Student Blog: Women's Soccer Team in Great Britain
by Lainey Nichols '09
This morning was fairly uneventful. A group of us, consisting of Big Cat (Catawba alumna Catherine Ballentine) Lays (sophomore, Layla Ghorbani), Becks (Becky Factau), and Paige Harrington (senior forward) walked in the rain to a nearby library like a line of baby ducks. This weather is beyond soupy. I was a drowsy kid today.
"The pavements go everywhere," as Coach [John Cullen] says, monitoring our crossing like a mama duck was Big Cat dropping, "Go on!!! Go on then!!!" in a British accent whenever the situation called for it — this was often. This phrase was used quite frequently throughout the day, directed at those in the front of lines overwhelmed by the members of Cardiff's "Barmy Army." (Stories of this to come...)
We returned to the hotel and hopped on the bus for our next excursion. Bus driver, Dave (or 'Cappen Daive' as we call him), is a member of our family now; he took great care of us for the last few days, taking us from London to Bath, from Bath to Bristol and today, from Bristol to Cardiff — only hit one car. Haha. No, seriously, we hit a car. The weather being what it is, Dave's feet were soaked and did not mesh well with his stop-and-go style. Feeling a bump, thinking we flattened a Smart car, we could all hear Dave's bouncy, grizzled voice say, "Oh bloody, me foot slipped of the pedal...hah-har-HA!"
Cappen Daivey is a coach driver and a Koi fish rancher on the side. He has a bald head and a Mr. Clean earring. We are all secretly or unabashedly and openly in love with this old man. One thing is clear, Dave is from a rougher part of England and it is quite possible that he is the direct descendant of an old sea dog — Sir Walter Raleigh, perhaps? He may as well have a peg leg with a smile like he's got. Two nights ago, after a lobby meeting, he taught us all kinds of British phrases such as "pack it in" — the U.K.'s equivalent to "quit while you're ahead" — and various colorful and inappropriate things.
This afternoon though, the good Cappen took us to an insane event that we will all talk about for years: our first professional soccer match in the U.K. — Cardiff City Bluebirds versus the Southampton Saints. Dave warned us about "Scamphamptoners," being from Portsmouth and Hampshire himself. We took it with a grain of salt, and took care after hearing stories from Coach about calling cards being stapled to the heads to the visiting team. Haha. Becky refused to wear her England warm-up into the game ( Cardiff is in Wales) after Coach joked with her..."Oh God, Becky. Ya wore yourrengland gee-ah to a Cah-dif match?" Haha. She wouldn't be cold though. The hot breath of 19,500 people would keep us all toasty, if not burning hot.
Being from Maryland, I understand how rowdy, clever, and insulting fans can be. What I experienced was far beyond anything I have ever experienced, and this was for a rather weak rivalry at that. Almost every chant contained the word bast#*d, and the number of yellow-jacketed Bobbies increased between the visiting section and neighboring Cardiff section with each passing minute. The girls particularly enjoyed a chant that went something like this:
(This part is sing-songy)
Are you watch-ing?
Are you watch-ing?
ARE you watching?...
(This part is screamed)
We continued to participate in songs and chants such as "Barmy Army" and "I love this city" and couldn't stop singing them. Some of us were probably still singing "Who Ate All the Pies?" as we began to explore the back of our eyelids later that evening.
Our game this evening was against Keynsham Town and the weather was a murky wading pool. I now understand why screw-ins exist — our molders were as effective as dusty-bottomed ballet flats on a basketball court.
We explored our roster, and looked a little shaky at first, having never played together (our first game was rained out early on), but finished hard and together, eventually settling into a rhythm. We lost the first half, won the second, but lost the game 3-1. Conditions, coupled with the fact that we had never stepped onto the field together against a common foe, I don't think it was a horrible game. Much to work on, but we have a TREMENDOUS upside. Next up, the U-19 National Team of Wales. Bring it.