Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Phoenix finally rising from the ashes

My weekly column has started up again for the football season. This year, it's in The Argus on a Thursday, not a Saturday. The wordcount is up to 550 now. Ooh. Here is this week's:I’m lucky enough to have seen some beautiful sights in recent years. I’ve watched the sunset turn Ayers Rock the deepest orange. I’ve gazed in marvel from an aeroplane window at illuminated streets flowing like lava through the blackness of the New York night. I’ve stood in the Colosseum, surrounded by the aura of ghosts from its brutal Roman history. I’ve been dwarfed by the steel magnificence of the Eiffel Tower in Paris and strolled the gothic backstreets of Barcelona. However, last week I saw a sight during my humdrum daily routine in familiar old East Sussex that topped anything I have ever seen before.

I was on the train from Brighton to Eastbourne when I noticed something that made my stomach turn somersaults and the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. It was a fleeting moment, yet one so perfect that I will always remember it. I was staring vacantly out of the window as the train chugged past Falmer station when I noticed, poking up from behind some trees, the tiniest glimpse of a metal structure. This may not seem like much to get excited about but, of course, this skeletal framework represented so much more than the sum of its parts. To me, and to all supporters of Brighton & Hove Albion Football Club, it is a Phoenix finally rising from the ashes, an embryonic vision of what will soon be Albion’s shiny new home.

Earlier this year I was at the Olympiastadion in Berlin. After a quick wander around to take in its history (it was there that black athlete, Jesse Owens, famously won four Olympic gold medals while Adolf Hitler watched on), I sat in the stand and breathed in my surroundings. Being a stadium nerd, this magnificent theatre of sport had me drooling, with its 3,500 ton roof and bright blue running track, and it made me think about how amazing it will be to finally get to Falmer. However, at the time, the idea of sitting in a comfortable ground, with decent acoustics and a roof over my head every fortnight seemed, somehow, still so far-fetched. Sure, as I was pondering this, work on the Falmer site had started, but it hadn’t amounted to much more than a few diggers churning through some fields. I had always said that, because the quest for Brighton's stadium had been going on for so long, I’d half-resigned myself to it never actually being built, and that I wouldn’t believe it was really going to happen until I saw the first brick being laid. Well, with a simple peek over the trees from the train window, I have now, finally, seen it with my own two eyes. It looked more like the picture above then the one below (which is what it will eventually become), but was still beautiful.
If you haven’t already done so, then check out the stadium gallery on the Albion’s website. With photographs showing how it is taking shape remarkably quickly, it’s the best thing I’ve seen on the internet since I typed ‘lion reunion’ into youtube.

Regardless of whether I’m spending ages online, looking at photos of what is surely the most exciting construction site ever, or catching a real life glance out of a train window, I can finally now allow myself to really believe, with no degree of uncertainty whatsoever, that the Falmer stadium is on its way. And what a great feeling that is.

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