THERE is a well known footballing phrase – ‘it’s a game of two halves.’
Well, my footballing experiences recently fell into the category of ‘it’s a game of second halves.’
Let me explain: being a fanatical footballing fan, the recent international break was the perfect time to enjoy a short holiday. I was able to reassure my long-suffering football ‘widow’ of a wife that because my beloved Derby County were not playing, there would be no footballing distractions for me whilst we spent a few days in the delightful French city of Montpelier.
Yes, I was aware that Montpelier play in Ligue 1, France’s equivalent of the Premier League but because it was the international week there was no danger of wanting to try and pull in a game whilst there. I even resisted the temptation to pinch a look the Stade de la Mosson, their 32,900 seater stadium which was a 1998 World Cup venue.
I tried that once in Barcelona but was restricted to a brief opt-out of an open top bus tour of the city to stand and gaze from the outside at their enormous Camp Nou stadium before being promptly whisked back on our sight-seeing trip.
No, on this journey I was determined not to let my wife down, it would definitely be football free …. definitely.
We spent the night before our flight in a hotel near to Gatwick Airport. After our evening meal we sauntered into a nearly empty lounge where, lo and behold, a young couple, a solitary drinker and one barman were watching the second half of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy (a cup competition for lower league teams) tie between MK Dons and Charlton live on Sky TV. Charlton won 2-1, the game was dire but I couldn’t leave until the final whistle could I?
I put that down as a minor lapse, how was I to know there was a telly in the bar but two days later I lapsed again. This time I blame my Irish roots. Wandering around Montpelier we just happened to come across Fitzpatrick’s Irish Bar in Place Saint Come on the very evening that they were beaming RTE’s live coverage of Ireland’s Euro 2012 qualifier against Russia in Dublin. I pleaded with my loved one to be allowed to pop in for just one glass of the black nectar (Guinness) and whilst she supped a mineral water and complained about having to sit on an uncomfortable stool, I enjoyed the second half of Ireland’s thrilling 3-2 defeat at the hands of the Russians.
The following evening saw us enjoy a fabulous meal at La Girafe restaurant in the Palais des Guilhem (highly recommended for any visitor to Montpelier). And afterwards we strolled gently back to the Hotel du Parc (also highly recommended) situated just outside the historic old town. In our room, my wife settled down to reading The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon which had kept her enthralled during the trip whilst I casually flicked my way through the TV channels.
Not speaking a word of French, I wasn’t expecting anything of interest.
But, and I know this must be getting hard to believe by now, my third press of the remote control brought up the French channel TFI and, yes you’ve guessed it, the second half of France’s Euro 2012 game against Romania which they won 2-0.
Three games in four days, what can I say?
If I was cheating, I could try and claim four but it really would be stretching it.
Whilst waiting at Montpelier Airport for our flight back to England, we had a snack at the airport café. We sat down close to a TV set (my wife’s choice, honest) and before long they began showing live coverage of the Heineken Cup Rugby Union match between Bath and Biarritz. But it was rugby, not football, the first half not the second and really boring. Before long it was time to check-in and we were on our way.
I have to say that my wife bore all this with a patient acceptance of what is plainly a very sorry addiction.
Maybe our next holiday ought to be in some remote outpost on the edge of civilisation where football has never been heard of.