From afar, MK1 looms as some gargantuan techtropolis – but in a retail park in Buckinghamshire. It’s Britain’s first Japanese-themed stadium, Tokyo-shiny on the outside and full to the brim of Suzuki and Yokohama merch. I take my seat at my first game in a while, spying Amos warm up as a mustard pot (alas not wasabi).
I look around – the old and new are balanced here in harmony. A sign catches my eye – ‘We hire tools’ – it’s witty. I’ve spent the first part of the day in Bletchley Park, which is also represented here in the signage and has me looking for codes encrypted into the rafters.
Some of my owl-eyed readers might notice that I haven’t been updating this blog of late, the reason being that football just became too overwhelming, and who can tell each game apart by the events of the sport alone? But there’s no reason I can’t paint my vision once in a while, and this is one such time. My glasses smell amazing after months in hiding. Getting out the old lenses is a charming and antiquated ritual for football and I’m put in mind of steampunk, a notion enhanced by this grand dojo…I’m wary that the whole structure might just get up and walk off.
I believe the match has started. A harajuku boy calls out “Pusheen!”, although I’m unable to see the charming character represented anywhere.
What self-respecting being calls a vagina a fanny? I make a note to dissect and analyse this particular unsavoury chant in its own post.
Robinson is crouching proudly next to a sign advertising his ‘garden services’ – however, it gets pointed out to me eventually that it’s not actually him, so the sign is simply a burn to the other team’s manager. Who are they again? Ah yes, ‘the dons’ – though I’m sad to learn that this is in no way a reference to third generation Italian American gangsters, despite the Frankie & Benny’s right outside. Yakuza?
I’m trying to get my head around a complex issue of spacial logistics (would it feel like I was in the North stand at the Valley no matter what stand I was sat in?), when a pair scores and the crowd erupts into some crooning about the two of them.
It’s worth noting at this point that the MK crowd is entirely holographic with the same three faces replicated x 1000, which accounts for the whispering of crowd noise piped in for them over the intercom.
It’s a beautiful pitch in general, although they have forgotten to lay grass seed down in just one of the corners. Does this actually mean that left or right side players may be more important than the other, and if so, which is it? Answers in the comments.
Konsa puts in a shiny tackle, then works through a vinyasa and into a perfect downward dog – who is his yoga instructor?
Some other traditional Japanese arts are referenced – ‘Trim a tree’ (bonsais), and ‘telekinesis’.
Amos and Magennis high five, and the ref is peculiarly vocal, yammering away to all who will listen. It’s a nice afternoon and the crowd’s hivemind is eating itself, having no darkness as yet to fixate upon, so it just starts singing a lot of Magic.fm favourites.
There’s an extended game of headsies and Big F-ing Sherbet P.B is doing roly polys by the goalmouth.
The club is on sale for £1795 – a few of us could possibly put together that kind of sum and perhaps give Konsa a home away from home to practice his yoga? Leave a comment if you’re interested.
And what of our new uniform?! Theirs is naturally in the colours of the Japanese flag, but ours glimmers aquatically in the light, at once oceanic and magisterial, like a squad of Neptunes come to conquer the city, just because they can. MK are considerably taller than us, however.
Today’s match sponsor is birdfood.
Their number 14 does a bit of snorkelling, and Forster-Caskey (sounding every bit the Age of Empires rallying cry) evils him ferociously. During the scuffle, Da Silva coughs up a pair of spare socks.
‘Balls of spite’ abounds.
F-C and Reeves reed together a looming corner. Kashi evidently thrives upon a taste of discomfort and revenge in order to excel, which he appears to be doing at this time. Reeves for Vendetta. Sadly Alan Moore will not be interested in the screen adaptation.
We shush the MK crowd repeatedly in a sort of on-the-nose reverence for their traditions of calm and peace. It’s a charming response to them having let us keep the lids on our sodas – we are trusted to be responsible here. Well, except that the bars are all obfuscated by mysterious wooden panelling behind which who knows what manner of magery lurks.
We’ve piped down somewhat – there’s some polite applause but we’re all anticipating the spoils of sushi at lunch. Amos performs bottle flip tricks and furiously shouts out ‘Encore encore!’ when no one else does. A numerologist behind me is saying “5 minutes extra time is the magic number for away teams”. Kaikai plays as a comic relief leading into the lunch break.
I wait poised for the tea ceremony to begin, but no ocha, no okonomiyaki…just Oasis. I assume a karaoke is occurring behind glassed booths. A false goal is erected and a child is goaded into attempting the crossbar challenge, which he succeeds in immediately (something that took us two seasons). His meritorious achievement passes without fanfare. At the end of the season, one of these children will ride out of the stadium on a brand new Suzuki. The goal is demolished, only for a shorter iteration to rise up in the corner. Some smaller children are harried and scorned into kicking a ball through a tire. The losing school will be detonated.
Meanwhile, wise sensei rake the lawn. Above them an advertisement for ‘Piglet’s pantry: Chicken balti pie – £3.50’ creates all manner of confusion – maybe the translation is off. Raucous J-pop songs lead us back in like we’re in central Akihabara.
We start up again with some optimistic efforts. ’Aribo lives up to his name and takes a sour cherry punt at the goal, the fruit meeting it right at the point where the two stems (poles) meet. Josh gets something in his eyes and flies one over to the many ceremonial stands (empty).
The state communicates a lie about attendance numbers – 8921 – but where are they? I start to suspect it is a cipher. H-I-B-A – How is Bauer Allowed? Some Bletchley alumni evidently questioning the heritage of our favourite quarterback.
The air is rich with the olfactory essences of pastry and weed and the tiniest ball girl expends much effort to join in the game, adding three minutes onto extra time.
I get thinking about the lyrics of CAFC’s favourite trill “my desire//to be found at…” and wonder at how this suggests a libidinal cathexis to the stadium itself. ‘Aribo, perhaps tuning into my thoughts, collapses into an existential slump. The Addams Family chant doesn’t work particularly well in this town as people from Milton Keynes were built without reproductive organs.
Subtle double entendres issue forth from the crowd – “You’re shit, number 2”. And Magennis scores! Kaikai blinks, Amos does some side-supported stretches, and the other team scores too!
There is a delicious fireworks smell – it is after all my companion’s birthday today! Perhaps I shall buy him some. I’ve never eaten a Pitch bar! What is this strange confection from the orient?
Kashi scratches someone and his efforts are rewarded with the golden card.
Charlton are beginning to look a bit less spry, greatly compounded by a last-third addition of Lennon, but happily Marshall fleets on – I like this one as he is little and quick. Forster-Caskey has a go at scoring, but it’s too polite and the goal ejects it like an unmatched fingerprint ID.
‘Aribo puts the proverbial baby in the basket and lets it to float downstream past Da Silva, who can nonetheless be quite tricksy on his feet. Tap tap tap. And again there he goes! F-C tries his best – will the ref be sold on this illusory goal? Not this time. Kashi gives it a go too.
There is a clever magic slant picture on the ground – seen from a certain angle it’s shaped like Karl Robinson’s bedroom, and players can enter in to explore a special side-quest should they so choose.
A not-unwarranted tension bristles in the chill dusk air…the feared five minutes have been added. Magennis is attacked. For the entirety of bandaged-play, I wait with bated breath and settle into the rhythmic breathing and mantra’d clapping of the crowd, the collective life-force of which allows us to sidle away with honour, celebratory katana held aloft by a reanimated Johnnie Jackson.