The Accidental England Fan
By @Iwantcurlyhair2
Wednesday 15 Feb 2012 19:45:00
Browse all @iwantcurlyhair2 articles
 


 

I am a Geordie born and bred... I consider myself English for many a generation and a family history written into Northumberland fabric. So it is easy for me to say Newcastle United has my heart and I have only really ever seen the England as a concern for our players, especially given the numbers of our boys that I've seen return with an injury from their unneeded jaunts away.

 

In 2006 I had my eyes opened a little... I was lucky enough to win a writing competition for two tickets to England v Sweden in the World Cup. I took a car ride out to Germany through Holland and over to Cologne. It was a wonderful and new experience for me. The game it's self met my previous injury concerns seeing Michael Owen destroying his ankle in the opening five minutes but I met a huge variety of people from all over the world. The thing that grabbed me most was the number of Geordies I bumped into (“Geordies here, Geordies there” really is an understated fact). The crowd were missing the irritating Ingerland lot that the Wembley games seem to breed and it felt good to see football live in the barren summer months. After this I joined the England Fans Away group and have had the pleasure of feeling part of a new shared experience much like the old away days on the Armstrong Galley buses with the Toon.

Since 2006, I have been to many away days but the obviously highlights in the qualifying were obliterated by the visit to South Africa last summer. The football was terrible but the resulting 4,000 mile road trip and the experiences it brought will stay with me forever. 2014 sees Brazil host the competition in what will potentially be my last stab at freedom having lost faith in FIFA with the craziness of Russia and Qatar following it. The Euro Qualification matches count for “Caps”, much like the much talked about points systems at NUFC, I am collecting them in the hope Brazil becomes an option for a football holiday experience of a life time.

 

Last month the international break brought the grunts and groans from my football following mates. I on the other hand had a smile, and with a ticket for Sofia sorted, headed out on Wizz Air, which needs to be experienced to be believed. Luton airport really is a shit hole but £50 to get me the 4 hours to Bulgaria I may have even considered Sunderland airport...Oh wait, what airport. Once there, I was meeting two other lads who have become regulars like me and we dropped bags off at the hotel before walking out of the city towards the Vasil Levski National Stadium. A slow stroll through the city park and its bars proved eventful. England fans are not always welcomed but locals were friendly and I had no idea how important my Shearer Euro 96 shirt would be as an icebreaker. The Bulgarian NUFC supporters group accidentally bumped into me, seeing the shirt they made it a priority to show off their tattoos and ask what I thought of the new summer signings. Free drinks and great banter and an eye opener that Newcastle is a global name even now.

 

The match its self was over in the first half with the Bulgarians failing to get out of the blocks. Once the third English goal hit the back of the net, the Stadium atmosphere changed from aggression directed at the England fans to an intercity fight between Sofia's big clubs. The two opposing ends behind each goal reverted to club rivalry and spent there efforts abusing each other. Levski versus CSKA clearly backs up my club over country feeling but I hope I never experience that with a mackem. Being held back in the ground for over an hour seemed extreme until we were let out through the dark of the park with a low Police presence. Bulgaria has seen hard times with the economic down turn but the Friday Night party scene was a live and buzzing once we made our way back into town. Saturday was cleverly filled by the Bulgarian FA with free tickets to a lower league game and a CSKA friendly match relocated to Sofia for our benefit. Over all a great experience that very much reminded me of time spend in Budapest if anyone remembers Ferencváros.

You can follow me on Twitter @iwantcurlyhair2

 

 

Footnote:

 

I lost a great friend and football team mate to Pancreatic Cancer. To mark his passing I decided I would try my bit to raise some money by running Berlin Marathon. 

Training for it is no easy thing and just as I started to progress from jogging to running I was struck down by fate. Two things I will never forget happened that weekend, Tiote lashed home the spiritual winner against Arsenal and I had a stroke. A blood clot entered my brain, paralyzed the right side of my body putting me in intensive care for 5 days. Luckily it came out and I was determined to get back to normal. The training restarted a few weeks later and last month I ran the 26.2 miles.

I share my story today for two reasons. One, I hope everyone facing hard times can find the strength to keep going and, two, to highlight the fund-raising cause.

 

If you would like to donate please visit www.justgiving.co.uk/iwantcurlyhair2 or text code "IWCH92 £x" where x is your donation to 70070. 

Thanks @iwantcurlyhair2



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