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A few days ago I was asked to write a piece for the United Counties League Facebook page. Given that we’re organising a groundhop for them in August I thought I’m delve a little into groundhopping culture. I  occasionally get asked what’s the most far-flung and unusual ground I’ve ever visited and I’ve got a good tale to tell on that… This isn’t my usual offering but I hope you enjoy it.

 

We took the groundhop to West Wales a few weeks ago, for 5 games in the Ceredigion League. We at GroundhopUK were really happy with how it went, attendances were 20% up on 2013, and the clubs did a marvellous job, making a tidy sum on varied catering, and newsy, interesting programmes.

But I’m not going to talk about that, you’ll all see how that’s done thing coming August, this is a tale from one of my more far-flung travels.

The first game on Sunday was at Bargod Rangers, in the pretty village of Drefach Velindre, near Newcastle Emlyn, and I got volunteered to speak to the local press. The cub reporter asked me what my most bizarre ground visited is, and I told them it was Zweigen Kanazawa in the Japanese 3rd Division.

On one level it was straightforward, I’d gone to stay with my mate Pete who lives in Osaka, and he decided we’d visit Kanazawa’s ornamental gardens and famous castle, then go to the game in the evening. We arrived at the stadium an hour before kick-off, bought our souvenirs and as I was taking my seat I spotted that an official was handing out team sheets in the press area. Now I do like a team sheet so despite neither the official nor I speaking each other’s language I asked for a copy.

What I hadn’t reckoned on was that the official was a stickler for the regulations, so I was escorted into the bowels of the stand to fill out the necessary paperwork, not easy when it’s all in the Japanese katakana. Most of the boxes were simple enough to work out though, title, first name, last name, etc, but I drew a blank with the last one, and the official couldn’t gesticulate what it meant. Another official was found, that spoke a word or two of English, and she kept saying, “Vessel, Vessel,” and eventually the penny dropped. They wanted to know which organisation I was working for, and I was there purely as a tourist!

At this point I really should have smiled sweetly, given up and taken my seat in the stand. Unfortunately I could see the glossy press pass, and meaty media guide just waiting for me, so I quickly wrote, “Oxford Mail,” and collected my guide and pass. I reached my seat in the press area just in time for Pete to pass camera in his hand, and comment, “What the…. are you doing here?” He did get the last laugh though; the guide was of course entirely in katakana! The pass still hangs on my office wall, to remind me that sometimes being brave is enough to get you an interesting story to tell!

And yes, I am still waiting for the Oxford Mail to phone me to ask where my copy for Zweigen Kanasawa 1 Honda FC 0 is! If you’d like to see the pictures I took that day, here’s the link, and see you on the road somewhere daft!