One of the things that I truly love about football are those goose pimple inducing incidents that seem to freeze time in their occurrence and passing.
For a few memorable seconds – or is it eternity? – it can feel as if you are truly at one with the game and the moment in hand, the action frozen before your eyes; the reaction of pure joy and release; an animalistic pleasure.
Catharsis encounters of the sporting kind.
Such is the wonder that I behold our beautiful game – and it still is, despite the increasing number of toxic outside forces and influences – that these moments don’t have to be exclusively those that are related to your own club. I can remember, for example, watching the 1994 World Cup quarter-final between Bulgaria and Germany in my room with my then housemate and jumping up and down on my bed in utter delirium (my bed only ever encountered such moments of bliss when it related to football at that time) as Bulgaria triumphed, a victory of character and personality over fussy perfection – Wenn schon, denn schon as they like to say in Germany.
Who remembers that Bulgarian team from back then? The outrageously talented Stoichkov – who had initially refused to toe the sponsorship line by declaring he had no intention of wearing boots made by Adidas. Kostadinov – who nearly didn’t make the tournament at all, given he hadn’t obtained the necessary visa for his passport. Mikhailov – the man who played in a wig. And, most memorably of all, Trifon Ivanov. ‘The Wolfman’. They brought a certain amount of unfettered joy to a tournament that was all things American – slick, garish, well connected. So I naturally empathised with those anarchic Bulgarians, the anti-team, a group of players that seemed as if they had been invited into the tournament by accident – yet who still managed to reach the semi-finals.
Wonderful stuff and one of those aforementioned frozen moments for me when Letchkov’s glorious diving header in the second half gave them a victory that no-one expected as well as one that, you suspect, both FIFA and the event organisers didn’t particularly welcome. Such things can only make those game defining seconds all the more endearing.
Then there was that special moment of footballing abandon when Arsenal won the league title in 1989. At Anfield. In the dying seconds of a game that Liverpool only needed to avoid a two goal defeat to win the title for themselves. You’d bet your house on them to be capable of that at their own ground and in a game that so much depended on. Perhaps some people did. I might even have done so myself. Everything was stacked against Arsenal. The odds, the fates, the media and the will of the people, not least those at Anfield who then regarded success and glory as a birthright for their team rather than a prize that had to be earnt. So yes, I wanted Arsenal to win. To see those fans put in their place. And the media. Liverpool this, Liverpool that. Even a Norwich City fanzine, the always excellent Liverpool Are On The Tele Again pointed out the inequity of it all. For ninety minutes I became a Gunner even though I knew they wouldn’t win it. Not at Anfield. Those sort of things didn’t happen, weren’t allowed to happen.
But as we know, they most certainly do. After all, this is football. Nick Hornby got a book and a film out of that game, whilst Brian Moore uttering, with precise timing, the phrase “…it’s up for grabs now” as Michael Thomas galloped through to score Arsenal’s second made history with that line, possibly the second most famous in TV football commentating history.
Happy days for Arsenal and a match that went unsurpassed for last second drama for nearly a quarter of a century before Sergio Aguero did exactly the same thing for Manchester City, his last second goal and their last gasp triumph to the accompanying strangulations of Martin Tyler- “Aguerrrrroooooooooooooo….” was real spine tingling stuff, even if Manchester City weren’t your team.
And they’re not, of course.
But the delight in such drama is, as I wrote earlier, is part of football’s attraction, the possibility of the power, the joy, the sheer majesty of such a legal hit occurring, potentially, at any game, at any time – you can’t legislate for it, you can’t predict it, you can never expect it – you can just live in hope of it happening, occasionally, for your club. For Norwich City.
If we could be the stars, the centrepiece of such footballing drama, it would resonate through the club’s history for generations, people would say, with pride, “I was there”. Infact more people than could even possibly have been there would probably end up claiming that they were. But imagine it, imagine the possibilities, the emotions and the sheer loss of control if we were to experience our own Thomas or Aguero moment. Even just thinking about it sends a shiver up my spine. So imagine feeling it, living it, breathing it and sharing it with thousands of fellow Canary fans all around you. Tyler followed up his Chris Goreham moment by proclaiming, amongst the madness, “I swear you’ll never see anything like this, ever again” – but will we? And have we already? And do you have one?
What are your Norwich City supporting moments that slowed down time for you, that precipitated all too brief seconds of pure, raw, emotional joy and release, much like that enjoyed by the Manchester City fans a year ago. By their very nature they are brief – there and gone in an instant, yet, in those seconds when we and all around us are at the epicentre of an outburst of energy that could, if harnessed, solve the world energy crisis at a stroke, we are all in collective stasis, at one with the moment.
Yes, that sounds over dramatic, ridiculous even. But that’s football. I’ve gone through family bereavements, my own wedding and countless other, enormous, life changing experiences in recent years – but did the tears flow at any of them? No. But I’ll admit to this. They did when we lost the play off final to Birmingham City back in 2002. Again, that’s football, that’s what it does to normally sane and rational people – it makes them anything but sane and completely irrational.
It was Sir Alex Ferguson who memorably said, “Football. Bloody hell” after yet another of one of those moments, their last gasp win against Bayern Munich in the 1999 Champions League Final – “that magical night in Barcelona” as Clive Tyldesley, ever irritatingly, constantly refers to it, conveniently forgetting that three different English clubs have won the tournament since then.
But you know what. They are both right.
So what are your Norwich City moments? A brief moment in time, a second or two, a flash of joy, of footballing bliss, one that was there for a moment and then gone – but which you will remember forever? Let’s hear them.
Five of mine to come tomorrow…