Saturday, Nov 01, 2014

Sport at Manchester’s ‘other’ stadium

India take on England in the fourth Test starting Thursday (Source: AP) India take on England in the fourth Test starting Thursday (Source: AP)
Written by Sandeep Dwivedi | Manchester | Posted: August 5, 2014 2:23 am | Updated: August 5, 2014 10:06 am

Old Trafford is about 1,000 metres down the road from its more popular footballing namesake. The Lancashire Cricket County Club (LCCC) and Manchester United’s den share a name, neighbourhood and pretty much nothing else. Even though they co-exist on the same side of the tram track, the cricket venue is clearly the less-visited poor cousin.

On Sunday, even more so. A boy with Mongoloid features offers a beaming smile before he unwittingly reveals his preference of sport that doesn’t fit with the place or the occasion. He says he doesn’t understand cricket, since most of his waking hours are spent thinking about the football played by the men wearing red. Pointing to the other Old Trafford in the distance, with his back to the LCCC, he adds, “I earn 6 pounds an hour but I spend 100-plus pounds to watch a game there.”

It’s Monday now. In four days, India will take on England in ‘the’ crucial game of the series. You would expect that Alastair Cook’s return to form, England levelling the series at the Rose Bowl and home boy Jimmy Anderson’s 1-0 win over Ravindra Jadeja at the Southampton hearing would create an Ashes kind of buzz around the fourth Test starting Thursday. Not quite.

The rooms at the Old Trafford Lodge, alongside the pavilion and next to the boundary rope, promising a Test-view from its windows at a 217 pounds per day tag are still available. Around the stadium, there are colourful posters with a determined, padded-up Ian Bell about to take off for a quick single, surrounded by starry blurbs with ticket rates. The 45-pound ‘family deal’ for five days sounds like a steal but they aren’t the proverbial hot cakes.

Clearly more popular

What’s clearly more popular in this part of town is the ‘Red Devils’ fish & chips shops that happen to be closer to the cricket venue than to the sacred football field. It is apparent that the pedestrian path between the two Old Traffords, 10 minutes by foot, that cross the Chester and Talbot Road, is frequented more by footballs fans. Not just when United play at home but also round the year when the club’s several million fans from around the world drop in for the Stadium and Museum Tour.

It’s a never ending stream of visitors, as this tribe has grown to 659 million globally. Official statistics show 30 per cent of the entire population of Vietnam and South Korea are United supporters as are the 108 million football crazies from China. Many such Asian fans that walk down the tram platform end up getting amused by the surprise sighting of the 90-year-old Kellogs factory on the right and confused about the arena of an alien sport on the left.

They only start getting comfortable when the familiar colours, faces and names greet continued…

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