Monday, 19 March 2012

Sometimes You Are Reminded

Today’s blog is a bit of a different one, not a diary as such but more of a putting some opinions and thoughts down – so a real type of blog really, haha. The reason is that this weekend has definitely been one of the most extraordinary I have experienced in my life…. and here’s why…

Usually on a Friday night on my way home from work I give my mum a call for a catch up, just to have a check in and see how things are going with everything. This week when I spoke to her I found out that our cat ‘Roo’ had been put down that afternoon. Now I say our cat as even though I haven’t lived with my mum for four and a half years we had that cat since I was about 12 (I’m 27 now) so it was very much a family pet. It’s always sad when a family pet goes, everyone knows it will happen (unless you have a tortoise that will probably outlive your grandchildren) but it’s still sad when it happens. Roo was old and to be fair had a great run as a cat, but he was getting old and things were starting to be noticeable that he was on last knockings, so it was nice in a way that it was over before it could become painful for him. So yeah the weekend started on quite a low note.

Saturday was a fairly normal day, I popped into Milton Keynes to get a few bits and then home to settle down to watch the FA Cup match between Spurs and Bolton on TV in the evening. This is the main part of this blog as it wasn’t your regular run of the mill football match.

Everything started fairly normally in the game, Spurs went 1-0 down and then struck to make it 1-1 before starting to really take control of the game…..then it happened. About five minutes before half time the camera briefly cut to one of the Bolton players, Fabrice Muamba, lying face down and looking in some distress in the middle of the pitch. The cameras cut away and it became clear very quickly that something serious was happening. Physios from both teams rushed on to attend to him and from that moment on Football was no longer important. You could tell from the players reactions, some in tears, some holding their face, some turning away, players from either team comforting each other, this was something that nobody wanted to be experiencing. The crowd fell silent, and when 35,000 people fall silent it is an extremely eerie sound. They could all see the CPR being given and after a minute or two a defibrillator was bought on to try and assist in the resuscitation efforts which showed the severity of the situation on the pitch. As the crowd started to realise that Muamba was fighting for his life you could see the concern in every single face. It didn’t matter if it was a Spurs fan or a Bolton fan, at that point sides didn’t matter, there were even Bolton players standing with the Spurs crowd. Quiet chants of Muambas name were starting to break out, then it could be heard from all areas of the stadium. As long as I live I will never forget that sound, it wasn’t a specific sound but you knew it was there – it was the sound of 35,000 people pleading for him to live. The treatment on the pitch went on for around 10 minutes, then he was taken off on a stretcher and the rest of the players left the field straight after. Then we waited……

Rightly so, the match was abandoned after what happened, there was no way that any player on that pitch was in any state to continue playing the game. There wasn’t a murmur of disappointment from the crowd when it was announced either, they knew this was serious…. and this was one of those moments that shows you how insignificant and unimportant sport really is overall. From that moment on the rest of the evening was a waiting game, everyone waiting to hear something positive about Muambas condition. What happened shows how little the majority of people cared about the football when a young man – he is only 23 years old – is fighting for his life. There were thousands upon thousands of people sending messages of hope on Twitter, professionals from all teams and all over the world showing their concern and just willing for a positive outcome from it all. I think Kyle Walker (Spurs right-back) summed it up perfectly, he said ‘Doesn't matter who you support. Doesn't matter if you aren't a football fan. Doesn't matter if you aren't religious. Pray for Fabrice Muamba’. For the majority of that evening, not knowing what was happening I think that’s exactly what most people were doing. To quote ESPN, who were covering the game, everyone was ‘fearing the worst but hoping for the best’.

Later that evening news filtered through that the club physios and emergency teams had got Muamba breathing again. It was the best news that people could have hoped for. Since then I know I, and many other people I’m sure, are keeping as up to date with things as they can and hoping that he pulls through. As I write this he is currently in intensive care following what was confirmed as a cardiac arrest on the pitch. I think what happened has really bought home how precious life really is to a lot of people, I know it did with me. When something like that happens to someone so young and so physically fit then it shows how delicate things can be. There has been an extreme amount of good come from the situation as well as the bad. Seeing the reactions from fans of all teams, players of all teams and people not even involved in sport shows that it is just a game and when needed, the game gets forgotten. When you get past the surface of the rivalry’s, the bad feeling and anything else like that, everyone unites together at a time like that and sport is the last thing on people’s minds. Last night the Real Madrid game was on TV and before the game the players were wearing shirts with ‘Get Well Soon Muamba’ and ‘Animo Abidal’ written on them. Eric Abidal is due to have a liver transplant following diagnosis of liver cancer last year and plays for Real Madrids fiercest rivals Barcelona, which once again shows how little football matters at times like this. It was such a small gesture by Real Madrid that showed enormous class.
Complete class from Real Madrid
It was just such a bizarre situation, something I never want to go through again, and it really does show you how precious every moment you are alive is - you just don’t know what is around the corner. It reminded me of the first boxing match I ever watched, Nigel Benn Vs Gerald McClellan. At the end of the fight McClellan collapsed in the ring and was rushed to hospital with a blood clot on his brain. He survived but sadly he is now blind and suffered some brain damage also. I was quite young and it was a moment of my life that I will never forget and I know that this is one of those moments as well. I know terrible things like this happen every day all over the world and it was another reminder on Sunday of this weekend of that too. Kilmarnock had just won the Scottish League cup final against Celtic but the celebrations were cut short as one of the Kilmarnock players father had a heart attack as the celebrations were going on and sadly passed away. What I mean is that yes terrible things happen every day but when it’s something so prominent and brings home how fragile life can be it can really touch a nerve with a lot of people. I’m certain that anyone who was watching on TV or especially all the people at the game will never forget what happened this weekend and I’m certain that none of them will every want to go through it ever again. Even though I don’t know Fabrice Muamba, the whole situation made it one of the worst 10 minutes to experience. Everyone now and then something will come along to remind you - Don't take life for granted, it's just too precious

