I guess it is not often that someone attends a professional football match specifically to see the referee but I was actually crazy enough to do just that. In my defence the match did involve the team I support and it was a big match. It was, however, one that I probably would have given a miss had it not been for the appointment of a particular official. It turned out to be a very eventful evening!
Following a top football club is an expensive occupation and if they are in the Champions League the sheer number of fixtures can be daunting. Inevitably many fans have to pick and choose the matches they attend as buying tickets for every fixture is beyond their budget. I was in just this situation being a Liverpool supporter and had decided that I would go to most of the league games but just one of the group matches in the Champions League. I was going to make this one fixture the match against Borussia Dortmund but then discovered that Pierluigi Collina was refereeing the Dynamo Kiev game and that changed everything.
Pierluigi Collina was a great hero of mine. I believed him to be the best official the sport had ever known and I found his style immensely entertaining. This bald tax inspector from Italy was a bit of a legend and I had always wanted to go to a match that he was officiating. Here was my chance and so I decided to attend the match but it turned out to be a far more costly enterprise than I had anticipated.
In the event the match itself passed off without much incident. Collina was brilliant as usual but had little to do and the game ended with Liverpool winning 1:0. The most exciting part of the whole affair came just after I had taken my seat. I looked up to see former Liverpool and England striker David Johnson entering the stand and was shocked and pleasantly surprised when he sat next to me. I spent the entire first half trying to ignore him as I am sure famous footballers get tired of fans fawning over them but at half time he started talking to me. It seemed strange to be chatting away to a man who had been a hero on the pitch two decades previously. The episode seemed to be the icing on the cake. I had made the right decision in squeezing in that extra fixture.
After the Match
I left the stadium in good spirits and made my way back to the car. I had decided to stay in Liverpool for the night before making the long journey home. I was horrified to turn the corner into the street where I had parked to see my hazard lights flashing and glass all over the road. Someone had smashed my window and broken into the car. There was glass everywhere but thankfully I had had nothing in the car worth stealing. My last minute decision to attend the match had proved very costly. I usually arranged to park on a friend’s drive in front of their garage doors but had not had time to contact them and had therefore been forced to park on the street. I then drove down to my hotel to be presented with yet another problem. The hotel did not have a car park and I had a car with no window which I could not leave on the street. I decided to leave it in the car park of an adjacent hotel and positioned it between two vans to obscure the fact that I had no window. After arranging for a new window to be fitted in the morning I retired to bed cursing my luck.
The Next Morning
The following day I returned to my car to be greeted by an animated concierge. It turned out that he had been frantically searching half the night for the guest who owned the car in order to tell them that it had been vandalised. I felt very guilty as I was not staying in that hotel and so he never would have found me and the incident had not even occurred on their property. My grovelling apology was accepted and I eventually got my new window.
I went to a football match to see a referee. I did see him but the trip cost me a vandalised car, a morning waiting in a car park and a great deal of embarrassment. I did get to meet one of my heroes though, even if it wasn’t the one I went to see in the first place!