In the next twenty fours hours I will see the Boys from Brazil play twice. Well, technically twice. At Old Trafford on Sunday I will be sitting in the press box watching the likes of Hulk, Thiago Silva, Neymar and Pato take on Belarus. However today I am heading for Central Park, home of The Blue Brazil, Cowdenbeath FC.
After the start of the Olympic football on Thursday in Glasgow, the Fuller family had spent a day at leisure in Edinburgh on Friday. However, with a late flight home on Saturday how could I resist the lure of the Ramsden’s Cup. I would lose all respect by ignoring games around the Scottish capital at the likes of Falkirk, East Stirlingshire and Cowdenbeath. The latter won my vote, not just because the promise of South American style football, but a visit to Britain’s only top flight ground that also doubles up as a Stock Car racing track.
Central Park, home to the club since 1917, has hosted greyhound and speedway racing but it has been the hosting of stock car racing since 1970 that has made it famous. It has even hosted four world championships, such has been its importance in the sport. However, it is primarily a football ground although on a normal match day only about a tenth of the 4,370 capacity is filled by fans.
This season the club will be playing in the second tier of Scottish football (the highest level they have ever played at) after promotion from the Second Division last season as Champions under the stewardship of player/manager Colin Cameron. Not that that gets the pulses racing at the New Goth next to the station. Last season they were the second worst supported team in the league, with an average attendance less than some Ryman Premier teams. The problem is that within an hour you can reach Celtic Park, Tynecastle, Easter Road and Ibrox, not to mention that last season Premier League football was being played just 10 minutes down the road at Dunfermline’s East End Park.
I’m no stranger to Scottish Football League grounds, but Central Park was a new experience to me. Just a short walk from the train station, past the said New Goth pub which must have featured in “Britain’s Roughest Boozer, narrated by Phil Mitchell” at some point. The “For Sale” signs outside added to the aesthetic pleasure of the establishment, although the old (?) woman outside sitting on the curb with a big bottle of Panther Cider in the pouring rain was obviously putting off potential buyers.
The club were charging £14 for this Ramsdens Cup game (your local, friendly pawnbroker) which considering the surroundings was excessive, and perhaps the reason no more than a few hundred had braved the torrential rain. It did, however, give me entry to the banger racing taking place at 6pm. Hmm, let me think about that for a moment.
My first view of the ground was through an eight foot high fence. On one side of the ground was a steep bank of terracing that offered a better view although the driving rain soon had me diving for the main stand, and a view of the Scottish League Two trophy proudly on display. A cup of tea and a Scottish Pie in hand I prepared myself for the action.
Cowdenbeath 1 Alloa Athletic 1 (Cowdenbeath won 3:1 on penalties) – Central Park – Saturday 28th July 2012
In the end it took a penalty shoot out to settle the Fife derby, although by that stage with the impatient Banger racing enthusiasts were tapping their fingers on their steering wheels by the edge of the track and I was on a train back to Edinburgh. The game was played in a mix of hot sunshine and violent rain showers, hardly aiding the players, let alone the few hundred fans.
After the excitement of Cowdenbeath’s own Olympic Torch relay, handled by the Cow-suited mascot, accompanied by the ball boys, the game started with a bang as the home side wasted no time in opening their account for the season. Just ninety seconds were on the clock when Lewis Coult danced around the Alloa keeper and slotted into an empty net.
One should have been two a few minutes later when Coult let the ball run too far ahead when he was bearing down on goal. Alloa, promoted themselves last season from the third tier of Scottish Football never looked in the races until the twentieth minute when Ben Gordon appeared to stab home from an offside position.
Half-time saw a kids “shoot out” with Cowdenbeath v Alloa being played out, each player given 10 seconds to run from the half way line and score, although the manual “countdown” did seem to slow down for the home side’s players. The Blue Brazil duly won and hoped to repeat the feat in the second period.
Alas it was honours even after a pretty poor half of football, suggesting that these sides on this form would struggle in the non leagues of English football. There was certainly no Samba beat accompanying the home side’s play and in the end they had to be thankful for two saves during the penalty shoot out from their keeper to progress to the next round.
Certainly an experience although it must take a hardy football fan to enjoy this experience every week. Let’s hope the beat of the Brazilian drum is more passionate at Old Trafford.