On Thursday 22nd August I found myself at a first major match in the Europa League. Having worked so hard in my first year as a therapist I was rewarded with this excellent opportunity to work with top European officials in the Europa League on my own. What an honour this was to not only be a part of the officiating team but to see the top teams in Europe battle it out on the pitch. My excitement was unreal with numerous tweets and facebook posts in the week lead up to the game I just couldn’t hide my joy and willingness to get to Swansea on that Thursday. When that day finally came nerves definitely set in, but people say nerves are a good thing as you then want it more as it means so much, and my god is that true.
Having gathered all my equipment together I set for a long drive to Swansea at around 12pm as it was an earlier kick off time being the last play off game. This would be such a nervous affair for the fans as if they didn’t get threw this round would have been curtains for Swansea for the remainder of the European campaign as well as mine. I arrived in Swansea for around 5pm due to meet the Russian officials at 5.30pm. I gathered my passes and was led to my treatment room. I must say the first time I was there the staff there were superb and helped in every way possible.
So the final whistle blew and Swansea were in the Europa League group stages, to the joy and the fans and mine as I had more games to work at. Lol. I travelled to Swansea City FC on three more occasions when St Gallen FC of Switzerland visited as well as Kuban Kransnador (Russia) and the well known team of Spain being Valencia. The group stages were a good one for Swansea as well as me as all the officials were great athletes and super professionals to work with especially Christian and his team from Iceland.
Swansea progressed to the next stage of the competition and lay in front of them was a mammoth tie in the form of Napoli of Italy. Thursday 20th February was another day to remember. After arriving at Swansea security was at its tightest and their was a sense of buzz and feeling around the stadium like no other times I’ve been here. Fans swigging there beers pre match, Napoli fans arriving early and creating one hell of an atmosphere around the ground. Officials for this game were fantastic and a very strong unit. Coming out the changing rooms when the players were lined up I stood next to Michael Laudrap once again, what a gent he is. Once players had walked out I walked past Pepe Reina as small as he looks on your TV sets the guy is a monster lol casually saying ‘alright mate’ on the way past…. Superb.
Unfortunately over the two legs Swansea didn’t do enough to progress which ended there European run as well as mine. Hopefully more is around the corner….