Saturday, November 3, 2007

Are You Ready for Some Football?

Erik has been planning to take Carter on a boys' night out since our arrival, but the stars did not align until yesterday evening. Specifically, he has been planning to take Carter to a soccer game with the local team, Karpaty. Carter was excited about the event all day, saying that he was "going to soccer with daddy. " About an hour before game time, we bundled up for the wet and chilly 40 degree evening and hopped in a taxi to the stadium. While a marshrutka route goes to the stadium, we try to avoid this form of mass transit (especially with Carter on board).

We arrived at the stadium and got a $5 ticket (Carter was free as usual). Passing by vendors on the way to the entrance, we spied lots of seeds and other snacks that green-clad Karpaty fans were picking up to munch on during the game.
Carter was upset that he did not wear his green shirt (of course, he was offered the green shirt and rejected a change into it prior to departure). So, we picked up a couple of green souvenirs, and Carter was mollified by having some green to join in the fun.

The stadium is an old, decaying bowl with a capacity of about 28,000. By the time the game started, maybe 2,000 fans were in their seats. The bad weather was probably not the reason for the miserable attendance, but rather Karpaty's horrible 3(W)-4(T)-7(L) record. Karpaty occupies second-to-last place in the league while yesterday's opponent Dnipro is in second place. Around 500 Dnipro fans were situated in one end of the stadium, the rest of the Karpaty fans were concentrated in a couple of sections.

Prior to the game's start, the stadium loudspeaker played a melange of soccer-themed songs and sports anthems. In addition to the obligatory Queen tune, we heard a Ramones-styled Karpaty song and a few British soccer songs. A few minutes before the start, the team and its lion mascot came on to the field to the strains of the official Karpaty theme song. Erik sung along with the fans; he did not know the official Karpaty lyrics but rather the original. The theme song follows the tune of "When the Saints Go Marching In."

Carter's attention was focused on the Karpaty lion. The mascot is unlikely to ever challenge Sparty the MSU Spartan in a tough-mascot competition, as it was an oversized, mangy lion head, with orange Raggedy-Ann-like dreadlocks on a man in a green track suit with foam paws and a sad orange tail.

The game started right on time. After the first ten minutes, Carter was "ready to go." Erik entertained him and watched the action for the first half. Of course, action is a relative term, especially when it comes to soccer.
Our section had a large percentage of young hooligans, and they made the game interesting by shouting insults and leading various chants. In fact, the crowd was almost exclusively male. Both teams had a couple of scoring chances, but in true soccer form, players dove, feigning injury, to draw penalties all over the field. The first five minutes featured three Dnipro players on the ground, writhing in "pain." Either they were acting, or Karpaty really cheap-shots its opponents (who have miraculous healing abilities as the injured players were immediately back out on the pitch at full strength). The half ended with the FIFA-approved score of 0-0. With Carter "ready to go" we headed for home. For you interested Karpaty fans, the team lost 0-1.

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