Twist: CLDPC and I had a lot of thoughts on the soccer game played at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, so we thought we'd do a joint post. I have a lot of photos from the event, thanks to the press pass, so I've included those also.
I did take advantage of the press pass for the first time since we've obtained it, which was nice. We worked for years to get the press pass, but then once we got it, many of our contributors did not want to use it. They had their Cal gameday plans (many for years and years and years) and did not want to sequester themselves in the box for the entire game. That was understandable.
Plus, we have a different set up than the average reporter. We don't necessarily try to rush a "This is what happened" story out by the end of the game (with quotes), generally requiring a quiet place to work throughout the game. We have people at computers across America who can write the stories we need during/after the game and provide the conversation jumping off points that our posts really are.
What the press pass is good for is allowing a conduit from the fans to the coach/players. We can request questions from you guys (also, girls) on what to ask the coach/players after the game. Then, the fans feel like they have more access and this creates more ownership over the team. The more the fans are engaged with the team, the better off things generally are for Cal.
So, that is a big positive for the press pass. However, for this game, I didn't think that that would be workable. Some Cal fans may really be into soccer, but on the whole, they would not be as interested in the ownership here. I felt the better usage of the press pass was to go around the stadium and try to get an overall feeling of the atmosphere and the environment to bring that back to the readership here. What was this game like? What was it like in the press box? What was it like down by the field? Etc Etc Etc.
I'm hopeful that the photos and the thoughts here will be able to bring that atmosphere across. CLPDC knows soccer and wanted to provide his Xs and Os analysis on the game. I didn't think that merited a separate post insomuch as we aren't a Real Madrid or Inter Milan site. So, here you go!
The first thing to understand about this game was that it was a massive clusterf. I'm not sure who made what security decisions and I do not want to point any fingers until we get information, but it was nightmarish. You couldn't bring in a bag any larger than a woman's clutch purse (i.e. tiny purse). So, basically almost EVERY bag had to be checked. There were emails about that, but only to the people who bought the tickets. If you got it from a friend or bought off Stubhub or something you wouldn't know.
A lot of people got to the game to find themselves waiting in a long line only to be turned around and told to go to the I-House to the bag check line. After waiting in that long line (up to 30 minutes at a point), they went back to wait in the line to get in again. Valued reader BandAlum's wife bought him tickets for him and their son. He never got any emails, because he was not the initial purchaser. He got there at 2:40 PM, then had to go wait in the bag check line. At 3:15 (15 minutes after the game started), they changed the bag policy abruptly and let anybody in with bags smaller than a backpack. So, then, most of the IHouse line went to get in and there was a huge line at the entrance again. He did not get into the stadium up 3:40 PM!
This was the line to get in as they were playing the national anthem:
Real Madrid vs Inter Milan is like a normal Cal game except with ~50,000 people who don't know how to navigate Berkeley— Nicolas Kranz (@NorCalNickCGB) July 26, 2014
We're working on trying to get specifics from Cal Athletics on what the situation was. If you go look at Cal Athletics twitter replies, they were telling people that there were different security procedures due to "heightened security."
@NorCalNickCGB our normal policies are not in effect due to the heightened security for the event- thanks for your understanding & support!— Cal Bears (@CalAthletics) July 26, 2014
What we are trying to figure out is whether these security procedures were due to demands by the soccer promoter and outside of Cal's hands. We want to get clarity as to the process here, because we don't want to just start criticizing Cal Athletics. Having said that, should Cal hold more of these large events (which I hope they do) a clear discussion will be necessary with all parties, including the promoters, on how best to manage security. Fans paid a lot of money to attend the game and deserve the best experience possible.
Fortunately for me with the press pass, I dodged all of that. Although oddly when I asked security where the Media Will Call was, they directed me to squeeze through a fence. Do all media have to squeeze through a fence? Is this some rookie hazing?
