not only left his home-town before he had the chance to play on a cold Tuesday night in Grimsby (instead of a warm Wednesday night in Barcelona), but clearly felt the need to change his name when stepping into the limelight of sporting celebrity and nefarious family sexual unmentionables.

The opposition are without ‘White Van Man’, and it is up to ‘Join the Dots’ to start with a less than impressive connecting with player rather than ball; a well-deserved yellow card, despite the home fans plaintive pleas for a red card sending off. However, the miscreant responds to the taunting of the home crowd with a goal early in the game. However, typical of such an occasion, it is a former upstanding member of the Diving Club, a newly installed home favourite by the name of Frazier Campbell who sends the home fans delirious with an equaliser mid way through the first half…

Fraizer Campbell; Jonny Evans Cardiff City v Manchester United - English Premier League 11242013

… only for that man ‘Join the Dots’ to set up a late second goal for the visitors just on the stroke of half-time. These teams haven’t met since the days when their old man of Cardiff was in nappies (c1974/5 season), and since then they have experienced contrasting fortunes. The eponymous Trafford Park Diving Club have had unprecedented opportunities to perfect the art through competition with European experts of the forward somersault with twist and pike. Meanwhile, the Mighty Bluebirds have had the unenviable trips to the football citadels of Scunthorpe, Halifax and Darlington. What will this gulf in experience bring as the two teams are set for kicking off the second half?

City v Man Utd [2]

They may be in the lead but the away team are clearly missing the historic motivation of a demented hair-dryer…….

  The differences in wealth and experience are nowhere to be seen as both teams create a few chances to keep the crowd edgy. Then, as the announcement is made of four minutes of added time to play, up steps the king of South Korea as Kim-Bo Kyung heads the equaliser, and the crowd go wild.

 Kim Bo-Kyung scores Cardiff City’s late equaliser   against Manchester United during the Premier League  match at Cardiff City Stadium in Cardiff. Photograph: Rebecca Naden/Reuters

The Purple Dragonbirds roar as the Red Devils are left to contemplate their blunt spikes:

       

‘Pathological Bias’ tells me the match ended in a ‘Desmond’ [*]: Riverside 2 Newton Heath 2 and that hearing the away fans exercising their bloated egos through moaning about the result as they were leaving the ground really adds icing to the cake. While the local fans take a rest in a favourite hostelry I will continue to be Juno, looking forward to more interesting things like our next conversation.

[* Desmond Tutu]

The Ugly Beautiful Game

The ‘lovely ugly town’ (Dylan Thomas) that grew up into a ‘pretty shitty city’ (Dougray Scott’s character in the film ‘Twin Town’) encounters a hostile reception from their neighbours in the capital of culture, beauty and refinement. The first ever South Wales Premier League derby sees the battle of the rivers Taff v. Tawe… what is it about so many of these football teams trying to tantalise my taste buds by adopting different kinds of birds as their emblems? Today the Bluebirds v. The Swans are getting ready to tear each other apart, as that rare moment emerges when something so loved by so many becomes tainted by a sinister back-drop of hatred for fellow supporters:

       V.        

We are all set for 90 minutes of the beautiful game to be played out in front of 27,000 magnificently mindless people who don’t quite get how world-definingly meaningless this event is to all but the supporters of each club. For many of those present the events on the pitch will take a mere secondary role of stoking up the vehemence felt by one tribe to another. The fact that both tribes share a nation’s pride seems superfluous, as whatever brain cells are possessed have surely been left firmly locked away at home.

Meanwhile, there are rather unusual pre-match preparations… for such a big match as this the away team squad have adopted a different pre-match warm-up, as they forgo the usual coach journey to the ground and have been spotted sneaking in via the local waterways:

Swan armada [1]

For the ugly folk wishing unmentionable pains on their rivals the game is supposed to be more important than matters of life and death (Bill Shankly), but in reality it is only 22 rich kids falling over while kicking each other, and kicking the modern day equivalent of a pigs bladder around an incredibly well manicured patch of grass. Despite tales of money, the beautiful side of the game has been widely attributed to these elegant swans through many plaudits from pundits and fans alike (but not from the snarling variety of fans found in these parts). If you are looking for the ugly side of the game, look no further than the so-called gentility of the bluebirds… not only do they have an owner so far out of touch with the reality of local passions, but they now have their very own El Pitbull aka Gary Medel.

But hang on, isn’t this billed as the South Wales derby? By my reckoning we are about to witness ‘The Rest of the World v Spain’ as the line-up of players is being announced. There could be as much as one local person on each side as the Cardiff team is represented by at least Scotland, England, France, Chile, Iceland and South Korea. As for Swansea they manage to parade more Spanish players than Barcelona or Real Madrid.

Games like these need careful preparation, and some of the away fans are spotted visiting one of my local hostelries before the match; they are probably debating what to eat and drink in the absence of any paella and rioja:

Swans at lunch

Strange rituals emerge on the pitch as the Swansea white huddle are asking each other why the crowd seems so hostile towards players of the beautiful game. Meanwhile the Cardiff red and black huddle debate the forthcoming duck-shoot, with swans substituted for the ducks.

Cardiff City v Swansea City [2]

But now it is 4.00p.m. Sunday 3rd November 2013, and the derby will never be the same again. This is a match that is being televised around the globe… Sky had better turn the crowd microphones down unless they wish to shock the delicate and faint-hearted. The question on everyone’s lips is ‘Who will be the first player to make the meaningless kissing of the badge gesture?’ It used to be a representation of the passion for their club, but now means a thank you to the club that is temporarily paying shed-loads of cash into their bank account until the next transfer… but who am I, a mere cat, to cast such cynicism on this working man’s sport that provides a platform for a young man to become a billionaire before he can count much past ten?

Half-time shows up without seeing the arrival of either the ugly or the beautiful, but there is encouraging signs for the home fans that El Pitbull is much more of an El Duracell, with no signs of the reputation that got him sent off 7 times in 80 games in Spain. Time to prey to the God of Cliches for a game of two halves…

Cardiff City v Swansea City [4]

 

It’s the second half, and cometh the hour cometh the game… a capital corker from CAPTAIN CAULKER signals the time for the home fans to go into paroxysms of ecstasy; after all football fans are nothing if not easily pleased by a goal for their team.

Steven Caulker towers above the Swansea defence to score the winner

The lively atmosphere throughout has now been injected with extra venom against the visiting fans in the corner of the ground. But, as 90 minutes pass and the fourth official exasperates the Cardiff crowd by awarding 5 extra minutes of stoppage time there is still a stage awaiting a drama… and up it steps in the 91st minute. Campbell the Cardiff striker is charging out wide of the goal as Vorm the Swansea goalkeeper scythes him to the ground (or at least brings him down without touching the ball). Is it yellow or is it red? On this occasion Cardiff fans have no doubt about the colour, it has to be a red card. The referee duly obliges and the Swansea goalkeeper has to walk. With no further substitutes left they have to nominate another player to be goalkeeper for the remaining few minutes. The tension ramps up, and the game gives die-hard fans of both sides something to argue about until the next derby.

The final whistle blows and the hype has fortunately remained unfulfilled. With a helicopter overhead, snarling police alsatians en masse in van-shaped cages, and a metal fence with thin blue line penning the away fans in, it is time for the home fans to disperse in the knowledge that Cardiff go above Swansea in the Premier League table. Some away fans might have been seen drowning their sorrows after the game in an unorthodox fashion:

Synchronised swanningFor the students of the stats it finished Purple Dragonbirds 1 Grey Swans 0.