Chelsea FC, 24.5.09
I quite like Soccer Six. I like football, so that’s usually win/win. A day out, and some interesting sights on the pitch. Cool! I had a great time last year. It was at Millwall’s New Den, and after finally getting my press pass, I was allowed on the pitch, got to talk to some of the teams, took some great photos. When the camera wasn’t blowing up, of course.
So, with high hopes, new camera, voice recorder and some sarnies, I set off at the ungodly hour of 6.45. On arrival at CFC, though, chaos seemed to be the order of the day. My name wasn’t on the press list (again) so lucky I took my email with me. I got a gold wristband, and was sent upstairs. That seemed to be the VIP stand… why was I up here then? Back downstairs, and a helpful Samaritans lady pointed me to the press area.
THAT was a complete disappointment. It was half of the East Stand, including the dugout. The pitchside floor level is lower than the pitch itself, handy if you’re not quite 5′ and the barrier is quite high! So, only celebrities that played on that quarter of the pitch were within reach of my camera. I did go back up the stand a little way, but it wasn’t great. Not enough zoom. You needed a camera the size of me to get anything on the far side. Most of the blokes there were professionals and had all the goods. There was no chance of getting any soundbites from anyone either. There were promises that celebs would be brought over to the press, but I didn’t see that happen. No press were allowed anywhere else in the stadium, either. That put paid to my visiting the other Justin fans on the West side.
Some one did tell me there was a press room, with drinks – but when I asked, the press room turned out to be the kit room for the day – all the teams were going in to pick theirs up from there. Oops.
It wasn’t looking very good, until I saw familiar faces in the stand upstairs. I went back up – after a few trials and errors, I ended up in a service lift to the right floor! There wasn’t any direct access between floors, and after that I had to come out of the stadium and back in again through Reception. Anyway, I did find people to talk to, thank goodness!
I watched some football. Most of it wasn’t very good – if the girls’ teams carry on playing like that, I’ll bloody well get on the pitch myself. WHO wears their hair in a beehive to play? False eyelashes? Girls – you looked ridiculous, and made girls’ football look silly as well. Yes, I know it was for charity, and credit’s due to them for playing. Didn’t stop me holding my head in my hands – being an ex player I suppose I’m a bit biased. It was dirty as well, out there!
The men did better, there were some good moves and a few skills out there. Justin played well, but not for long enough to get really into his stride. He wants to play every week now, so if you need a player… His Telstar team were knocked out in the group stages. Next year, it’s gonna be Trojan Football. Justin’s already fit, looking well and healthy, so the smart money’s on Team Hot Leg to dazzle and beguile. (Although that might be before kick off :D)
This really is a fantastic event. The teams, the games, the charity, everything. This year, with no access to any other part of the ground or to the players, it just felt like a corporate event. It’s supposed to be fun for everyone! If you didn’t have a professional camera or a TV one, it wasn’t fun. If I hadn’t seen those faces up above, I’d have been there on my own all day, 3 hour journey each way, and had nothing to show for it. I’d probably have gone home much earlier.
There WERE Capello and Sven Goran Eriksson lookalikes, though.
There was a Press donation of £25 payable. That’s a lot when you don’t have an expense account, and I didn’t know about it until two days before. I don’t begrudge donating to Samaritans – but for what I got that was useful from it, I’d have been better off in the West stand with my friends, with a normal ticket. I got my press pass to report for the fans, dammit, not to flog my pictures to magazines and newspapers!
Thanks, Chelsea, for really not making things easy. From what I heard, the disabled area wasn’t so great either. Although the stewards were apparently pretty good, it’s not handy if people keep coming to stand in front of the wheelchairs, is it?
Soccer Six and the Samaritans had nothing to do with any of the niggles. They do a great job. Can we go back to informal, next year, please?