Hooligans and Curry

Feb 9, 2013   #travel  #adventure 

Our first activity of the day was going to the Oxford-Bristol soccer game. We were warned before that both teams are 5-th or 6th level teams (as opposed to 1st level, like Man. U. or Arsenal, etc) and are therefore shitty, and also that no one in Oxford besides hardcore local fans really cares about Oxford football. Despite these warnings, we couldn’t be prepared for the magnitude of the cultural experience we were about to get.

We take the bus there and are instantly greeted by hundreds of police officers lined up along the trail. I’m used to police presence at sporting events, but have never seen this many for such a small game. We immediately head to the beer tent outside of the stadium. The tent contains a couple of counters selling beer and cheap burgers, and the whole place is packed with fans. Once we grab beers we stand outside of the main crowd, who begin chanting loudly and in completely unintelligible accents. According to Connor, they were first chanting about Oxford’s and Bristol’s hatred of a mutual rival, and then the Bristol fans switched to chanting about their own team. It was hilarious listening to a bunch of drunk fans chant nonsensical things, but eventually the volatile combination of alcohol and rabid rival soccer fans turned sour (shocking, I know).

About 20 minutes from our arrival, a fight breaks out in the middle of the crowd. The cops quickly run over and break up the fight and surrounding crowd, which has a few effects. It broke up the main fight, but it also turned the crowd up a notch in anger and it dispersed everyone else who wanted to fight all around the parking lot. While this might not have been the ideal outcome, the cops were absolutely obligated to come in and break up the main mob before people started to get seriously hurt. Anyways, things start to get a bit more intense. Once the cops dispersed the main mob, we slowly tried to make our way to the stadium, but fights kept breaking out all around us. We stood only a few meters away from some, watching drunk British men seriously try and beat the crap out of each other with nothing held back. The standout fight happened as we were trying to edge around a grassy knoll. Two rival groups of about 5 people each saw each other from opposite sides of the knoll and immediately charged each other. Connor’s friend summed it up perfectly when he said it looked like “a shitty version of braveheart”. They met each other with drunken ferocity I’d never seen. I still vividly remember one guy knocking another over onto his knees and then kicking him square in the face. After seeing this outbreak, we started to walk with a little more purpose towards the stadium. Fortunately, seating is segregated in the stadium, making it the safest place to be in a few mile radius.

riot police

The police barricade after the game

As we were warned, the actual game was horrible. The level of soccer was noticeably lower than any game you’d ever see on tv. The first half mostly consisted of each team booting the ball back and forth, with occasional passing and moments of real soccer. It wasn’t that pretty to watch, but at the very least the crowd provided great entertainment. Highlights included a drunk old guy behind us calling a player a “fat cunt” at the top of his lungs, two younger teenage fans calling every player “shit” in a scathing tone with thick accents, and the constant yelling between the two extremely well barricaded sections. The other team won by a PK and a sloppy breakaway goal, and we left before the rival team’s fans started to leave.

Leaving the stadium, there was a row of about 100 police officers barricading the rival fans from oxford fans, which provided much-needed separation and a great photo op. We promptly left on the next bus to town and went back to Tom’s house to reflect on the experience.

After getting a couple drinks in us, we went to curry with the bros and the lads. “Getting curry” is a popular activity in Oxford, exclusively because all of the curry restaurants are BYOB. As you might imagine, this attracts tons of college students. We got there around 8:30 or so, which was just late enough to be seated next to 2 loud tables full of drunk college students making speeches and drinking. We got some curry, did more drinking, and eventually became those obnoxious college students, making speeches and all. Tom ordered a fancy dish that came out sizzling, and one of the lads said “happy birthday” jokingly to Tom. We thought nothing of it, but after dinner was done a waiter brought out a complementary birthday cake for Tom, so we had to give fake birthday speeches about Tomas. I froze up in the middle of mine, Hannah and Jimmy made friendly and praising speeches, and all of the lads’ speeches were (predictably) filled with healthy amounts of sarcasm and insults. Connor went last, and decided it more appropriate to punch the cake instead of actually making a speech. After eating some disfigured cake, we went to a couple more pubs and then headed back to bed.