There’s a certain wonder about listening to a football game on the radio – which I rediscovered last Saturday when it appeared for a while to be the only reasonable way to follow what was going on in Munich.
Before the days of wall-to-wall coverage of the Premier League on the internet and cable TV (which meant frozen screens and thousands of frustrated fans when the system got overloaded and crashed in Singapore on the final day of the season two weeks ago), listening to the footie on the BBC World Service on Saturday nights was one of the highlights of the week for fans like myself in the Far East.
Our diet of football on the tube back then was limited to a week-old highlights programme called Big League Soccer and live broadcasts of the FA Cup and European Cup finals which (in those days) never featured Chelsea.
In that void, it was radio that offered us an immediate connection to the games taking place in England and what a treat it was! Listening to the descriptive voice of the excited commentator with the audible reaction of the crowd in the background, you could paint in your mind an image of what was going on thousands of kilometres away.
The excitement would build as the volume of the commentator’s voice would rise and the tension would be notched up when the presenter would suddenly break in to say that they were going to go to a reporter at another match to tell us of a goal, a penalty, a sending-off or even a full-scale pitch invasion.
For good or bad, the fact that we now get to watch every Premier League match live on TV in South-east Asia means that radio is nowadays considered as an afterthought when we want to whet our football appetite.
But on the night of perhaps the biggest match in Chelsea’s history, it proved to be my saviour as I desperately tried to find a way to follow the action in Munich.
That was partly my fault as I had shown such little confidence in the team after the debacle in Naples that I had booked and pre-paid for a family holiday for May 19.
So instead of getting together with fellow Blues fans on the Saturday of all Saturdays, I found myself instead sitting in front of a projector screen at an Indonesian resort hotel at 1:50am, watching a New York Yankees baseball game.
I was reassured that the resort’s technicians were working to get the feed of the game that me and the 10 other sleepy guests there really wanted to watch. But knowing that five minutes had already gone in the match, I decided to take a different tack.
I grabbed my laptop and MP3 player and headed for the fourth floor lobby to try to find an internet and radio signal. The internet connection was poor but the FM radio transmission from 50 kilometres away in Singapore came through loud and clear and I was soon immersed in the action at the Allianz Arena as Chelsea repelled Bayern’s advances. I listened intently as Petr Cech turned an Arjen Robben attempt against the post and bit my nails nervously as our defenders constantly gave up possession in dangerous areas.
I could have carried on sitting where I was and listening to the whole match unfold on my radio but about 10 minutes after I had tuned in, one of the resort staff came up and told me that the TV feed had been fixed. So as romantic as the notion of listening to the game on the radio may have been, I turned off the radio and went back to watching the game on the big screen.
There may have been a distinct lack of Chelsea fans there (most of the people there were cheering for Bayern although I doubt that they were really die-hard fans of the German club) but given how the game went, I probably woke up most of the resort when Didier Drogba tucked the ball away with his final kick for the club in the shootout.
Listening to the game on the radio was great but seeing the celebrations that followed and watching Frank Lampard and John Terry lift the trophy after all our years of frustration and disappointment in the competition were moments that I was only too glad to have seen with my own eyes.
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