Back in September, I joined an online forum for West Bromwich Albion supporters. I don’t actually comment on it very often, but since West Brom aren’t a world-famous, internationally popular side like Chelsea or Manchester United are, I like having a place where I can read people’s thoughts on the matches and whatnot.
Anyway, once I determined that I was definitely coming for today’s match a few months ago, I posted asking what people thought best way to go about buying a ticket would be. I was immediately told that one bloke on the forum acts as a sort of ‘ticketmaster’ for all the out-of-towners, and he got in touch and said he’d take care of procuring the ticket. We arranged to meet in front of the Stadium a few hours before the match, and I figured I would just get the ticket, give him the money I owed and that would be that.
I was wrong.
Firstly, he wouldn’t even let me pay him back the full ticket price because I had already come such a long way. Then he said: ‘All right, now I’ll take you to the pub to meet the others.’ Apparently the guys from the forum all meet at a pub down the road before the matches, and they were expecting me.
The minute I walked in, I felt like some sort of minor celebrity. Everyone was so tickled that a random American girl would decide to support their team and come all the way out from Chicago on her own to see a match that they wouldn’t even let me pay for my own pints.
When we got to the stadium, they took me up to everyone they knew and declared ‘Hey! This lass here come all the way from Chicago!’ As a result, I am now BFFs with the guy who works The Hawthorns betting booth, the woman who sells the official programs, and a local football journalist.
The match was a 1-1 draw. It would have been great if we’d won outright, but even if WBA had lost, I’d still be grinning like an idiot, because today was brilliant, pure and simple. With so much epic sadness and cruelty occurring this past week, it was really wonderful to be the recipient of some good, old-fashioned kindness. We should all strive to be this sweet and welcoming to each other every day…
…except to Manchester United fans, because seriously, fuck them.