Last month, I went to my first match gathering in over two years. The site was Penny Lane Pub in Richmond, VA. The event was scheduled as a pre-pandemic continuation of the first leg of the bonding between OLSC Charlottesville and OLSC Richmond, with each travelling to their homes. But, the event was much more with contingents of OLSC Washington DC and OLSC Hampton Roads also in attendance to make one big happy family. The scene was electric.
There is something special, something unique about our community, the likes that are not experienced among other sports fans in the United States. I will not downplay the tailgating experience of American football or the touring groups of racing fans. But, we are truly unique.
I got to the pub a little early, prior to the arrival of the Charlottesville Reds. Outside the pub, fellow Reds gathered discussing the morning’s line ups, injury concerns, as the pub prepared for the arrival of the busload of visitors. The quiet of the surreal quiet of the downtown streets of Richmond was soon interrupted by the voice of Gerry Marsden, and the arrival of the visiting Reds.
The hospitality of the hosts was unquestionable, providing a spread of scotch eggs and mini quiches, along with the libations only a proper pub can provide. The first half was filled with many moans of missed chances, and almost happenings much like any other match, with a scattering of conversations and clinking of glasses among old friends and friends anew. It was like a family reunion, the likes that I’ve only experienced within our community.
After a halftime share of pleasantries by the hosts, the second half started with the echoes of”ughs” heard around the room as the Reds conceded the first to the struggling Canaries. But, that soon turned to hugs and cheers and the rampant Reds levelled, then took the lead in a space of three minutes, that lifted the fog from the room, and brightened the atmosphere. There were songs of Mane’ and songs of Mo bellowed out among the crowded room, to be treated by a first goal by Diaz the erupted the room in cheers. The atmosphere was on fire, as shots and toasts were exchanged, as our Reds claimed the points.
Prior to the conclusion of the gathering, everyone took the opportunity to have a group photograph to mark the occasion, and share one more song together, as “Allez, Allez, Allez” carried through the streets of downtown Richmond. More handshakes, banter, and hugs were exchanged before the travelling Reds boarded the bus back to Charlottesville.
I walked away from Penny Lane with a sense of fullness. Our community, much like every community lost human interaction over the past two years. It left me with the promise of what will be when we all go completely back to normal. It was fantastic to see old friends, that I can call family, a family of Reds. Many thanks go out for the hospitality of Terry and Terrance O’Neil of Penny Lane Pub, who have opened the door to our community since 1978, and provided one of the best experiences stateside to catch a match, catch a pint, or catch a proper English meal. Also, many thanks go out to OLSC Richmond for being the perfect host and Andrew Kinback for his photography. It was a fantastic day, everyone left with dreams and songs to sing!