Saturday, May 26

Stamford Bridge

The company I work for has a box at Stamford Bridge. Amongst the usual benefits of such a thing (not that I've been to watch a match there yet), employees get to play a full game of football there once a year. Today was the first time we were going to do that. My brother was to go with me - he's a big time Chelsea fan so if anything he and his son would have a nice Saturday out.

Now, I'm not a footballer. I used to play with friends pretty regularly at least once a week, but haven't done that for a long while. I like to think that I'm relatively fit though, but even if I could run like a madman on the day I was expecting to be pretty sore for the days after. This was only a problem since I was expecting to climb a mountain tomorrow too. Still, we had a bit of a training match on Tuesday and I was hoping most of the aces due to rust were out of the way. I was pretty confident that I'd get through it all okay.

I've never actually been to a football match before. I've been to (mainly empty) stadiums so entering Stamford Bridge itself wasn't that amazing. We didn't even get to use the away changing rooms like we thought we were going to. I was pretty underwhelmed to be honest. Still we were there for the game, not the changing rooms. We got kitted up and headed toward the field.

Paradoxically, the pitch was both big and small. Small, because it was no way near the size it appears via the fish eye lenses we see through when watching a game on our television screens. Big, because I'd had never played a match on a full pitch before. Our playground style of playing football was sure to wear us out pretty quickly; luckily there was enough substitutes on each side to cap the total time played each.

Warming up was a nightmare. I did it in the way I would have for my usual running, but this was a clear mistake; as soon as I tried to sprint I felt a sharp pain in the centre of my right quadricep. Something was seriously wrong, and all of a sudden I was thinking about the security of the match and, more importantly, the climb tomorrow.

I wasn't starting the game so I took the twenty minutes of so I had to try to stretch it out. No joy. Although the pain had subsided, there was no way I was going to manage anything more than a jog out there. In hindsight I should have pulled out completely; I'm no expert but this felt pretty serious. The excitement was too much though and when I was called up to play I acted as if nothing was wrong.

I was never the most skilful with the ball during training and so not much was expected from me in play - I was told that I had exceptional pace and that it should come in handy. Due to the injury I had none of that today; generally I was pretty impotent out there. From my chosen position of "hovering over the right somewhere" I got a few touches on the ball and closed down a few people from the other side, but each time I tried to out pace someone I would normally have done without effort, a sharp pain shot down my right hand side and convinced me to stop.

And after a total of around thirty minutes or so of play I did completely. England (our side) had already scored by then (the only goal of the game) and so in some tenuous way I thought I had done my bit, even though I wasn't close to being out of breath. My leg was in pretty bad shape, even when standing, and I had become pretty concerned. After my shower, I met up with my brother and nephew to wait for our chance to take a penalty, at which point I finally managed to score.

That was pretty much it for the afternoon; our time at Stamford Bridge was up and I had another rather large thing to worry about, magnified even more by the sharp pain I felt shooting down my leg each time I took a step toward it.

As always, pictures from the day out should be up on Picasa any time now.

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