The absence of sound is eerie. Here it is, the long, (almost) straight queue of football fans leaving the stadium on a semi-dark winter Sunday mid-afternoon. Through my car window (rolled up to avoid the cold wind) I watch them shuffling along quietly. I interpret the smiles on some faces as success on the pitch. Suddenly I am curious. I might not support this specific football team but their current manager used to coach the club I follow until a year ago and opinions on his performance so far have been divided. I open the car window a few inches. A chilly breeze, that feels as soft on my face as a taffeta handkerchief, steals in. I ask a man carrying a boy on his shoulders what the score was. One nil to them. The white cockerel on the left of his jacket is covered by one of the boy’s legs. My attention turns back to the road. The traffic builds up quickly and what should have been a half-hour round trip to the barber’s becomes a three-quarters-of-an-hour return journey home.
The crowd might be muted (by the cold weather, perhaps? Or maybe by the fact that a Belgian defender who played in Holland until last summer scored the winning goal under the careful gaze of a Portuguese manager in the English Premier League? Perhaps fans are still coming to terms with football’s globalisation phenomenon, its pros and cons?), but I am sure their stomachs are rumbling. As befits the modern, standard post-match routine the nearby takeaways and fast food joints beckon. Still holding plastic cups with lukewarm, watered down, tasteless and colourless tea in their hands, many fans pay a visit to Jerky’s (Caribbean grill), Tennessee Express (chicken & ribs) or McDonald’s (…and the little folk/who share a joke/who nudge and poke/about that bloke/who slurps his Coke/and gives his goatee beard a stroke/were just passing by…). There are also those who opt for a pint and stay behind at The Coach and Horses.
The traffic is still moving at a snail’s pace when I make up my mind to turn right at a mini-roundabout ahead of me in order to cut through the back streets of this typical London urban area. The low-rise houses flanked on either side of the road look ominously silent on the drivers who follow a similar course to mine. On the pavement, a smaller group of supporters clad in dark blue tops and jackets continue to shuffle along quietly as the moribund winter mid-afternoon turns into early evening.
Next Post: “Sunday Mornings: Coffee, Reflections and Music”, to be published on Sunday 20th January at 10am (GMT)