The superfan has seen more Olympic action.
There was a surreal element to Saturday afternoon. After years of doing a Mexican wave on my own as the only spectator at Paddington Rec, I found myself watching a match that actually involved Mexico. I decided, perhaps perversely, to be the only person not doing the wave at Wembley.
All things being equal, I would probably have taken in Whyteleafe’s Kent League opener against Canterbury City at Church Road. But they weren’t equal this time, because I’d booked a £60 ticket through The FA for the Olympic quarter-final back in December and had been looking forward to it ever since.
I knew there was a possibility that GB would be playing but I was happy with Mexico v Senegal. The first international match I ever went to was a ‘Group One’ fixture between Mexico and France in the 1966 World Cup. It was a balmy July evening at Wembley and that afternoon I’d competed in several events in our School Sports Day. Due to cramp I had to sit side-saddle. It was a 1-1 draw.
I’ve been to countless sell-out matches at Wembley but couldn’t remember seeing such crowds as I did on Saturday. I elected to travel to Wembley Central, rather than Wembley Park, but you couldn’t move for people. The fact that there were close to 82,000 spectators for a match that didn’t involve the ‘home’ team indicates the incredible appeal of the Olympics…and of ‘football at Wembley’.
It was hugely entertaining. Just before kick-off I saw a girl near me ask four Mexican fans in their sombreros if she could photograph them. They were delighted to oblige. Mexico went 2-0 up and held it until the 69th minute, Senegal netted twice in seven minutes to square it at 2-2 and that was the score at the end of normal time. The Africans, perhaps wearied by their brave fight-back, conceded two goals in extra-time after giving the ball away in critical areas.
I’ve been fortunate enough to get a ticket for tomorrow’s Wembley semi. Japan v Mexico is a repeat of the bronze medal match of 1968, as you probably know. On that occasion Japan won 2-0 to disappoint a massive Mexican crowd of 105,000 inside Mexico City’s Aztec Stadium.
I was particularly interested to read one of the stand-out stats in the official programme for the football tournament. It said: “6 – Number of minutes it took Ahmed Faras (of Morocco) to score a hat-trick against Malaysia in the 6-0 win at Munich 1972”. I was there! It was played in a small town called Ingolstadt, which I believe has some connection with the Frankenstein legend. It was the fifth of six Olympic matches that I saw during a week staying in Nuremberg.
The FA Cup starts this coming weekend and I plan to take in a couple of Extra Preliminary Round ties.