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Saturday 19th January 2013 ko 14.00


POTTERS BAR TOWN 2 (Johnson 1 Hutchinson 49)

ENFIELD TOWN 2 (Hope 67p Johnson 82)

Att 0

Played at London Soccerdome, East Parkside, Greenwich Peninsula, London

For the itinerant football watcher, snow has only one advantage – games tend to get called off quickly. My original choice, Oxford United was postponed Friday lunchtime, as were the games involving the participants in my eventual game. If of course the weather is against you, then there’s only one true all-weather surface – an indoor one!

I’d checked the kick off with Potters Bar secretary Alan Evans, but en-route, Enfield Town had tweeted that the game was “behind closed doors” as there are no spectator facilities at the venue. I checked back with Alan, he agreed to my presence so for this game I was “with” Potters Bar. Many thanks Alan, your kind gesture is much appreciated.

I drove through central London to the Greenwich Peninsula, with the Millenium Dome/O2 centre a massive eye-catching centre-piece, and since my last visit here to visit the British Music Experience, the huge stanchions and gondolas of the Thames Cable Car have been added.  The area is devoid of the paraphernalia, that give a settlement its character. There’s flats, but only at the periphery. There’s no shops, or cafes, save for those at the dome. I found myself aching for a corner shop, an ethnic takeaway, or a snug locals’ boozer. After all without a sense of place, or belonging, what or where are you?

The area’s history as docks seems to have been completely lost, in fact I was almost back at the Blackwall Tunnel before I saw any sign of even a converted warehouse. That incidentally, was a “Majestic Wine Warehouse, ” an act of supreme irony. Maybe that’s why it felt an odd place to be visiting for football, as its locality, and its tradition, have both been lost here, and its these components that make football what it is. Its worth commenting that being indoors didn’t make it odd for me, it felt outdoors more than I did at the Sweden vs England game, where the roof was closed and the inside temperature controlled to 20c.

The London Soccerdome was opened in 2005 as the David Beckham Academy, and its indoor arena houses two full-sized 3G  pitches, alongside an education and administration centre. Beckham’s involvement ceased in 2010, and the centre closed briefly before re-opening after a takeover. There’s no lack of “Brand Beckham” still in evidence, with his Manchester United “7” and Real Madrid “23” squad numbers bookending a corridor lined with signed shirts, but the feel is less superstar, and more seriously sporting facility.

Despite the fact that officially there were to be no spectators, there were a few parents half watching and well-liked hopper Dermot managed to amble past the reception desk. Many watched the game from the warmth of the canteen, which was spacious, well equipped and closed. I’m no fan of watching behind glass so I ventured pitchside and was immediately struck how cold it was. It transpires that the two pitches are only separated from the outside world by a framework covered by a waterproof canvas-type cloth. Every so often outside a lump of snow would slide off of the canvas with a hiss.

The game pitched Isthmian League Division One North against Isthmian Premier, and local rivals, to boot, but the game managed to belie both of these factors, but still be competitive. Danny Johnson’s early strike set the tone for the first 60 minutes, as Potters Bar looked the more controlled, and organised, and it was of little surprise when the increased their lead through Josh Hutchinson just after half time. What changed the game was the awarding of a penalty to Enfield with just under 25 minutes. It looked soft, but Liam Hope seized the chance from the spot, and Town grasped the lifeline, and Neil Johnson’s glanced header from a right-wing cross gave Town a draw that barely looked possible half an hour earlier.

So an interesting if odd, location and venue, but one I felt grateful and privileged to have been able to visit. It shows that if you take football away from its locale, its sense of purpose is diminished. It was obvious that as a one-off game here, to keep players fit during a cold snap it works. As just about anything else, it becomes as sterile as a game on television.

I took a little time to warm up in the deserted canteen, before this single-handed sailor left his dry dock, and slipped away into the night.