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Varsity Day 1 – Hockey: Shooting the Godless Scum of Gower Street

Here’s the truth: We had an obligation to cover a story and so we went, for good or for bad. We made it up as we went and had to cut out a lot of meaningless fluff.

7pm – Thirty minutes of getting lost from Hackney Wick I stumbled into a procession snaking through the dimly-lit park towards a building that looked like a giant Pringle in a grass field, with the word “UCL” projected up on a 30 foot wall. Sky News media vans were parked close by, and elsewhere a Fiat exhibition was in full swing. Thousands of people from all four corners of the Lee Valley park shuffled into the gangways that led up to the building. Christ, all these people came to watch two universities battle it out in a game of hockey? A man wearing a neon vest was directing people to the entrances. I asked him if I could enter without a ticket.

Neon-Man: Who’re you with?
Roar: King’s.
Neon-Man: The who?
Roar: King’s, I’m with Roar, where does the press go?
Neon-Man: I’ve never heard of that, any of that. You got a press pass?
Roar: I got one, but I lost it or I ain’t wearing one (This was untrue, we haven’t been issued any)
Neon-Man: I don’t know…
Roar: But I know someone in there so just let me in, it’s urgent, he knows me.
Neon-Man: Okay, well I’ll let you in, but you need to register whoever you’re with next time.

Inside I had never felt more out of place: gaggles of white haired CEOs, mums with kids holding balloons, golf shirts and suits. In the middle of the arena were rows of banquet tables with wine glasses and neat napkins, surrounded by a wooden cycling track. It dawned on me that I had wandered into the wrong venue – it wasn’t “UCL” I had seen earlier but the “UCI” world championships for track cycling. Where I was was at a velodrome – an indoor arena purpose-built for indoor cycling and one that by the looks of it was fancy as hell.

Whatever it was, it had nothing to do with hockey. I doubled back and head north in the chilly night. The next building had a desk plopped up in the front and several people milling about.

“You’re King’s, from Roar?” a friendly voice asked.

“Sure, yeah I’m the guy from Roar.” And with my bag checked at the door by security I headed upstairs and swung open the door to the stalls.

The women’s game was in full swing and I walked straight down the steps to the pitch for a closer look. A minute in Sasha Ritchie scored the first goal for King’s and an exuberant cheer erupted from behind.

By eight o’clock the second half of the women’s game was underway with a King’s lead of 2-1. As the UCL hockey team began a series of attacks on the King’s defence, a pair of spectacles in a Barbour jacket stood up and shouted “Your trainers are shit, you wankers!”

“Don’t go talking about their trainers now”, somebody guffawed, “Trainers are comfortable and functional.” I spotted two men next to the King’s stand seated while everyone else was on their feet. One wore an NHS badge and the other in a hoodie, both stared glumly at the game. These two were probably the most sober guys in a mile radius.

“Don’t draw any attention to me, yeah?” said the bloke in the hoodie. “I’m with an anti-terrorist unit and my job is to look for terrorists, if you take my picture and post it up to public I’ll get recognised and it won’t be ideal.”

I left them and joined the rowdiest crew, one of them reached across the aisle. “Blaise, we’re going to make a full chant go up!” “We’re all from rugby”, grinned Sean, raising his tie while taking a sip of his pint. Somewhere in the front of the stalls another King’s supporter, annoyed by the jeers, turned around to shut them up. He was met by more curses that turned into cheers as Reggie the Lion tackled the UCL mascot Phineas to the ground to the tune of Que Sera, Sera.

When I was just a little boy,
I asked my mother what would I be?
Would I be U-C or would I be King’s,
Here’s what she said to me…

Wash your mouth out son,
Go fetch your father’s gun,
And shoot all the godless scum,

The night was cold. All I could think of was the Evening Standard’s predictions about snow falling in London, and nothing else. I couldn’t stay a minute longer without a thick jacket.

In the bar I met with Chloe Wilson, captain of the women’s team. “Wow, your hands are really freezing…” she said as we shook hands.

“Yeah I didn’t wear nothing out. How do you think today went?”

“Today we had 3 of our attempts on shot, and to have our team win the game and against UCL means to me the whole world. I’m lucky to be playing alongside some of the most talented hockey players there are. We’ve had a really good season so far; as you can see we’ve won against UCL, but it was definitely not an easy win – UCL put up a good hard fight, and they played a good game. We have the Russell Cup next week and the Macadam Cup soon, so we’re looking forward to that.”

The men’s game went off to a start with captain James Simpson scoring the first goal for King’s, but as UCL scored two more goals by the second half a last-ditch effort was made by KCLSU VP Joe Simpson to fight the inevitable defeat by shouting “UCL is shit” over the PA. Elsewhere other King’s supporters were growing restless, cold, and in need of more drink.

“It’s a fucking penalty, ref, it’s a penalty!

“Come on, you spineless bitches, we’re losing…”

I went to the loo and was accosted by a UCL student who wore his backpack way too high. Purple paint streaming down his cheeks, he banged on the toilet doors and screamed “U.C.” at the top of his lungs. “U.C.! U.C.! U.C.!”

Outside the match had ended; UCL had won but King’s had full monopoly of the airwaves: five foot VP Joe Simpson hogging the microphone, rugby lads slinging insults left and right, the commentator’s box with KCL radio putting out a one-sided commentary . For Mr. “U.C.” the pisser was the only spot where “UCL” could be heard louder than the awkward silence of dudes hosing down the porcelain.






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