Shoutout to the Oil for winning again. Well played fellows.
One of the scheduled highlights of the 2013 backpacking tour was the tickets to an Ajax game in Amsterdam. This is one of the sights to see apparently as Ajax have qualified for the Champions League three years in a row by winning the Dutch league and are well on their way again holding down the top spot.
On this chilly Sunday afternoon they were facing the 8th place NEC. And we were facing down their teeny tiny secondary ticket market, mega steep aisles, people smoking all willy nilly INSIDE the arena and their beers.
Their delicious, delicious beers.
FIRST THANGS FIRST
When we bought the tickets for this match, @17samb joining the adventure was a distant dream at best. So when mountains were moved and he was able to join up in Copenhagen we knew we were going to have to buy an extra ticket to a sold out game. "How hard can that be?" we figured at the time, "it’s the most everything goes country in Europe. It really shouldn’t be that hard to find a scalper."
How right we were. If you define "right" as "wrong" and "scalper" as "the hardest person to find in Holland."
This is a country where pretty much everything you can imagine is legal. Temporarily arranged mini-dates with professionals, drug types you only hear about on police shows on TV, removing the "do not remove" tags from bed mattresses.
All good in Holland thanks to the legendary Dutch Tolerance. But apparently this limitless tolerance doesn’t extend to include a trio of Canadians looking to score an extra ticket to the soccer match.
Try as we might we asked everyone we judged as looking "at least 1% shady" yet could not find a single person who was selling tickets for the game. Stranger yet everyone we asked looked quickly looked about and mumbled something to the effect of "I don’t know anything about this type of thing."
Bear in mind if we were asking for an 8-ball of Heroin or some such thing they would have pointed us to one of several completely legal places all around the arena.* But an extra ticket to the Ajax game taking place 11 feet away? Perish the thought.
After glumly circling the arena for about an hour we were beginning to think we were going to have to find alternate means of sneaking one of us inside the building. Then @thesquireyeg took matters into his own hands and said "screw this I am going to talk to the shadiest guy I can find and offer overpayment on his terms. We gotta get into this match."
(details omitted to make it seem much cooler than the standard transaction it was)
After we bought the single ticket and confirmed at the gate it was not a counterfeit your ol’ pal Wanye took the grenade for the team and went to sit in the solo seat. We went to a Raiders game for heavens sakes, how bad could this be?
With a hearty cheerio to our fellow travellers, we got to steppin and made our way inside the building.
SECOND THANGS SECOND
We need to get a beer or 10. Stat. We lined up with our fellow fans in a pretty short beer line but it wasn’t until we were at the very front of said line before we were informed they don’t take cash at any of the concessions. At all. At an arena.
What the hell? We had to ask our new mortal enemy at the till why they don’t accept cash like the remainder of the civilized world. "If there is no cash there is no theft and so now we do the cards. Now get out of the way."
After some more standing in lines and pondering that way of doing things we managed to land ourselves 2 "great" sized beers and a hot dog for 13 euros. Which isn’t so bad when you think about it. And we would need every ounce of the liquid courage in those beers to take a run at the steepest stairs in the history of stairs.
When we say that these stairs were a freaky test of your mettle as a man we mean it. We aren’t even scared of heights and we had a mild heart attack looking backwards down the aisle as we made our way to the summit. It’s so steep that they don’t have any ushers.
It’s so steep there are no vendors selling food or drink of any kind whatsoever missing out on millions in revenue annually. It’s so steep that if you signal for help in the upper bowl they just send a sure footed mountain goat up to your seat with a suicide machine strapped to its back cause you ain’t gettin down.
Forget having a bathroom break either – It’s just too damn steep.
Actual football stuff: It was 1-0 Ajax at the 22 min we all stood and cheered. Then an own goal from NEC put the good side up 2-0 at the 25th minute. Hilariously they put the name of the D-man who scored on himself on the scoreboard as the goal scorer. Classic Dutch scoreboard play.
Once the Ajaxians had the good sense to give themselves a 2-0 lead the crowd seemed to relax all around. And the cheery fellow on one side really got relaxed as he began politely asking everyone in his immediate vicinity if they minded if he smoked.
Couples there on dates. Parents with kids. Tough looking soccer hooligans all got asked if they minded if he smoked INSIDE the arena and to a man/woman they all said "no that’s fine go ahead." Try that in good ol’ our town.
Yes, if you tried to light a smoke up inside Rexall place or Commonwealth Stadium you would probably set of 1 of ten trillion smoke detectors. Then you would probably force the game to be cancelled and a team of medical experts would descend on both the home and visitor benches where oxygen masks would be handed out and medi vac helicopters would rush players and fans en masse to hospitals all over the place.
But here in Amsterdam, they just do and the show goes right on. Amazing.
Actual football stuff: some shots went over the net. Some shots went beside the net. Everyone stood and cheered and then sat down only to rise and cheer again. They really liked cheering when players were substituted in and out of the match. Go figure.
THIRD THANG IS THIRD
When you jump on the single seat grenade so that two of the boys can sit in the fancy pants seats down low in the arena you know that the Gods will throw you a bone in return. And true to form we got dealt a win in quick and dramatic fashion as the purchaser of the single seat beside us turned out to be a Swedish babe whose friends were sitting in another section of the building.
"I bought my ticket from a man that looked like a Bond Villain" we began in our best international English "scalping is so bad here." Polite laughter ensues. Polite laughter from a SWEDISH GIRL we might add.
Turns out the unfortunate recipient of a single seat next to me at a football match has the most stereotypical Swedish job one can imagine – this from a "Canadian Hockey Blogger" – she is a designer at Ikea. But not just any designer – her team is responsible for designing the super confusing Ikea layouts that ensure any man walking into a store for a single Flubenaven vase will walk out at least $1,000 poorer.
So when faced with very little common ground save her beauty, my razor sharp street smarts and nary an armrest to keep us apart we dug deep and came up with the line "oh yeah, where I am from we have a massive Ikea. I think its one of the biggest in Canada. Its pretty huge, Edmonton is so awesome."
More polite laughter ensues.
"Oh we say that every time a store opens around the world. When we built our first store in Sydney it was the biggest in the pacific rim. It was only our fifth store in the region. Even if its 5m squared bigger we will find a way and to market every new store somehow as the biggest or the best."
"But why would you do that" we asked confusedly having seen a perfectly good line blow up in our face. "Its marketing for IKEA" came the reply. "We want you to be proud of your city and proud to shop at the store. Finding a way to say that its the biggest or has the most types of inventory or something always gives people a boost. It works all around the world you would be amazed."
Actual football stuff: The two teams traded goals 77 and 79 minute and Ajax won 4-1. We all sang a few songs about how the opposition paled in comparison to Ajax and had a good rousing chant of "Champion! Champion!" Then watched FC Bayern destroy Hamburg 9:1 after in the bar.
*Not actual businesses