The following is not a conventional match report, in that it is not an eye witness account of four games. Half because the games ran concurrently and my eyes weren’t wide enough apart to catch both, half because nobody wants to read sports reports, and another surprise half because I missed the first games.
Riding the seemingly slower-than-walking DLR east for the first time since King’s relinquished it’s exam sitting students from that 8th circle of hell, the ExCel centre, I try to take stock of what it is I’m meant to be doing. My phone died so I had to scrawl the directions from King’s Cross into Bram Stoker’s Dracula which I’d started reading.
So far it’s about a bloke travelling out to the scariest castle in the middle of Transylvania belonging to a Count, impressively ignorant to the doom which literally everyone around him warns him of. I seem to be in the reverse situation, singularly aware of the doom everyone around me will be privy too once I cease holding in a hearty projectile chunder.
Having been in Cambridge for some reason cutting my friends’ hair hours before, and travelling to this match with the same hangover and wavy garms about me from the previous 24 hours, I was a fraction of the man that tapped his oyster card out as we got off at Cyprus, whilst I just slinked out because there are no barriers at DLR stops and paying seems
I eventually arrive at UEL, am pointed in the direction of its Sports Dock, and don’t even have to blag that I’m press to get in, it’s so late in the day I can just walk in at this point. Sat watching the men’s volleyball is women’s volleyball veteran captain, as well as self proclaimed tank, Megan Cheaney, #3.
“Ey up Megan, how was the match?” the men’s volleyball was going on in the background and reaching its conclusion, KCL were leading and in fact had the game in control throughout. Well, not in “fact,” so much as in “opinion,” but I stand by that opinion, which I got from someone else who actually watched it and swore to be objective.
“You mean you didn’t watch it? Aren’t you meant to cover it? We won.”
“Ah, yeah, about that, was in Cambridge cutting hair wasn’t I, but I can just ask you about it. Nice one! Before we go into that, how’ve the men been looking?”
“Quite good actually, for such a fresh, inexperienced team. They’re relatively new, at the start of the year there wasn’t even a team, they gradually assembled members over the year and now they’re top of the league and winning the varsity. Pretty decent job.” As the boys volley on, Megan and her team mates fill me in on the women’s game, as well as some interesting volleyball fun facts, such as the length of the opposition’s shorts and the actual rules of volleyball.
“They fully had their cheeks on show. Which was fair enough for one or two of them because they had the arses there to flaunt.” she chimes in on the condition of the UCL #3’s bottom. “They were pretty easy though. We’ve not even done that well all season but we won here. Don’t ask.” was her closing statement on their season. Miguel Ignacio Rodriguez, photographer for Roar on this and other occasions, is snapping away when I involve him in the conversation. Megan asks his opinion of the match. He has no idea who won. But he has some stunning shots of short shorts and that’s what counts at the end of the day.
“Who stood out in the game for you then, as captain?” instantly I regret the question.
“Me, number 3, the grandma – as a final year – of the team, absolute tank, the inspiration, the captain last year and again this year when they needed me to step up because the captain had to drop it. I am the heart and soul of the team. I am Cheaney.” some of that may not be verbatim. I nodded off after “tank.”
Megan finishes her ode to volleyball with reasons it’s great, such as “relieves a lot of frustration,as you’re literally hitting a ball as hard as you can at other people,” and that it required a lot of skill, although she then went on to chalk the whole thing up to height & coordination. The men all the while were dominating their game, and finished with another 3-0 win, the series was looking all the more secure.
Moving over to the ongoing women’s basketball game, which KCL again were winning, I tried to glean a bit of what happened in the men’s previously whilst watching the women’s. Initial impressions of this game were that the KCL team can ball, although they left their half court wide open with each attack, not unlike when you leave your back door wide open on your frantic dash to the resounding ice cream van. Two guys sat on the UCL side caught my eye, going for a balanced perspective on the whole thing, I sit and ask them about the men’s game.
“Hey guys, what did you think of the men’s b-ball? You’re UCL too right?” deploying here all my skills in speech, abbreviating “basketball” to “b-ball” to convey my hipness and implying I was at UCL.
“Nah, King’s. I didn’t watch the men’s basketball. He did.” this guy was useless to me so I moved swiftly over to the other, Ben.
“Physical, very physical. I think at one point they choked one of our guys, or the ref made gestures to that effect. It was pretty close at the end but we had them off throughout.” my stomach sank faster than the titanic, or faster than the quality of my similes. I’d clearly missed all the goddamn drama. It was high time to sleuth about until the truth lay bare and beaten before me, like whichever KCL player I imagine got choked out.
The girls continue to ball. A free throw is granted to KCL and is easily converted, some confusion then as a UCL player takes the second free throw…seemingly for us. “Did she just score for us?” Further confusion again as the ref blows the whistle for a foul on #8 Vicky Grueber, who instinctively reacted with shock & horror before realising it was for her the whistle blew. I spot one of the boys team sat on the stairs between the rival fans and go over.
I’m unsure whether my nose or my eyes first picked up on point guard Robert Ntim, whose smile reeks of victory. Sunny dispositions are common among winners, but the relaxed joy emanating from the man made me feel as though I’d won the match. We exchange a few words on the game, before he points me in the direction of the captain, and his man of the match, who had more to say on the choking incident. As I walk up the bleachers to where he was surveying the court I hear a UCL student shout “It’s all in the wrist!” before a free throw they were granted makes the opposite sound of a glorious swish: a defeated thud. A KCL fan gleefully pounces, “All in the wrists? You’re having a laugh!”
Fabrizio Rudari, an Italian from Munich who aptly studies European Studies (“English culture is my least favourite of my adopted European cultures”) has captained the team this season, and thinks though they won that the boys in red could’ve only done better. “They were pretty disappointing, really. They gave us a much better game last year. We weren’t incredible out there, but we comfortably had them a handful of points shy throughout.”
“So what about this choking then?”
“Ah right, that, well one of their players and I got tangled up, and he then stood over me giving it all that ‘I’ll fuck you up, let’s go outside’ to which I of course responded ‘Dude, chill.’ One of our boys comes over to have a word and then all of a sudden it’s hands on necks, it was all a bit silly.”
So it seems that nobody taught the so called godless scum that height matters where wrists don’t, and when you can’t bring it on the court, you could at least bring some manners. Final basketball scores were 55-38 women’s, 55-51 men’s, KCL-UCL respectively. I’m warmed somewhat in the afterglow of victory, even as I sit at the front of the godforsaken DLR; the world’s crappiest rollercoaster.