Like most people, OTP tickled our overdraft gag reflex by applying for a shedload of Olympic tickets last year. Apart from the promise of a few eastern Europeans smothering each other in their own sweat (Greco-Roman wrestling), we also snaffled a pair of tickets to the Great Britain v United Arab Emirates match.
The match was a real curiosity shop for fans who had to recalibrate their brains and terrace songs for the unique occasion. Cajoling Craig Bellamy to succeed was a particularly stubborn mental knot to untangle for us.
Luckily, the crowd was warmed up by the first whistle – mainly thanks to a booing onslaught of Luis Suarez in the preceding Uruguay v Senegal game. It was 90 minutes of audio custard pies for the Liverpool striker.
The string of Mexican waves during the main event (the first one arriving five minutes in) were less a sign of a woeful match, but more indicative of a playful atmosphere – one which hummed along in a stadium packed with more families than a Butlins holiday camp.
It is somewhat distorted given the stadium’s location and the high percentage of English players, but there was a overwhelming sense of goodwill towards the team from the stands. It was quite an experience to support a national side unbruised by decades of qualification disasters and wonky penalty shoot outs.
The absence of David Beckham was unavoidable – a smattering of grumbles regularly accompanied the image of a resolute Stuart Pearce on the big screen. It was a mere stumble on a conga of festival spirit that remained without gaps of disinterest for much longer than we expected.
The intrigue of different nationalities blending together (albeit just the two), a peek at some untainted talents, the promise of a quarter-final place and the fever-pitch positivity surrounding the London Olympics suggests this team could be much more than a novelty in this tournament.
When we weren’t surprisingly seduced by the mutant team, we were taking snaps of the game. The below shots of the action were taken by Will Collett.