Varsity Day 4 – Football: Where o’ where was Reggie?

A tale of two games, one mascot, eleven goals, a streaker, and to top it all off it took place in fucking Morden. 

Sounds a lot like Mordor, Morden, dunnit. I’ve been aware of the last stop on the Northern Line’s rock bottom since moving to London – it’s hard to miss when all south bound trains end up there. But never have I wanted to go. When the legendary 50 bus in Manchester extended its route to Salford, I thought I may as well ride it out and see the sights. I learnt then that my short-sightedness didn’t end at my optical prescription, and vowed never again to chance a trip to questionable ends. And yet here I was again. In fucking Morden.

The prep this time though far outshone the last two attempts at covering varsity by myself and Ryan Chang, who was along again this time for the beer and the bants. And taking photos I guess. We’d set off in good time to make the women’s kick off, we had a camera, notebook and laptop, I actually know the rules of football and we had 5 cans of Kronenbourg to weather the tube straight down to hell Surrey. The only problems I could foresee was how we were going to split the fifth can. Ryan’s beady eyes had their own ideas.

The only man not sleeping through the pain is the man with the tinny.

Arriving at the stadium and brandishing an expired NUS card whilst screaming “Press!” we bypass security with finesse. Walking past the UCL fans (read: Godless Scum) and settling into the altogether more vocal, warmer and actually-into-the-game KCL section. Things weren’t off to a great start for KCL Women’s Football Club (WFC) as UCL lead the women’s game early on, scoring a screamer. “Yeah it was a mad one. Our keeper probably could’ve done better though. Don’t quote me on that.” says Theo anonymous.

Some KCLWFC fans, including ex players, repping the team.

UCL go on to capitalise on a period of slight confusion as one of their own goes down seemingly injured. The KCL players slow to check on the wellbeing of their fellow footballer whilst UCL flood forward and score again. They say it’s the final score that matters, not the grace with which you conduct yourself on the pitch. “They” can fuck off – that’s dirty.

A brief respite, however, as Romina Calatayud blasts back our own screamer and the game looks like it’s back on! Echoes of Milan, ’05, except this game was really nothing like that game in anyway except the team that was winning was beginning to look as though they might not win. It doesn’t last long though. The players on the bench look on as the situation goes from “Bad” to “Not so bad” to “Ah, well, hmm.” Number 11, Phoebe Davis, looks raring to go and change the game from the bench. I spot her parents in the stands and pop over to have a word. All the while Ryan is bellowing chants at freshers who don’t yet know the words and snapping beer blurred photographs. If only Miguel were here.

Think this is after KCL score but I can’t tell because Ryan took the photo, not Miguel.

“Phoebe’s been playing since she was 6 or 7. She was the only girl in her “mixed” Primary school team, so she was what made it mixed! She was stopped at about 14 from carrying on because it was all boys only from then, but she’s come to uni and picked it back up.”

“Her brother’s at UCL right? Playing Rugby? If you had to pick one, which would you go for, King’s or…them?”… incoming weaseling out of the question.

“King’s today, UCL on Friday!” They looked pretty comfortable on their fence, were friendly and they gave me an actual player profile to work with, so I let them off. Looking back out onto the pitch I realise something’s wrong. There’s something missing from the KCLWFC team. It’s as though they’re present on the pitch but vacant in spirit and soul, it’s as though they’re defeated already. And I realise what it is as that smug UCL mascot prick Duke Dickhead of Gower Street comes over and gives it all that to the KCL fans: where the football is Reggie? Without our heart & soul, Reggie the Red Lion, they may as well have dropped their boots and gone out in flip flops.

He doesn’t want it.

Going down to the bench to figure out how this grievous error could occur, I ask the girls on the bench where the king of the jungle is and if that’s affected their game at all. “What? No. We’re pissed off because we didn’t know we were allowed rolling subs until the 80th minute and they’ve been using them all game, as James Perry never mentioned it. He also didn’t mention kick off was half an hour earlier than we’d been told so we didn’t really get a warm up. Put that in your article.” spits Emilia Gibson, President of the team, and pretty pissed off. I feel like Reggie definitely still played a part.

The game ends 6-2, the final goal a consolation scored by super sub Phoebe Davis who, following a blinding passing move, takes it over the keeper and puts it into the back of the net. With composure. UCL’s #2 & #16 were just too hot to handle for KCL, they did look suspiciously like Alexis Sanchez and Theo Walcott from afar, but that’s neither here nor there. “They’d rip me.” says Theo, player for the 5s.

Gracious in defeat: the girls coming off the pitch at FT.

On the subject of the 5s, I’m informed by some onlookers from that team that one of their own has risen over the last two years all the way to the 1s and now, Varsity: Akim “the Snake” Tiyamisu. In between chatting shit about the Tab and Akim’s snakey prowess, the men kick off, and KCL try to wrest back some of the early control they’d so readily exercised earlier in the varsity. Ryan predicts 1-1 because he’s a non-belieber. 

We had decidedly different feelings (and blood alcohol contents) at the end of the evening.

The boys start brightly, scoring early on from a set piece, the ball rebounding from a free kick put in at the back stick, only to be half volleyed into the back of the net, but early signs indicate that the referee is a wanker. Decision after decision is either turned a blind eye to or given UCL’s way. King’s fans don’t care, though, and chant throughout, such sonnets to love & football can be heard as ” Oh UCL, is full of shit…” “Red army!” “You’re not singing anymore!” Even a semi rogue “Oh Santi Cazorla!” can be heard in some corners.

Keisuke Honda esque freekick taking out here.

On the pitch however similar heart is needed, as UCL get a goal back. Since the first goal, UCL did a better job of playing with the ball on the pitch, zipping quick passes and creating space. Some semester abroad American girls try chatting to me about how American students are better at soccer than ours. I explain that their silly scholarships for sporting prowess system means that of course they have Olympians at their top institutions. They go on to say that the chants here are violent, and that not being silent during an injury was uncouth. I express my preference for uncouth & violent chanting over uncouth & violent foreign policy. They stop talking to me.

Celebrating his just scored penalty.

In the end, the boys battled valiantly, and there was nary a prouder set of supporters than KCL’s, but they were felled, 2-1, by the Purple Pansies. UCL’s mascot comes over for one final “Fuck you!” – he’s met with a tackle and a chorus of “Wheyyy!” A streaker runs on and provides a final reason to smile on an otherwise dark evening. Morden? Never again.

“It’s only a game, anyway.” said nobody on the bus to the after party.

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