Thursday, 24 January 2013

When the others score

It happens at nearly every game we go to, yet it's barely ever spoken of.
An attempt to sum up that anomalous feeling when your team lets one in

The pesky away team nick one. Fans try their utmost not to look.
The balls nestles into the back of the net with an audible swish of synthetic leather on polyethylene. There are thousands of people here and yet, daft as it seems, you actually hear it.

Not ten seconds earlier this throng of people around you were making a terrific din, willing their lot – your lot – to score a goal of their own. Instead, possession given away cheaply (is it ever not?), in a flash there's a counter-attack. Quick pass, even quicker pass, shimmy, shot, goal.

Silence. A brief moment of almost total quiet, which despite lasting less than three seconds is somehow sufficient time for you to assess all the myriad ways in which your life is a steaming pile of horse excrement before the centre forward is even midway through his clichéd knee-slide-and-fist-pump combo. This momentary lull feels almost perverse.

Sure, a few people instantly swear, but you're often suspicious of them. The people who swear or shout immediately when a goal goes in always have an air of "I've paid £30 for this and I'm not even going to see a win" about them. There's always one and their squawks are annoying, yet irrelevant. The ones hurting most of all are keeping schtum. They know the drill. Suck it up, exchange a glance with your mate, get home, sulk, have another go in a fortnight or so.

Somehow you don't really get to appreciate this oddity in all its dismal glory on the telly. Those chaps who set up their furry boom mics at pitchside know what they're doing. When an away team scores on TV, unless their support amounts to less than fifty souls, you'd think the din of their celebrating was reverberating around the whole stadium, deafening home fans with its maddening blare. Actually it tends to be more of an annoying hum in the distance. Just don't look directly at them – the bastards – with their happy flailing limbs and their hope. Don't look, don't look – oh, too late – you looked. That could've been you.

The aforementioned skill of the TV sound guys means it's not as easy as you'd think to find truly delicious examples of the phenomenon online. Here's one from France though, Ajaccio scoring at Nice. Listen out for token sweary man in the crowd, but aside from him just take a moment to enjoy the almost total silence before a few whistles start. That's the sound of thousands of people indulging in a bout of self-loathing right there.

A couple more. You'll rarely hear the Bernabéu as quiet as when Galastaray take the lead here. Ditto Ibrox, back in 1992, as Gary McAllister scores in the first minute to immediately muzzle 43,000 Glaswegians baying for English blood. Rangers went on to win the tie, but it's the moment in isolation we're interested in here.

As the uncomfortable silence slips away, blame is usually apportioned in the direction of whichever talentless so-called midfield dynamo gave the ball away. But it's that awful instant as ball hits net that remains one of the eeriest moments you can experience at football.
If you've got any more macabre clips of goals that silence the home fans – and the TV footage actually does it justice – you're very welcome to leave them below the line


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