It’s not often that you get detained under the Terrorism Act following the Arsenal. Well, when I say not often it’s probably leaning to never. Except yesterday after the Manchester City defeat. There I was minding my own business as I tried to exit the arrivals hall after my flight from Manchester to Southampton.
“Can I see some photo ID, please sir,” said a stern-looking suit. Now, I could have gone either way here. The easy route: Flash my passport and continue my journey. Or, the stubborn, just-lost-to-City route. Yes, in true bitter football fan style I elected for the latter.
Me: “No, there is no reason for me to show you it. It’s a domestic flight and my credentials have been checked umpteen times prior to my boarding. I don’t feel in the slightest obliged to answer your request in the positive.”
Him: “I am a police officer and we are checking all IDs.”
Me: “Not mine, you have no right.”
Him: “We’re looking for someone.”
Me: “Is it me?
Him: “I can’t say.”
Me: “Well, it clearly isn’t me because you need my ID. You know who it is and if it were me we wouldn’t be talking about it, surely.”
Him: “Have you been drinking?”
Me, having indulged in three post-match ales: “Why is it against the law? Of course, I’ve had a tincture officer, the Arsenal have just lost 1-0 and, while keen not to drown my sorrows, I at least wanted to allow them to float away a little.”
And the passage of banal, tit-for-tat conversation went on until he did in fact pull me under ‘the Act’, spouting the section pertaining to my potential incarceration unless I produced the aforementioned documentation.
I grew weary, gave him my passport and was held while his fellow plod “ran the check”. He returned. Me, adopting best Lionel Richie impersonation: “So is it me you’re looking for?” After a less than enthusiastic response from the custodian I was free to go.
As I made my way back to Bognor, my escapade with the airport heavies got me thinking. Had I been ever been in a similar predicament before? Ah, yes, Kiev, first time we played them in Champions League. Me and some chums were happily buying cheap champagne in a dive bar on the outskirts of the city when two jeeps with the Ukraine army’s finest pulled up.
Odd, we thought as we continued to throw money around with gay abandon much to the joy and incredulity of the locals. We should have twigged. Someone in the bar had made the call to the local barracks and, although my Ukrainian isn’t word perfect, I bet the convo went something like this: “Oyski, get down here sharpo, comrade, there are four Arsenal fans with more money than sense – it’s time to turn them over.”
Anyway, gun-toting soldiers duly entered and we were asked to leave with them.
Me: “F*** you!”
Him, in excellent English: “No, f*** you!”
And with that we were bundled into the waiting transport. Back at the barracks – even further outside the city – we were asked to empty our pockets and put the contents on a table.
One of them: “Now, turn round while we search you.”
Two minutes later we were invited to collect our money etc from the table. We turned round and guess what? Yep, there was no money. “Oh, I get it, fair enough,” I said. My rational was that for around £50 each that they had purloined, we’d at least attain our liberty and continue with the party back in town.
One of them: “You are free to go.”
Me: “Er, where are we and how do we get back.”
Him: “We’ll give you a lift back, no problem…for 20 dollars.”
Me; “Slight problem, old bean, you have all our money.”
Him: “That’s Ok, you can get more back at the hotel.”
And we lost that game as well.
Next up: Villa away, Remember, no standing!