No, I’m not seven, I’m thirty seven, but I’ve never been to a football match before, and only twice set foot in a football stadium. Surprisingly both times were Pittodrie, once was very recently for the charity zip slide, and the other was way back in 1983 to watch the team return with the European Cup Winners Cup.
However as a wonderful gift some very important people at Aberdeen Football Club had given the family something that might add a little bit of cheer to the terrible past few weeks we’ve had.
We were surprised enough to see some important people from AFC appear at my mothers cremation ceremony, but then to receive special passes for the Aberdeen game against Hibernian, including comfy seats, a table in an inside private lounge, free drinks, pies, sausage rolls and kebabs, what more could you ask for?
Well perhaps a good game, more of that later.
When we arrived we were sat down in one of the lounges and immediately had a few free drinks in front of us, what a great start. Once we had a few whiskies inside of us to get ready for the cold and wet weather outside, we headed out for kick off.
I was amazed by a couple of things during the match, the first was just how good it all was watching a real game, the atmosphere really did add tons to the experience. However it also added some very negative things.
Despite being in the posher stands I was stunned at how aggressive and base some of the fans were. In front of my two nephews, aged five and eight, a man was standing and miming injecting his arm to the Hibernian fans. Across from him and a few rows down were a couple of fans who were shouting and screaming constantly with a stream of swearing and insults, most of which raised nervous and embarrassed sniggering from people around us.
I can actually understand why there’s so much violence at football matches, the taunting from stand to stand was incredible, and it wasn’t gentle ribbing either, it was pretty targeted and some of it pretty nasty. During some of the moments in the match you could really feel a charged atmosphere between them.
I was also surprised by the number of decisions made that the crowd didn’t believe in, that were called dubious by the players themselves, and even one where the referee overruled the linesman. It made me wonder why there isn’t video playback for decisions.
Oh I hear people screaming in disbelief – imagine how the game would be delayed – well only by correcting the wrong decisions or by making sure all those fakers, cry babies and cheaters were caught out. A referee on the side watching a delayed video feed wouldn’t slow anything down, perhaps if the referee disagreed and wanted to watch the replay, but I saw much more time wasting than that on the pitch today.
Lastly, I was surprised by how quick and imprecise the game seems in real life. Perhaps it was just the Aberdeen and Hibs players, but neither were looking as slick and integrated as televised games.
That is perhaps the biggest surprised I got during the match, Aberdeen did have some good players but they played as a group of individuals, not as a team. You’d see some great single moments and crosses, but they were seldom made into anything other than a pass or two. The order of the day was plenty of midfield passing, and a big cross into an empty space.
Indeed there were some absolutely ridiculous moments with a number of passes to players who just weren’t there, or weren’t anticipating the shot coming through and let it go by them, on one occasion straight through the players legs. Most of the crosses towards the goal just don’t meet up with anyone.
Hibs score two and the single Aberdeen goal is from a penalty.
My final surprise was at the end of the game. A couple of the Hibs players walked over to their fans applauding them, and I saw no recognition from the Aberdeen players of their fans, who had made much more noise during the match, and applauded the players at some key moments. Sure they lost, but the recognition of the fans should still have been there, and there seemed a gulf between the Hibs and Aberdeen players at that point.
Back in the warmth of the lounge we had some more free whiskies waiting for us, soup and sandwiches. Much needed.
While in the lounge I had tons of ideas of how to improve the experience and engage the fans more, something I’m going to write up and have presented back to those in charge. It’s something I always do whenever I experience something new, whether it be an application on the Internet or some service in the real world, I seem to always come up with a list of ways of making it more effective, engaging, and a much better experience all round.
Overall it was a great day, the football wasn’t up to much, but the whole experience was superb, and I have to thank those at Aberdeen FC who made it possible. We had a great day, and when we got home we all had a wee snooze.