So I’m on my way down towards ANZ Stadium for another Asian Cup group game, this time Qatar vs Bahrain for the ignominy of coming last in their group. Gonna be a barnburner! As this time I’m fairly certain this will be a low-key evening for me, I figure why not use this time and blog about it. Sure I’m not live blogging about the destruction of my marriage or anything, but still, strap yourselves in.
7:22pm: Initial observations: the Iranian population of Sydney vastly outnumbers the Qatari and Bahrainian populations of Sydney. This is a shock, to be sure. No queues tonight bitches.
7:29pm: It has started to rain. I have a ticket in Row 11. I’m going to get wet. The prospect of shivering to death and catching pneumonia in the middle of summer is not a particularly pleasant one. I’ve resolved to walk some laps of the stadium to warm up before going out into the uncompromising blizzard. Yayfitness!
7:38pm: I’ve completed my first lap. Trying to gauge the level of Qatari support versus Bahrainian support is nigh on impossible because THEIR FLAGS LOOK EXACTLY THE SAME. Bahrain is red and Qatar is maroon. Fun fact I’ve discovered for the day. Actually, being able to identify national flags is one of my goals now that I’ve mastered capital cities of the world.
7:47pm: Completed my second lap around ANZ. I feel like I’m walking at a moderate pace for Australia. I also feel like there are like three people in this stadium and all of the service workers and coppers must be noticing me circling the place and thinking I’m some sort of power walking weirdo.
7:58pm: I complete my third lap (this time with water-purchasing interlude), finally feel that familiar sensation of overheating like a motherfucker, and make my way out in time to see the coin toss. This is my third Asian Cup game in a week and I’ve missed all six national anthems being played. During this lap I also place some bets on tonight’s sporting events, including this one as I decide to back the favourites – Qatar – and try to make it interesting.
8:00pm: Kick off! Fears of my premature death due to complications from pneumonia are unfounded as it’s stopped raining. I’ve been seated directly in front of a group of like twenty or so kids who have apparently decided to adopt Bahrain as their team. Damn it. Backed the wrong horse.
8:05pm: 5m – One of the Bahrainians pulls off this outrageous backheel pass and the play ends with the first real chance of the game. The feeling of having backed the wrong horse is growing.
8:18pm: 18m – Not much has been happening up until this point, but now the game is starting to open up and chances are being created. I notice the dozen maybe dudes behind the goal singing what I’m sure are Wanderers chants and substituting “Bahrain” for every “Wanderers”. At this point I’m fairly convinced that there are more ironic Bahrainian supporters at this game than un-ironic ones. Straya.
8:21pm: 21m – Bahrain receive an indirect free kick just outside the box for a high foot. Homie on the free kick TAKES A SHOT AT GOAL. I find it slightly troubling that an international footballer has apparently not grasped the pertinence of the “indirect” in indirect free kick.
8:24pm: It’s starting to rain. Fuck. Pneumonia City, here I come. It’s heavy enough to force the jabbering kids behind me to take shelter, but for some mystifying reason I refuse to surrender to Mother Nature and stubbornly stay in my seat. It’s only water!
8:27pm: 27m – The rain has eased and all my life decisions are validated. A Qatari forward gives away a free kick for harassing the goalkeeper while he’s trying to release the ball. This game is descending more and more into Under 8s with each passing minute.
8:34pm: 34m – GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL! Just as I say that, Bahrain get their shit together and put one in the net. Nice work. That ‘wrong horse being backed’ feeling is back again and has been all but confirmed. Oops.
8:47pm: Halftime. Bahrain 1 – Qatar 0. Being as I am now damp as a dishcloth and getting cold, I’m going to go for some more laps during the break to warm up again. It’s probably terrible in some way that I do more warming up as a spectator here than I usually do before I actually play football.
9:03pm: Play is back on. I only managed one lap, with my power walking plans being scuppered firstly by the need for a bathroom break, and then by the need for Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Alas. However, I have surrendered to Mother Nature and found a seat undercover for the second half.
9:09pm: 51m – Qatar manage to put one in the net but it is deemed offside. Poor buggers can’t buy a goal.
9:23pm: Qatar are trying now (aren’t they ever!) but the game is lulling a bit. I’m looking around at the crowd. It’s much smaller than the last game without the benefit of 20,000 raucous Iranian supporters. I’m guessing it’s about 9,000.
9:25pm: 67m – GOOOOOOOOOOOOAL! Every time I dismiss this game a goal is scored. Go me. Qatar even it up with a nicely placed effort from a free kick. Game on sports fans.
9:31pm: 73m – I wasn’t expecting a classic or anything, but some of these free kicks have been woefully taken. I’D have a better crack than some of these muppets. Qatar have just received another free right outside the box on my side. Give it to me! Pulling my boots on as we speak, leave it for me!
9:32pm: 74m – They didn’t leave it for me. They also did nothing with that free. Argh. When does football season start again? April? How far away is April? OK. Fine.
9:33pm: 75m – Official attendance 4,841. I officially retire from estimating crowds.
9:39pm: 81m – GOOOOOOOOOOOAL! Bahrain regain the lead after one of their dudes lobs the motherfucking keeper. Back to Under 8s we go. Nice piece of vision to spot him out though. Well in, Bahrainian goalscorer!
9:48pm: 90m – Qatar create maybe their best chance of the night aside from the goal, but it was not to be. All seems like much of a muchness now as we head into injury time.
9:52pm: Fulltime. Bahrain 2 – Qatar 1. Not the most barnstorming of games I’ve ever seen in my life, but one can’t expect too much from a dead rubber like this. At least there were three goals. At $5 a goal it’s hard to complain.
I don’t know that I’ll see any more of this tournament, since they have the gall to charge actual money for tickets to the knockout stages, instead of the loose change I’ve been shelling out so far. So this may be the end of my Asian Cup live experience. And it’s been damn good. I saw Australia play a blistering game and win big, I saw crazy Iranians releasing doves, and I saw…this game. I love sport in this country.