The road to Selhurst Park

By - Friday 15th May, 2015

Rossella Scalia takes the long initiatory journey towards Crystal Palace Football Club

Selhurst Park.
Photo author’s own.

I have always liked beginnings as they contain in them a thrilling euphoria for the unknown and the optimism of an outcome. I believe that uncertainty has not to be seen as a time of crisis, but rather as a moulding of time that slowly transforms itself into a new doubt different from the previous one, that now appears instead as a certainty.

There is a moment on a Saturday afternoon when the streets go along with a river of steps towards Selhurst Park stadium. An unusual energy bursts suddenly among the fans, attracted to the temple of football as a magnet held inside a glass case all week long and freed precisely in those early hours of a Saturday afternoon.

Half an hour before a football match the street finally becomes a public space; it is no longer a place of transition between the private sphere considered as a protective shelter for retreat and a nonexistent public realm, but rather a projection of the individual in a place of meeting and recognition of the self through others’ eyes.

Scarves and coloured shirts divide the crowd; two factions look proudly at one another, never talking, but firmly believing that a game is not only a sport event but rather a group statement to which everyone chooses to belong. The part of a football match that I like most is the long initiatory journey to the stadium, as the deepest meaning of a collective interest lies within it. There is no hesitation in walking along those roads, there are no changes in direction; we all have a common goal.

A riot of squeezed beer cans and trampled flyers

Cars are useless to get to the stadium. Too many vehicles would create an unmanageable spatial conflict; many legs instead know how to move in small spaces, improvising a dance of precedence and acceleration that no choreographer needs to direct. Around the stadium many scrambled queues of faces let themselves be searched by hands wrapped in strict yellow hi vis waterproof jackets in order to win the right to cross the numerous numbered doors of the stadium. Loud voices paint in rhythm the entire neighbourhood and mingle with children’s desperate cries and the laughs that follow a sip of beer; a stocky man announces an upcoming sport event as in a rap song made of short sentences repeated obsessively; sandwiches and ice cream vans rush to the lure of easy business.

Everything changes into hectic during the minutes that separate the street from the beginning of the match; the crowd gradually thins out, chatter loses verve, latecomers run panting with a crumpled ticket in a sweaty hand, police scrape together those who, already drunk on enthusiasm, decide not to participate in the game, and an American-style TV presenter from inside the stadium fires up the audience, shouting the players’ names; excitement reaches its peak.

A riot of squeezed beer cans and trampled flyers hit the man with the metal nabber who, thinking that football is not a very pleasant game, begins his patient work of cleaning. Streets are suddenly empty, some voices still whisper tense comments, a child asks his dad if perhaps they are running late, and when a long swallowed silence stops time with a whistle, the beginning is over.

Rossella Scalia

Rossella Scalia

Rossella is a London-based architecture critic and researcher. Her interests focus mainly on architectural education, photography, cinema and communication. She has been studying the potential of forgotten spaces and unfinished buildings within the concept of participatory design. Rossella has been shortlisted for the Architects Journal Writing Prize in 2012.

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