There must be something about Arsenal playing Reading. This time around, however, the match was hardly a classic for Royals' fans to remember in years to come. The reason why I pick it as the best atmosphere is for the Reading fans' humour in defeat. The club sat bottom of the Premier League with survival too far off to even contemplate, so the travelling fans were just there for the day out. Every goal conceded was laughed off and when Hal Robson-Kanu pulled a consolation back, I remember the crowd celebrating as if we'd won the league. Cheers of "we're going to win 4-1" followed, soon becoming "5-1" once The Gunners had netted their fifth.
You wouldn’t believe it today, but when I saw Wales beat the Springboks in 2014 it was only the second time in over a century that the Welsh had done it, and it had been 15 years since they’d won. Now that they’ve managed it 3 more times, the whole thing is a little less special, but when I think back to that match, I couldn’t describe the atmosphere.
Watching rugby at the Principality Stadium (at the time, the Millennium) is always an experience. The flame throwers, 70,000 voices singing the National Anthem and Tom Jones, and children rushing to the front to stroke the horns of a goat descended from an individual who led the Welsh charge at the Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775. I’m not joking, he is granted a ration of two cigarettes and a pint of Guinness, perks of his commission as Lance Corporal with the Welsh Battalion (with the exception of Billy, who was demoted in 2006 after "unacceptable behaviour…lack of decorum" and "disobeying a direct order" at the Queen’s Birthday, although later reinstated after it was concluded he was just “acting the goat”). I’m not a Welshman, or a Welsh fan, but the whole thing is so mental and brilliant you can’t help loving it.
I’ve never seen such a nail-biting match, or a Stadium erupt with such joy, or streets full of joyous people, who came to see a defeat, go home in victory. It reminded me while I love rugby.
As a Sunderland fan, I have always hated and never looked forward to derby day. The Tyne-Wear Derby in October 2013 though is always one that sticks in my head- I have never been part of such a tense and hostile atmosphere, but I loved every minute of it. On the walk to the ground, I didn’t feel my usual sense of dread, instead the walk was littered with Sunderland fans fundraising for various animal charities- with a particular emphasis on horse charities as this was the first derby to take place after the infamous incident where a Newcastle fan punched a horse. The game itself was one of the most fierce matches I’ve ever witnessed, with both teams being spurred on by the noises that filled the stadium. With both teams tied at 1-1, the game looked set, but a last-minute strike by Fabio Borini sent the Stadium of Light into an utter frenzy. We were sat behind the goal he scored in and the crowd just went mental, people were jumping screaming and, more importantly, running into the view of the Newcastle fans perched above us in the Gods to offer every single rude gesture under the sun. It was as if the atmosphere seen throughout the game was like a pressure pot that just went mad when released.
In January, earlier this year, I managed to grab a front row ticket to one of the most exciting snooker events in the circuit. The Masters, which are held every year, hosts some of the greatest competition to grace the sport. This year was no exception, as I managed to watch David Gilbert and Stephen Maguire in the first interval, and then Kyren Wilson vs tournament winner Stuart Bingham in the second. Going into the day Gilbert was my favourite. We was somewhat of an underdog, and with a nickname like 'The Angry Farmer', due to the work he used to do on his father's Potato farm, he may have been underestimated. However, he stepped up to the plate against Maguire, highlighted by his outstanding 144 break in the very first frame.
I managed to sit at the very front of at the beautiful Alexandra Palace to witness the highest break of the tournament, for which he received a nice £15,000 cash prize. There were some fantastic moments in the frame. His precise cuing of the ball to line up perfectly on the red (4:50), the light screwing-back of the cue ball at 6:20, and the tremendous cleaning up of the colours at the end to secure the 144. You can even see me a few times in the clip, nervously looking at the big screen praying he doesn't miss a pot! But he didn't, and in that breathtaking frame he gained the momentum necessary to win 6-2, and see his way on to the semi-finals.