Having arrived at Watford Junction at 8.15 and run/power-walked to the Vic just in time to hear the half-time whistle, I then had to sit through a second half that made a mockery of the effort I’d made to witness it.
I was going to write that this was the first time I’d ever missed the entire first half of a football match, but then I remembered that it wasn’t quite true. Back in the late 80s I went Interrailing with my friend Andy, and we spent a hectic (and sweltering) August day in Munich: Dachau concentration camp in the morning, the obligatory visit to a beer hall in the evening, and in between, what else but a trip to the Olympic Stadium to watch Bayern Munich in action. (I’m sure the city has some fine museums, galleries and historic buildings, but we only had one day and you’ve got to get your priorities right.)
It was a cunning plan, and I thought I’d cracked it when I consulted a tube map and found there was a station right by the ground. True, there was an asterisk leading to a note that said ‘only open on matchdays’, but that was no problem; this was a matchday, wasn’t it?
I don’t know if I misread the map, or if there was some exception to the rule I wasn’t aware of. I just remember the train ending its journey at the station before the one we wanted and the conductor turfing us off. Okay, we’ll get a bus, we thought – except that there weren’t any due at the stop outside the station for hours. The whole area was deserted, in fact, as only German towns can be on Saturday afternoons, when the shops close and everyone stays at home.
And so we ended up walking to the Olympic Stadium, through a vast residential area that was originally the 1972 Olympic Village, arriving – yes – in time to see the second half of the match (though we still had to pay the full ticket price,). I can’t remember who Bayern were playing, but I do remember that the inside of the stadium was unlike any I’d been in before and since –and that the 45 minutes of football I saw that day was a damn sight more entertaining than the second half against Bristol City.
Next time I’ll be getting an earlier train, that’s for sure.