Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Poland v England. 16/10/12

"We can put a man on the moon and split the atom but we can't shut the roof on a bloody football stadium"

Poland P-P England. Stadion Narodowy.
Tuesday 16/10/13
Thank God for Ryanair. Four words that you are about as likely to hear together as "Ann Widdecombe is hot". But this is a genuinely heartfelt thanks to Michael O'Leary for the fact that he was able to fly me to Lodz and back for less than £60 so that the trip to see the World Cup qualifier between Poland and England wasn't a massive and pointless black hole in the wallet.

It rained so hard that people turned to blurs
Stadion Narodowy from the outside was impressive. It would
be more impressive inside if the roof shut.
You see because of the incompetence of whoever runs Stadion Narodowy in Warsaw - and I suspect it may be Frank Spencer - there was no game to see. Rain that would have had Noah working double time had fallen in the 24 hours before the game and despite that, nobody seemed to have the brainwave of making use of the fact the stadium has a retractable roof.

Oh look, an open roof. That seems sensible
Indeed, there wasn't even any sort of announcement that the game had been called off inside the stadium. Most England fans found out via text messages or calls from home that it had been postponed before Mr Spencer had the good grace to inform those in the ground.

More suited to Tom Daley than Wayne Rooney
It was pretty obvious from the moment you got a glimpse of the Stadion Narodowy pitch that there was going to be no football played. Both goal mouths were covered in surface water and it certainly didn't need the match official to come out and throw a ball around for ten minutes to confirm it. What he should have done is called for more volunteers from the stands to invade the pitch, as two chaps did to act out a penalty shoot out with an invisible ball before aquaplaning away from the chasing stewards in scenes that could have come straight from a Chuckle Brothers show - with Paul and Barry funnily enough being another two men who could have done a better job than the Polish FA.

These pitch invaders stage a penalty shoot out to alleviate
the boredom
Cue the Benny Hill music as the invaders aquaplane away from
the chasing stewards
The stadium itself was very impressive. Built for the recent European Championships, it was due to be packed to capacity for this game and the atmosphere would have been raucous if the flag display before the postponement was anything to go by. The outside of the ground was lit up in red and white which made for a nice spectacle. What didn't was the three security checks England fans had to go through before getting to the turnstile, by which team the weather had turned most peoples tickets to mush making them incompatible with the scanning machines.

Polish fans do their display with it being obvious there will
be no football today
Easily the best thing about the stadium was the toilets and chiefly the fact they featured a large number of those new Dyson airblade hand dryers. It led to the surreal scene of a plethora of England fans stripping off in order to dry their clothes. Not that it made much difference as two minutes after leaving the venue you were soaked to the bone again.

Lack of football aside, it was a very decent trip. Ryanair flew me into Lodz from where an £8, two hour train to Warsaw was taken. Anywhere you can buy pints for £1.20 or drink  flavoured vodka straight is always likely to be a good time and this was no different. The city itself used to be something of a concrete jungle but has shaken off a lot of it's communist past in recent years with western style skyscrapers popping up all over the place. The crown jewel of these tall buildings remains one that was built by the Soviets however in the form of the Palace of Culture and Science - even if the locals don't tend to think so.

Palace of Science and Culture - a great communist building
The Old Town was a beautiful part of the city and the place to drink before the game, which I unfortunately missed having spent most of Tuesday afternoon in bed sleeping off one of the most horrific hangovers ever. That was induced after drinking with a Leeds and a Watford fan in a bar the previous evening and partaking in "White Ghosts" - shots which basically made me into what they are named after.

White Ghosts - the worst drinks in the world
Having walked to the ground for the game - a huge mistake that left my shoes needing three straight days of drying once home - the metro was taken back and a quick search on the internet back at the £9 a night hostel made it pretty apparent that extending the visit by a day to take in the rearranged trip wasn't really on the cards.

The three day trip cost just £150 in total for flights, accommodation and food and drink so even though it ultimately proved to be a total waste of time in footballing terms, it was ultimately not a total waste of an obscene amount of money. It could have been had I been hit with a large fine for not having a valid metro ticket on the way to Warsaw Central Station for the journey back to Lodz, but when the ticket guard realised I was English he kindly let me off due to the football debacle, even offering his appologise on behalf of Poland. Perhaps he knew Mr Spencer? But thank God for him. And most importantly, one last time - thank God for Ryanair.

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