As anyone who has ever been on a stag do to Amsterdam will testify, most evenings inevitably end up with a tired looking blonde getting f**ked by a foreigner in a football shirt. And thankfully for us, the evening of Wednesday May 8th was absolutely no exception. Now, before I begin, I should probably explain that I have nothing against Ajax or the locals of Amsterdam. From my experience, they are a lovely, friendly people (maybe a little tired looking), with a very open and relaxed attitude towards sex, drugs, alcohol and, it would seem, defending much beyond the 95th minute. But we will get to that later. Before what was being billed as the biggest match in our history, I am not ashamed to admit that I didn’t really fancy our chances of overturning a 1-0 home defeat, as Spurs fans are probably the only people in the world who have more experience in dealing with disappointing semi’s than my poor wife. This feeling was further compounded when Liverpool (God, I hate Liverpool) somehow managed to defeat Barcelona 4-0 at Anfield and qualify for their second Champions League Final in two years. Aa result of this, everyone I knew suddenly became a PhD in Biblical Studies over night…..”if Liverpool can pull off a miracle, then there is no reason why Spurs can’t do the same in Amsterdam”. Of course, I responded to this in a way that any self-respecting pessimist would have done….I politely explained that miracles, by their very definition, do not happen twice in two days, before advising them to go f**k themselves and to stop wasting my time! It’s been over a week now and my Grandma still isn’t talking to me.
Anyway, we went into the biggest game of my lifetime on the back of a rather inconsistent and self-destructive run of results. After the sheer euphoria of beating Man City in the quarter-finals, we followed this up with a scrappy win over relegation threatened Brighton before losing 1-0 to West Ham, Ajax and Bournemouth, in increasingly calamitous fashion. I swear, the contrasting emotions that Spurs fans have been forced to endure over the last couple of months is enough to turn anyone Bi-Polar. And just to be clear, when I say Bi-Polar, I am of course referring to the clinical form of depression, not a sexually inquisitive Polar Bear. Still, if your natural habitat is systematically being destroyed by the human race, I guess you do what you gotta’ do to survive. Anyway, we started the match as we often start our matches in Europe nowadays…..we conceded early. We were now 2-0 down on aggregate. Despite hitting the post almost immediately after this, Ajax played us off the park and subsequently went in 2-0 up at half time and 3-0 up on aggregate. If that miracle was going to happen, it was going to have to be soon! At this point, with it still being 5.45am here in Sydney, I was seriously considering going back to bed. But I didn’t. Maybe I wasn’t quite ready to say goodbye to our Champions League dream…….or maybe it was just the six coffees that I had drunk during the first half? Either way, I smashed another coffee and forced myself to stay awake. And I am bloody glad I did.
As we all know, desperate times call for desperate measures. So we threw on Fernando Llorente, channeled our inner Wimbledon and hoped for the best. And it worked. The Ajax defence struggled to contain everyone’s favourite inanimate object and as a result, this created so much time and space for Lucas Moura that I am surprised Stephen Hawking hasn’t written a book about it. Anyway, a quick break away saw Lucas pull one back for us on 55 minutes. The comeback was on. Only four minutes later, he had struck again, after some Billy Elliot-esque footwork in the box, to reduce the deficit yet further. What followed was a predictably nervy and end-to-end affair that saw both teams hit the woodwork in quick succession. As the game ticked into injury time, it looked like we had once again fallen at the last. Historically, whenever Spurs have been thrown a bone, more often than not we have found a way to choke on it. And it was beginning to look like our comeback had simply run out of road. But then, just as my Grandma predicted, we witnessed a miracle. Moussa Sissoko launched an intricate long ball forward, which Llorente flicked into the feet of Dele Alli, who in turn nutmegged his man so that ball rolled kindly into the path of Lucas Moura, now on a hat-trick. Lucas stretched out one of his little legs and got away a snap shot, which trickled agonisingly into the corner of the Ajax net. Having wasted time for the 8-10 minutes prior to this, there was no time left for the hosts to respond. Against all odds, we had overturned a three goal deficit, in just 45 minutes of football, to make it to our first ever Champions League Final and Lucas Moura had written himself into the Tottenham history books, in bright yellow permanent marker.
I have seen plenty of videos online of Spurs fans going mental and screaming at the TV but for whatever reason, I was the exact opposite. I just completely shut down. I was standing behind my sofa, dressed for work and mentally preparing myself for a good old fashioned storm-off when the third goal went in. My wife came through the door, having just been to the gym, took one look at me and said “Oh no….what happened?”. I was just staring uncomprehendingly at the television. She thought I had had a stroke. But then she looked up and saw the Spurs players celebrating and knew that my tiny little brain has simply overloaded on emotion. My only response to her, as I slowly started to re-boot was “I am going to have to take some time off work”.
Having already witnessed two miracles in a week, I was desperately hoping for a third. By way of background, I had only just started a new job two weeks prior to the game, so I was now in the unenviable situation of trying to negotiate a week off, without somehow committing career suicide. As my boss is an Aussie, I needed to come up with a reference that would explain the gravity of the upcoming game to him. For some unbeknownst reason, that reference turned out to be AFL…..a game where 22 players randomly clothes line each other for two and a half hours before the majority of them head home with ruptured cruciate ligaments. I explained to him that Tottenham making it to the Champions League Final against Liverpool was the equivalent of Geelong reaching the Bunnings Grand Final against the Western Sydney Rabbitoh’s. Well played Harper, well played. He looked confused. Now I was confused. My AFL knowledge was clearly not as comprehensive as I thought it was…..I’m starting to think that the Rabbitoh’s might even be a Rugby team? It doesn’t matter. I quickly changed tact and distracted him with a magic trick before offering to take unpaid leave instead. He loved that idea and quickly agreed. Aussies are a notoriously tight bunch…..but they do love a bit of improvised magic.
Now for my next trick, all I had to do was pull two tickets out of thin air (one for me and one for my Dad). Don’t ask me how I managed it but due to a huge stroke of luck……and a staggering inability to calculate exchange rates correctly, I managed to get my hands on two ridiculously overpriced tickets. Oh well, you only live once I guess…..unless you are Hindu. As a result of this rather impulsive behaviour, my wife and I will most likely be forced to live on a diet of baked beans and Tim-Tams for the next few months/years. But it’s OK, I will just tell her that we are role playing as a couple who like to go camping all the time. Which may not actually be too far from the truth, because once I have booked my flights, I am fairly certain that we will end up defaulting on our mortgage. But the way I see it, that’s not really a problem that I will have to deal with…….because I will be in Madrid! COYS