Sunday, 15 August 2010


The streets are lined with market stalls, selling flags, scarves, team-branded items of all sorts. Blues to the right, Reds to the left. Home team advantage to the Blues, but it's a local derby, so feelings are running high, the tension in the air is palpable and threatens to erupt at any moment.

Thousands of fans on the streets walk, talk, shout and sing their way to the match. Some are sucked in by the stall-holders, but most have come prepared. The seasoned professionals in this game are the supporters, not the players. Years, even generations of loyal, unwavering support. The traditions remain strong, even when the reasons behind them can no longer be recalled. The sea of people converge on the ground, Reds from the left, Blues from the right, meeting to create a purple haze as they mingle at the gates.

It's a daunting sight, all the more so if you're trying to find one needle-like patient in a haystack of raucous colour. At least we know he's a Red. Eventually, thanks to the police, stewards and several drunken antics, he's found. Lying face down on a bench, his scarf loosely dangling from around his neck, the back of his shirt proudly displaying the coveted number 10.

Around us are more stalls, this time each plying their trade with an added bonus of advertising by aroma. Food and drink on sale at extortionate prices, yet being bought by hundreds of fans, each allowing themselves one more luxury to complete the day. All the while, there's an added smell in the mix, lavender-like, seemingly, almost impossibly, coming from the comatose patient.

Under the bench we see the can. Lavender air freshener. An officer picks it up and with one shake announces that it's empty. He hands us the can as he reads the warning printed boldly, menacingly on the back.

"Solvent abuse can kill instantly".

A Red fan amongst his own, away at the home of the Blues, gone in a self-inflicted haze of purple.

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