In the Football Trenches – Kuwait Vs. South Korea FIFA 2014 Qualifier

Yesterday marked the losing of my Stadium-ginity, as I had never before been to a live football match in all my 25 years.

And the experience was OVERWHELMING!

Viva, the organisers of this event, had invited bloggers (such as myself) and arranged special tickets for us.

I started my drive towards the stadium at 7:20, afraid I might miss it. Fortunately, I was mistaken, the traffic could be seen a mile away. Now I realised why people had told me to go MUCH earlier, it was not to get in line for tickets, but to get in line for seating!

I drove in and out of deadlocked traffic sniffing for a spot to park my car, finding none. In the end, I entered an almost empty parking lot, directly infront of the water towers in the area, and left my car there. On the way towards the stadium, the police were kind enough to direct us towards the entrance, on the way there I saw a fellow blogger, who stood out because she had her name emblazoned on the back of her Jersey (Q8Rain), I quickly followed her, in total non-stalker manner, as I realised she must have the same tickets I do!

I called up MyBloogle’s guest, Mark, and he was also scouting for a spot. On the way to the stadium, I realised there were plenty of closer spaces, however the police had cordoned off the area, much to my chagrin.

The ambience outside the stadium was electric, you could almost feel the ground shake beneath the feet of the thousands of fans.

I called Mark again, and he cancelled, it was a huge place to cover, and I hoped he wouldn’t get lost. I was outside the gate, tickets in hand, awaiting. Lo and behold, like moths to a flame, right before me I saw Mark! How on earth we had congregated to the same location is beyond me. I gave him his ticket, and we headed over to the gate.

And now the fun begins.

The gate through which we were supposed to enter had been turned into a “Family Only” area, as the crowd started getting rowdy, the Army started shoving people out of the way forcibly. We quickly stood back and walked to other gates, our tickets forgotten in our pockets.

Before any bloggers invited by Viva complain about the seating, please note the following. arranged the entire match, not just for the bloggers, but for all of Kuwaits spectators. Bloggers were special guests, but spectators like everyone else. However, in the matter of an international football match, it is a matter of national security. Hence the Army’s presence.

Mark and I moved from one gate to another, even going as far as the visiting sides gate, to be told the same thing, the stands were packed and there was no room to throw a needle, much less seat a full grown adult.

As we moved from gate to gate, we witnessed sheer bedlam as people were climbing over the fence, right before the very eyes of the police! There was one ticked off American fellow who purportedly flew in all the way from California to watch the match, and was furious at the fact that he was sold a ticket which he would not be able to use.

Mark had a plan. We journeyed far outside to the other gates, and attempted to walk in through there. The first gate we passed inside the stadium was bolted. Not to be disheartened, we continued forth and came upon, an open gate!

We quickly walked up the stairs to find, much to our chagrin, that there were no empty seats, however, the organiser at the gate, seeing our tired and weary faces, blue shirts and my face-paint, allowed us to sit on the stairs.

My choice of black jeans for the evening was a mistake, as it was quickly turned into a vile shade of dust, with people trampling up and down all over me.

The game was etching on, and it seemed no sooner did we sit down that South Korea opened up the score with a 1 – nil lead.

The atmosphere within the stands was beyond explanation. We clapped, we cheered, we jeered and we booed the ref’s wrong calls. I was unaware of the chants, but I did make out one:

The Blue, The Blue, like the waves of the Sea.

I noticed number 7, the only player on the national team that I can recognise instantly, and little by little was able to pick his name from the crowd, Fahad Al-Onaizi (love the hair).

When it came time to wave, we all stood up and screamed, keeping an eye on the stands before us to witness the movement of the wave. We did it 5 or 6 times, I lost count, and my camera lens could not properly capture the rising motion of the crowd. You just had to be there.

We saw a person get carried away by others from the stands, what had happened to him was anyone’s guess, I saw no blood, the kid must have fainted from the lack of oxygen.

Once half-time called, the stampede began, and again, I was trampled as people left their seats. Unaware of the decorum to be followed once people leave their seats, we elected to remain on our concrete stairs. Two Kuwaiti’s around us took pity on our plight, and in a warm gesture of Arab Hospitality offered us juice, which we accepted. Mark returned the favor in kind by offering them ice-cream, which they declined. The half-time break saw a flurry of people walk down the stairs, as well as up. No room to maneuver.

As the second half kicked off, the stairs were relatively less crowded. 10 or so minutes into the second half, Kuwait scored the equaliser.

And the crowd went wild!

At one point, the ref failed to call a penalty for Kuwait, and people started jeering and, the more raucous supporters started tossing trash into the pitch. The other spectators themselves told that minute group to cease and desist.

As the game whistle blew, the festivities came to a close, a one all tie was declared.

I had the supporters in the stadium at 5,000; Mark said 8,000. What do you say?

The only negatives I would point to would be the overflow of trash outside the stadium, as again, there were no organised trash bins, which even if there were, I do not believe the people would have used them. Also, a few of the younger supporters were jeering any Asian looking person in the streets, believing them to be South Korean. A few, not all.

I had attempted to take an alternative route to my car, and ended up circling around the entire length of the stadium from the outside, having passed by the landmark signaling my parking spot twice, completely unaware.

Despite the mishaps, the experience was thoroughly enjoyable.

Stills from the event are soon to come.

August 2011 ( View complete archive page )

September 2011 ( View complete archive page )

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