There is simply one way to end this blog

Pray For Muamba   -   Animo Abidal

Saturday, 3 March 2012

The Greatest Concert Ever

The awesome wings from 'Engel'
As with Paris, I had to write a special entry on the Rammstein concert I went to last Friday as its was absolutely incredible! Seriously, it was one of the best things I have ever seen in any shape or form, wow! Yes its heavy rock, yes it’s pretty much all in German and I don’t know what they are saying even if I do know the words – but Christ, it is one hell of a show. They have always said that they need to be a spectacle live as 99% of people don’t understand what is being said in the songs. They have a reputation for putting on an incredible stage show and they didn’t disappoint. There was fire, and I mean a load of fire – coming from the floor, the ceiling, the wings that he put on in ‘Engel’ (see the main photo for the blog) and facemasks the guitarists wear when they play ‘Feuer Frei’ that shoot flames about 20 feet. There was also, smoke, more explosions than you can imagine, foam being fired over the crowd and the keyboard player crowd surfing the whole way round the standing area in a rubber dinghy! Here's a quick little video of that and a good photo below!..... 
Flake crowd surfing in the dinghy!
I have been a fan of Rammstein for a long time, but they very rarely play anywhere outside of Germany so when I found out about the show at the O2 I just had to go. The tickets sold out within the first couple of hours but I was going to make it there somehow. Then as a big surprise I was given the tickets by Lara (@laazarini7) for my birthday and WHAT A PRESENT! I went with my mate Sean (@seanieboy86) who I have been to a few Download Festivals with. We were down in standing rather than in the stands as that is where all the major action and rocking happens. Everything went dark and as we had just been at the bar we were about halfway back in the standing area, still with a great view. This great big walkway was coming down out of the roof and we were just waiting to see what was going to happen. They didn’t appear on stage but came right out of one of the stand entrances at the side, walking down and through the crowd. When it happened we were literally two or three people back from where they walked through the crowd. I have a video of the intro but this one someone posted on YouTube is much better as it’s from a view up in the stands right next to where they walked out!! You can watch for 5 seconds to see the big walkway, then skip to 2mins in when they enter! Please stick with it, it’s worth the watch! They kicked off with Sonne (also in that video) and the place went nuts!
Gradually we worked our way forward through the crowd and ended up about three people back from the front. You could really feel the heat of things from there! As I mentioned above there was loads of fire throughout and I would have taken photos or videos of Feuer Frei, as it looked amazing, but I was far too busy rocking out like a lunatic with Sean as that is one of my favourites.
Fire from the facemasks in 'Feuer Frei'
There was a great bit during ‘Du Hast’ where the lead singer, Till Lindemann, fires a shotgun into the air and fireworks go screaming through the O2 before everything goes crazy and fire starts shooting from everywhere on stage. I have a good video of this from where we are stood at the time.

One of the best performances of the evening was for ‘Engel’ where the lead singer comes out wearing a giant pair of wings, but these aren’t any wings. They fire flames out of each end and explode the whole way up and down them – Awesome.

They played on stage for about two and a half hours in the end so it wasn’t exactly a short show either. The last song was accompanied by Till Lindemann sitting on a massive foam firing machine painted like a mans private place! Lol. The first 10 rows or so were just covered in foam. Once again I have a video of this too

Sean said that he would give up on a weekend at a festival just to see their show again and he’s not wrong, they were just amazing! So Sean and I have Lara to thank for getting me the tickets for my birthday and all in all it was a great evening. Grabbing some food at the O2 before watching possibly the best live concert I will ever see. Take a bow Rammstein – they probably would, and then they would throw in some fire and explosions for the hell of it!