July 31, 2012
LONDON CALLING (DAY 8)
The one time I do not want to be at Old Trafford
By Michael Lewis
MANCHESTER -- Consider the irony.
Here I am in Manchester and scheduled to go to one of the most storied soccer stadiums in the world -- Old Trafford -- for an Olympic game between Spain and Morocco on Wednesday night.
Who would give up an opportunity to watch a soccer game at Old Trafford?
Spain has been eliminated from the competition, the biggest disappointment in the 16-team men's field. Morocco desperately needs a win to survive to the knockout rounds. Not exactly the most fabulous confrontation in the world, is it?
I would rather be in Newcastle watching the Brazil men battle their New Zealand counterparts.
Why I am stuck in Manchester for the day? Well, I paid for my hotel room months ago through the Olympic accommodations bureau. There is no way I will be able to get a refund. Since I am following a budget for these Summer Games (at least in name, certainly not in weather), I am forced to stay in Manchester for another day, against my will.
On Tuesday, I finally got an opportunity to watch a soccer game at the historic ground -- the United States' 1-0 win over North Korea, which secured the Group G title. Not the most stirring match for yours truly, but just being in this true cathedral of soccer was worth it.
I had been to Old Trafford twice before -- I visited Tim Howard way back in August, 2003 just after he had transferred from the New York/New Jersey MetroStars to Manchester United (the team did not have a game at the stadium, but I was given a private tour) and Tuesday for the U.S. team's walk-through.
If I had only one word to describe it, I would use majestic.
Probably the other impressive sight was the name of the north stand -- the Sir Alex Ferguson stand. It was named after the current United manager for his 25 years of service to the English Premier League team.
It's one thing to have something named after you when you are alive. It's another when you are in the exact same position that earned you that legendary status.
Even though, I would prefer to be somewhere else on Wednesday, I would love to return to the stadium within the week.
If the U.S. women play their part, I will be back in this northwestern English city on Monday. If they defeat New Zealand in the quarterfinals, they will take on the winner of the England-Canada match in the semifinals at Old Trafford.
Now, that's a match I really would love to see.