Sport is very much at the centre of my life. From watching Mo Farah win Olympic Gold in a crowded hotel bar at my cousin’s wedding in 2012 (about 3 of us sat down to watch the first lap, 50 screamed their lungs out to bring him home in the final stretch), to pretty much getting a day off school in 2005 after Liverpool’s Istanbul triumph, sport is at the heart of many of my warmest memories. Whether it’s doing it or watching it, there isn’t really a sport that I can’t happily spend an afternoon getting lost in (notable exceptions being Formula 1 and darts).
In the past few years I’ve been lucky enough to go see some incredible sporting events in person: the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow (entire stadium singing 500 Miles = absolute gold), the Women’s Euros in Rotterdam (rained off, but it’s the thought that counts), and the Athletics World Championships in London (hands down one of the top 5 days of my entire life) all being memorable occasions. Last week I added another event to my list with a couple of days at the Netball World Cup in Liverpool. I mean, one of my favourite sports in my favourite city, how could I not?
Now, I’d be lying if I said that last week’s jolly to Liverpool was all my doing. Sure, I knew it was on and I’d marked my calendar. I’d even signed up for the pre-sale. But when I logged on that morning ready to snap up my tickets, I was crestfallen to see SOLD OUT plastered all over. Who knew netball was so popular? Certainly, no one in the Netherlands has ever heard of it. Disappointed, I turned to B for sympathy, only to be surprised later that evening with the news that he’d somehow managed to book us tickets for 2 sessions in the latter part of the tournament. And all of this in despite of the fact he didn’t have the foggiest as to the actual rules! He’s a keeper.
Almost a year to the day after B’s wonderful surprise, and there we where, sat in our seats about 4 rows back from the court, right opposite a goal. I couldn’t believe my luck and I’d be lying if the atmosphere didn’t get me a bit teary eyed (but to be honest, sometimes I cry just at the thought of breakfast). The games themselves were intense – the 2 sessions we saw were the final stages of the group games, and then the playoffs for 4th-8th position. First up was Scotland vs. Trinidad and Tobago, which was probably the most thrilling of the games we saw as it ended 43-43. Seriously, hearing an entire stadium shout “SHOOT!” in unison was both hilarious and kind of terrifying (I mean, imagine being the 17 year-old they’re actually shouting at), and by the end of the game I was screaming along with the best of them. Loved it, and I surely wasn’t alone – B was as into it as anyone there, and by the end of the session he was already entering pundit mode with cut-throat analysis.
Also in that first session we got to see the England Roses vs. South Africa. Getting to see the home team and hear the roars of support that reverberated around the stadium at every turnover, centre pass or goal was simply incredible and even though the game wasn’t a close one (47-58 to England who ultimately finished 3rd behind Australia and champions New Zealand), the crowd made it feel as though it were a by-the-skin-of-their-teeth victory. The evening was rounded out with more post-game analysis over a drink in the docks, watching the sun set on the water on a perfect summer’s evening.
Session 2 the following day was a more sedate affair in comparison (the games were not all that close), but it was just as special to me as I got to go with my mum AKA my best friend. Obviously living away in Amsterdam I don’t get to spend anywhere near as much time as I would like with that wonderful lady, so having the opportunity to not only hang out but also make new memories was so incredibly special to me. Especially as back in my County Netball days, my mum would give up her Thursday nights to drive me to training, watch the 3-hour session and then drive me home again. And not only that, but she hardly ever missed a Sunday game. So it was probably about time that she actually got to watch some half-decent netball, eh? Another positive of going with my mum was that I didn’t feel half as embarrassed as I should have at my blatant adoration and bordering-on deification of Clare Balding, who made a surprise appearance at the session to present the Comic Relief game that rounded off events. I mean if anything my mum loves her just as much, maybe even more (gotta get it from somewhere). The Comic Relief game was fun, a highlight being Jennifer Saunders’ between-the-legs goal in the first minute, provoking a roar louder than any that had rang out for England only 24 hours earlier.
So all in all it was an amazing 2 days, spent getting reacquainted with one of my Favourite sports. Summer holidays don’t come much sweeter.