RAWK Advent Calendar 2015 Day 1 - The King and I

Posted by Harinder on November 30, 2015, 10:19:23 AM

Monday 3rd November. As annoying as life can be, there are days when at work I’d just sit and think of things to come. The car change, my daughter’s day at school, the next meeting to negotiate and the ticking clock nudging towards 4pm and out the door. The tickets had arrived long before and the hotel was booked the day the draw was made. A fussy traveller at the best of times I’d picked Hotel Eurostars Madrid Tower. Reading up on it they made it sound so close to the stadium (it isn’t) and being at the heart of Madrid (it isn’t) and at the time it met the economic criteria to a tee. Flights from London City Airport meant I’d be at my desk again on Wed 5th November for 9am. Sorted.

Rain. Madrid was wet and raining. I’ve left London only to be met by more dismal weather than what I’d left behind. It was not what I’d expected but then waiting over an hour for any luggage to come out had already dampened the mood. This mood was then pissed upon right royally by Dr Zaf Iqbal. No stethoscopes or half naked Harinder on a medical examination bench but more a cold, pithy grumping acknowledgement of my existence by our now departed doc in the hotel lobby. In the gaps between him recognising me from an awards ceremony a year before and me checking in, I’d mentally registered that Liverpool Football Club must be here too

“Oh Hello, “ grumped Zaf
“Evening,” I said. “Nice to see you again (big smile)”
“Mumble mumble mumble mumble, humph” said the Doc.

Well. Thank you very much.

“What the heck am I doing here?” I thought to myself. Few hundred notes down the drain with a mood that matched it thanks to everything that had happened. Helping me pick my chin up from the floor, the receptionist pointed me towards the lifts. Concealed behind the right side of the reception area was the lift lobby and bar/restaurant with someone standing there who looked a lot like Kenny Dalglish.

Shit. Kenny. Kenny. The king. It’s the King. It really is. Shit. Ohhhh my dear God. It’s Kenny. The King. You get the picture. To date I’d never really had the chance to ever go up to someone and tell them they are my hero. They adorn my wall at home in personalised shirt that he wrote out to me back in 2010. That he gave me so much joy when growing up. That he became the epitome of so much that I value when it comes to Liverpool. That I’m so sorry for interrupting his drink and ticket organising for the next day but would it be ok to get a picture because you are my hero?

“Have ye got ahh kemra?”

(Do bears shit in the woods?!). No, I didn’t say that. My phone came out, my face beamed and I truly hit euphoria. I don’t know what I said next. I took one snap (rude to take more I thought), shook hands and apologised to security for my intrusion but hoped they understood. They did…they even asked about my pin badge from the HJC (recalls a conversation with 24/7 once about the same badge!)

As I entered the lifts I was delirious. I kept thinking of who to tell. Mum, obviously. Wife. Family. Fuck it, the world can know. Mum didn’t answer. Wife didn’t pick up but two family members who’ve been pivotal in my journey not only onto RAWK but so many matches before got the message. The “oh my gods” and “what the hell just happened?” replies went through the roof. As Chivasino so eloquently put it, win lose or draw this trip has been made already. He was right. What started with such a shitty reception had turned around into a lottery win that gave a gift that keeps on giving. The King and I has happened. When my wife finally did answer I’m not sure of the incoherent babble that came out but suffice to say she knew I was on top of the world.

Oh, we did all again when I saw him again in the morning ;D

On Tuesday 4th Nov itself I met up with Chivasino (Tony) AP823 and a friend of ours. Explaining the night before was easy! We then made our separate ways around Madrid. My day had been planned long before as I’d been told Yan Dhanda had travelled out with the under 18s. He was 15 at the time and so thought I’d take the chance to see him play against Real Madrid’s U18s in the UEFA Youth League match. A quick tour of Santiago Bernabeu prior gave me a view of real stadium that’s rooted deep in the mix of money, football and la decima. It glitters but it's not gold. The shirts on display of the current first team squad would rattle many nerves and I did my best to think positively. Anything could happen!

Finding precisely where Real Madrid City and this Alfredo di Stefano stadium is was a real headache. Taxi for me and that solved the problem. 10 euros to get in and got seated to see the under 18s warm up. Don’t know why but I seem to stand out in places. This was handy for a nice recognising smile from Yan as he set about training. He wasn’t starting but I didn’t care. He was there and that meant the world to him. As the stadium began packing out some esteemed guests turned up. The King again. Steve McManaman. Fernando Hierro. Somehow Ian Ayre blagged his way in too so he could sit near them (yes, yes… I don’t get it either). The result was 4-1 but post Real Madrid scoring first, Brannagan got the equaliser and up until the hour mark we were matching them really well. We scored own goal, gave away a penalty and then another goal and that was that. The guests had gone earlier but I couldn't help but think that I'd been in the presence of royalty three times in the space of 24 hours. Semi expecting a restraining order by the time I got the taxi back to the hotel, I was rather glad that I had an hour prior to heading towards the Bernanbeu. It was bloody cold and I needed my jacket!

I hoped the earlier result wouldn’t be a sign of things to come! It wasn’t.We had Achterburg, they had the geriatric gymnast of a goalkeeping coach on steroids putting Casillas through his paces. A team with no Steven Gerrard starting began the match and went on to lose 1-0 (even after he came on in 2nd half). We didn’t look out of sorts but we never looked sharp enough or strong enough to beat them. I slept for a few hours, woke up, checked out and checked back in to my desk at work the next morning. The usual stream of issues, problems and people to resolve mattered not. The post match licking of wounds or battles on selections mattered not. I’d met the King and that was that. Everything else seemed second place almost apart from when the eyes stopped stinging and I remembered we’d lost!

Onwards and upwards as they say :)

Thank you, King Kenny Dalglish. My hero.

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