I got my pass and went to the elevator to go to the press box. Who should be there but Chancellor Dirks! I didn't quite know what to say. In retrospect, I shoulda said something like "HI, [TwistNHook] with CaliforniaGoldenBlogs, we'd LOVE to do a story on what its like to sit in the Chancellor's Box and eat the Chancellor's food!"
In reality, I was not so witty (I never am) and just said something basic like "Hey Chancellor, hope you are doing well. Have a great day!" Any thought of attempting to sneak into the box disappeared as soon as I saw the police at the entrance to the box.
I did get to go to the press box, though. You get off the elevator and walk down this long hallway. That hallway is where the various TV/radio entities are calling the game. At the end of the hallway, it opens up into this larger room with long tables.
Each entity has a little station with some paperwork etc etc. For example, I could vote for the Man of the Match.
I've got the press pass and am in the press box! Who should I vote for for the Man of the Match??? pic.twitter.com/b83ntfO6kX— TwistNHook (@TwistNHook) July 26, 2014
You had a great view of all the action from high above.
Plus, you had the free food:
I think that my overall impression of the press box can be summed up in the following tweet:
sOo maNy BROnwieS!!!!!!!!!!!!!— TwistNHook (@TwistNHook) July 26, 2014
The press box seemed like a fairly standard issue work station where the journalists could get a jump on their work and share thoughts with each other etc etc. After being there for about 5 minutes, I peaced out to get closer to the action. With the press pass, I could basically go wherever I wanted as long as it wasn't the field/locker room. One of the security guards actually offered to let me on the field, but I didn't want to get busted in a place I was not supposed to be and get booted, so I turned it down.
I did go right by the entrance to the field to get some shots of the players warming up. The security would periodically come by and boot people there to get them to go to their seats. One flash of my laminated badge and they showed me well more respect than I ever deserved!
So, here are some shots of Real Madrid and Inter Milan warming up. Real Madrid is in white with Fly Emirates on the front while Inter Milan is also in white here with some Italian word on the front. Inter Milan would eventually change into blue jerseys for the game.
Twist: How Larry Scott was not shvitzing in this heavy coat, I do not know. I yelled "LARRY" and gave him a thumbs up. He looked perplexed and gave a confused thumbs up in return.
Twist: These are the Inter Milan players.
Twist: Soon, the game was upon us. This is the opening moment of the match. Also, it was clear that the stands were like 80% Real Madrid fans. I do not know why Real Madrid had more fans. Perhaps it was because I can name one player on Real Madrid (Ronaldo), but couldn't name a player on Inter Milan.
cldpc: I estimated the crowd to be roughly 80-20 as well. I would assume that the crowd was majority Real supporters because of the shared linguistic ties? A young woman in my section was repeatedly expressing her undying love to and willingness to impose her body upon Isco (pictured below, #23), so that explains at least one Real supporter.
cldpc: Real gathers around Gareth Bale (#11, pictured above twice, once with Isco and again pursuing Inter's keeper) to celebrate his screamer goal in the 10th minute. It was easily the top highlight of the match, and it punctuated a first half dominated by Real. Bale's goal in particular was a significant result of some sloppy play by the Internazionale midfield.
Bale also nearly had a brilliant header in the 2nd minute that just hit the cross-bar.
Twist: This was in the midst of a fight breaking out. One of the Inter Milan players is restraining another one from going after a Real Madrid player.
cldpc: There was a surprising amount of emotion and bad blood in this game. As Inter Manager Walter Mazzarri would say, Real Madrid are champions because they take every match seriously, and it was clear that Inter tried to match Real in terms of intensity.
"Yes, we did expect it (to be physical), nobody likes to lose - even if it's preseason and it's a friendly game. I told the young guys that with a team like Real Madrid that has won so much, they still give a friendly summer tournament a lot of importance. The tournament is an important aspect of preparation for the season, so both teams played hard - just like it was the beginning of the season."
Twist: They had new signage up. Now, the lower signage there is unlikely to stay as it is right where the football team stands. However, the ad signage on the cheerleader/Mic Man stage may stay.
