Today we're going to a Chelsea match (Blues vs. Wigan Athletic), which I was really excited about until we ran into a Wigan supporter on the tube last night. My first real football hooligan! He was easy to pick out of the crowd: drunk, ruddy faced, with a physique sculpted by beer, pasties and chips. Bald head, built like a small tank, edgy, looking for trouble, bellowing "Chelsea fucking sucks" to nobody in particular as we all walked to the exit, spraying everyone within arms length with saliva and bits of crisps. He followed this with something straight out of Among the Thugs: "We're going to make a lot of money tonight, just you watch!" (bellowed at an even higher decibel, again to no one in particular as he was on his own in the crowd). Not only my first hooligan sighting, but my first exposure to an Intercity Jibber. The point of being on the jib is to follow one's team wherever they play, taking as little money as possible from home to support the endeavor. Once in the city, one attempts to scam and steal one's way into hotels, restaurants, bars and the match itself. The goal is to come back with more money than one left with. The person with the most money at the end wins.
We're sitting in Shed End, with all the rabid fans*. Apparently that means that we are supposed to sing and keep up the chatter. Everyone says that I shouldn't have a problem with the lads, but that Jay should keep a watch out. He has promised me that he won't respond to any drunken challenges with "You want a piece of this?" We might pick up a scarf with the colours today, but the jersey's are out of reach price-wise. There is nothing more depressing than doing the conversion between pounds and dollars, so I try to avoid thinking about it as much as possible. We're staying with my friend Tala in North Greenwich, so asides from taking her out to C & T Malaysian restaurant (in Chinatown, look for the little alleyway with a long queu), buying a few drinks at the White Hare in Covent Garden and picking up some groceries (at the 24 hour Stainsbury's in the industrial park near our place, the supermarket of choice for the zombie apocalypse, judging from our experience last night), we're getting off pretty lightly in terms of costs. The cheapest hostel beds here cost about 20 pounds, per person per night. For five nights, that's a pretty significant sum of money. I try to remember this fact when I think about how much the tickets to the match cost. There weren't many seats left, so we had to choose between view restricted for 22.50 ("If nobody stands up during the match at all, you'll be able to see something," said the ticket girl hopefully) and 45 for Shed End. There were better seats at 60, but that's just insane. The only part that gave me pause was that Terry, Cech and the Coles are out. I'm mainly sad about not seeing Terry play, but it's not looking too good for him after his surgery, so it didn't make sense to hold off seeing a match in the hopes that he'll be on the pitch anytime soon.
It's fun to pick up the discarded papers on the tube and get all the dirt on the various footballers. Becks and Posh are all over the tabloids, which is not unusual, but the news is saying that he's signed a deal with an LA team worth hundreds of millions. Yeah, he's a hottie and commands a lot of star power, but what's the point of buying someone for a decade at the end of their career? He'll be good for years yet, but will be declining all the same. The likelyhood that he'll get some kind of career-ending injury in the next few years is pretty strong, but I guess people in LA have more money than sense.
*Don't worry mom, true hooliganism at the matches is almost a thing of the past these days.