Blaise Tapp: One experience to tick off the bucket list

CHEERS: England fans in Lille celebrate as their team score.
CHEERS: England fans in Lille celebrate as their team score.
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There are many things which I would like to accomplish before my days are spent feeling up melons in supermarkets and moaning about the price of a cuppa.

On that bucket list are the usual suspects of travelling to places where they don’t necessarily have happy hours and seeing my numbers come up on either a Friday or Saturday night – I’m not fussed which one.

I’ve also thrown in many attainable goals too including being able to comfortably wear a pair of 40 inch pants, which also means that more exercise would be in order. But it is my love of sport, and football in particular, which presented me the best chance of ticking off at least one of those not-so-ambitious goals

Over the last three decades I have watched hundreds of games of football up and down the country, but until last week I’d never before travelled abroad to watch a match but when my chance finally came, it was a prospect which filled me with concern.

I headed to Lille, which for 48 hours, seemed to be at the epicentre of a media frenzy which had, with some justification, gripped much of Europe. The goings on in Marseille involving groups of Russian fans, local youths and some English supporters set the tone for my brief trip.

I suspect that peacetime Lille has rarely experienced anything like it, such was the huge security presence which featured heavily armed police, soldiers and tough looking types with three days’ stubble and automatic weapons.

If the truth be told I was more than a little uneasy about the whole situation as, following the trouble in Marseille, travelling across the English Channel did feel rather like venturing into the lion’s den. None of my loved ones could understand why I wanted to travel to a place where trouble was so widely predicted just to watch a game of football, a game of football between Russia and Slovakia no less.

‘Why would you want to risk it, especially for teams you don’t support?’ was a question I was asked on more than one occasion and the answer was simple: I didn’t see it as a risk, as like the vast majority of those who have travelled to France over the past couple of weeks have gone there for one reason only – to watch some football.

Yes, we did see idiots while we were there but they were in the minority.

It is fair to say that over the past 15 or so years what was once regarded as the ‘English problem’ of hooliganism seems to have improved vastly on the dark days of the 1980s, thanks to a combination of better policing, modern day stadia and, with it, more expensive tickets. But, there will always be idiots, of all nationalities, who cause bother wherever they go.

For those of us with the brain capacity to enjoy match days without throwing bottles and thumping strangers, the game will continue to occupy our dreams and even form part of our ambitions.

Date: 20th September 2017.
Picture James Hardisty.
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