My first week in England has been quite calm – at least compared with other ‘freshers’ – but I couldn’t pass up an invitation I received from Ben, a classmate and fanatic Dortmund fan.
“I have tickets for Tottenham vs Dortmund on Wednesday, does anyone want to join me?” he asked. I immediately said yes!
Of course after the initial excitement I thought: Ok I really want to go but I am Portuguese and everyone knows that the difference between the living cost in England and Portugal is huge. But at the same time this was an amazing opportunity to watch Champions League football. Not just a normal Champions League match, but one with two great teams where I would sit amongst some of the best football fans in Europe – those of Borussia Dortmund. So I decided that I couldn’t miss it.
It’s the big day, around four-thirty, and I am already in the Globe – a pub in Baker Street in the centre of London. Only it doesn’t feel like London. Wherever I look I can only see yellow shirts. I am surrounded by Dortmund fans, who are doing what I call the pre-match ritual. This consists of drinking beers and talking tactics which, let’s be honest, every football fan loves to do.
I had only been in the pub for two minutes before I became immersed in a conversation with two German guys. “Dortmund has too many injuries” said the first “Raphael Guerreiro, Reus, Bartra”. “What happened with Tuchel? I really liked him,” I asked him. In the blink of an eye an hour had already passed and Ben – who was responsible for organising all of the London Dortmund fan club – rounded us up and we began the long march to Wembley. So a big yellow line winded its way to the station. We were only two stops away from Wembley but it took a while to get there. There were so many people in yellow that I wasn’t able to squeeze into the first train, there was literally no space, even for a midget. By the time the second came I was ready and so got on first.
Before long, Wembley stadium came into view. “Huge”, I thought. However, even if I was excited and anxious to see the match, there was one thing that was still angering in the back of my mind – I still didn’t have a ticket! At this point Ben comes to me and tells me that he is not sure if he is going to have tickets for all of us – there were four of us from class – myself and three other guys from America, Ireland and Scotland. He told me:
“You have to choose if you would rather take a risk and see if I have a spare ticket for you at the gate or pay a bit more and buy a ticket from one of these random guys. That’s probably a safer bet.”
One of these random guys, who I now know are called ‘ticket touts’ in England, probably heard that and approached me:
“Do you want a ticket? 70 pounds.”
I didn’t answer immediately, I was quite hesitant, but eventually I said:
“Sixty pounds. Your colleague was selling at sixty pounds.”
“But my tickets are for a better place in the stadium.” he answered.
I didn’t care.
“Sixty or nothing.” I insisted.
“Ok man, 60.”
It’s always a good feeling when you drive a hard bargain and they give in.
“So give me the money.” he insisted.
I was suspicious that the tickets he was selling could be fakes.
“Wait a moment! Ben please give me your ticket so I can compare”.
They looked exactly the same!
“Ok I want one.”
The man seemed pleased but didn’t want to get caught.
“Nice but we can’t do it here, there is a lot of police. Let’s go over there”, he told me.
We went near a block of portable toilets. He looked around to see if there was police and gives me the ticket. So now I had to give him the money. I really felt like a criminal, and you know what, I think I enjoyed it – I was full of adrenaline. I discreetly gave him the money. The transaction was done. Finally! Even if I knew I wasn’t going to be in the middle of Dortmund fans, because this ticket was a ticket in the Tottenham end. I was ready to enter the stadium and, in the end, that was all that matters.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. Unfortunately I wasn’t going to be in the middle of the Dortmund or the Tottenham fans. I wish I was joking but I’m not – when I tried to enter the stadium the ticket wasn’t working! I told the security officers that the ticket wasn’t working, but I knew it would be in vain. They also tried to scan the ticket but got the same result.
“Go to the ticket office and explain what happened.” The security officer told me.
I went to the ticket office and… No way! There was an unbelievable queue and it was only half an hour before the match started. In that moment I got a text from Matt, my scottish friend, saying that Ben is in front of section C, at the entrance and he has one spare ticket left. I started to run, as fast as I could. Although, as I ran, I realised I would have to pay another 45 pounds to get a real ticket form Ben, and I couldn’t afford this. Don’t forget what I said before – I’m Portuguese. I had a tiny glimmer of hope that he might give me the ticket for free if I told him what had happened.
Unfortunately when I arrived there, I couldn’t find him. Chris, a really cool guy that I met at the Globe earlier, saw me and asked what happened. I explained to him and he told me Ben was already inside and said he was sorry for what happened to me. He was a really nice guy and I really appreciated his kind thoughts but I had to try everything, so I went back to the ticket office and the queue was still really long. But I would never forgive myself if I didn’t try, so I stayed. It took 30 minutes but eventually my turn came.
I told the lady at the desk about my malfunctioning ticket and she took it from me to inspect. She asked me where I got it from and I was forced to lie and say that a friend had given it to me. She was very persistent with the question but I maintained the lie that a friend of mine had given me the ticket. Eventually she told me that because the ticket was not in my name I was not allowed to use it.
I was shocked. How could a turnstile know if I was the one who bought the ticket? I was tired and knew I was not going to be able to get in, even if I wasted time arguing. So I left, I didn’t say anything and I walked to the station to go home. Initially I thought that I would be able to join my classmates who where watching the match at a pub. I soon realised that by the time I got back the game would be finishing so there wouldn’t be much point.
The final result of this journey was 60 pounds on a fake ticket, 20 on travelling and beer and no amazing Champions League experience. At least I was able to watch the highlights when I arrived back home in Kingston.
I guess that’s just the price I paid for being a Fresher.
Featured Image: Wonker