Twist: There was a penalty in the box, giving Inter Milan a penalty kick opportunity
cldpc: Luckily for my section and all the sections in the North end of the stadium, Inter decided to take over things in the second half, ensuring the vast majority of play occurred in our half. Inter's Mauro Icardi scored a penalty against Real keeper Jesus Fdez in the 68th minute (above), but Inter's best chance to prevail in regular time came in the 78th minute, where despite an onslaught of Inter chances, Fdez had a brace of amazing saves.
.@J4hvidbest sighting at the soccer match!— TwistNHook (@TwistNHook) July 26, 2014
Twist: This was cute. A little kid ran onto the field and got a few players to sign his jersey. I was so confused, because NO security ran out towards him. I would have thought that would have been immediate. So, after a moment, he runs back to the stands. I think that the security let him go, because the fans started chanting something for a bit and then cheered.
Twist: The game ended up tied and it went immediately to penalty kicks.
cldpc: I normally hate penalty kicks. They are a terrible way to decide a soccer match. I think most soccer fans would agree with me. However, given the situation (preseason, rare opportunity to catch UEFA giants, etc), most of the crowd seemed okay with watching penalty kicks from top professionals.
cldpc: As a sign of the ground soccer/football has to make up in America, the PA announced the final score as 2-1 Inter. While it is true that Inter received two points for Group A in the International Champions' Cup, and Real one (apparently two points for winning in a shootout and one for losing in one is a thing now), in reality the score was 1-1, with Inter receiving the win with a 3-2 score in penalties. Daily Cal also made this same mistake.
Twist: I LOVED how packed Memorial was. So much great energy!
cldpc: There was a lot that went wrong outside of the stadium in terms of event planning. Traffic was bad, as would be expected for a huge event at Memorial not directly involving Cal Sports. The bag policy was an absolute disaster. But the event itself was an unmitigated success. The hidden jewel that is the most beautiful stadium in college football was showed off to a largely non Cal-sports supporting fanbase.
In addition, is there any doubt that an event like this would not have been possible in pre-renovation Memorial Stadium?
It really is too bad that infrastructure around the stadium is a tough shell to crack, because it is easy to image how Memorial would be the perfect setting otherwise for something like, say, a World Cup match. I'm sure the hill people would love that.
cldpc: This was the save that earned Juan Pablo Carrisco (above), the Man of the Match award. With the save, Real was placed in a precarious position of needing to score to stay alive in penalties. Just as with the majority of the match play, the penalties occurred in the north end of the field, much to the delight of the supporters in our end of the stadium.
Twist: Inter Milan ended up winning on penalty kicks. After the game ended, I went over to the interview room, which is a small room. Not sure how all the media could fit in there for larger games. They brought in the coach for Real Madrid and he answered questions in both English and Spanish with a translator translating the answers into the language he did not use.
The man in the middle is the coach.
cldpc: Carlo Ancelotti.
Twist: Outside there was a mix zone. That is an opportunity for media to interact directly with players. It was basically whenever the players came out, if they wanted to speak with the media they would stop. Some did, some didn't.
Twist: This guy seemed extremely popular. Fans were yelling "Pepe," so I think that is his name. The fans were going crazy for him, but security kept them behind a fence.
cldpc: Is Pepe. To be honest, a vast majority of the players were greeted by the supporters with a hearty "Yeah! You play for our team! Go... you!" Such is the nature of the preseason. There's a great chance that many of these players (Pepe is not one of them) will end up playing for other teams on loan. That didn't diminish the experience, especially for fans like myself who's previous exposure to top notch live football was Major League Soccer and the USMNT thrashing South Korea. Let's just say, this was a step up.
Twist: This was the line to get into the I-House to pick up your bag after the game. It was so long that you couldn't even see the I-House. Plus, I wasn't at the end of the line when I took this photo!
All in all, it was a great day. I'm hopeful Cal will hold future events like this at Memorial. GO BEARS!