TOUR DIARY - DAY 11: Happy birthday to me...and what a way to celebrate (From The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald)
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TOUR DIARY - DAY 11: Happy birthday to me...and what a way to celebrate
AS FAR as birthdays go, I’ve had some crackers.
I’ve paddled a canoe in the Okavango Delta and surveyed the wreckage of Berlin the morning after the World Cup final; when I was four I even had a proper teddy bear’s picnic.
And now I can add another special story to that growing list.
It’s not often you get to watch your team, abroad, against Bayern Munich, for free.
Throw into the mix the stunning mountainous surroundings of Andalo and a breathtaking thunderstorm and it becomes an experience that is practically unrepeatable.
I know many of you back home, even close friends and work colleagues, have joked and jibed about me taking a two-week “jolly” in northern Italy.
Until now I have stood defiant. But, just for one day, I’ll admit to it. Yesterday I had a lot of fun.
The location of what can loosely be described as Andalo’s football stadium – I say loosely because it featured only one stand, and that a layered stone wall – played a major part in the drama of the occasion.
Flanked on all sides by green-tipped peaks, the pitch’s spectacular Dolomite backdrop was like something I have never seen before.
Just down the road, the town of Molveno plays host to Bayern’s summer training camps. The place has become a shrine to the German club and they exported that Munchen fervour a few miles north for the arrival of Paolo Di Canio and his red and white army.
A DJ clad in Munich’s home kit pumped electro-pop out of a stack of speakers piled in a makeshift marquee behind one goal.
As kick-off approached, a steady stream of Bayern fans occupied the stone wall and, by kick-off there must have been approaching 300 pitchside.
It was quite remarkable.
The pockets of travelling Town supporters stayed in good voice but they were drowned out by their noisy neighbours.
In fact, the Germans started taunting the English with chants of “shall we sing a song for you” and “can you hear the Swindon sing?”
It all added to a unique atmosphere and, when in the second half lightning began to appear on the horizon, the sensational canvas was complete.
I write to you now on the drive back to our base, thunder roaring overhead and the electric sky weaving some pretty awesome patterns.
There won’t be time for a celebratory drink this evening, but I couldn’t have thought of a better way to bring in my quarter-century.
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