“If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands! If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands! If you’re happy and you know it and you really want to show it clap your hands!” At least, that’s what the Flora Tallinn chant sounds like. If I was transplanted back to high school at the Kadriorg stadium, then I am squarely back in elementary school at Tallinn’s Le Coq Arena. Flora Tallinn are overwhelming the defense of JK Narva Trans, but so far have nothing to show for it. Except, of course, for their “firm”, the group of twenty or so men who have lit flares behind their goal. The stands are even emptier than at the Kadriorg, no doubt due to the fact that temperatures have dipped below freezing for this night fixture.

For my part, I take stock in what I have to see if I truly am “happy” like the Flora chant. A ticket stub for three Euros? Result? Happy, it was cheaper than the previous match. Complimentary cup of hot tea with admission? Result? Happy, I’m freezing my ass off and the tea is the only thing saving me. Match worn Nike shirt of Flora Tallinn, number 2, procured from a cardboard box for twenty-five Euros at the gate? Result? Definitely happy, it was my goal in coming here. The play on the field? Result? Not Happy, a boring first forty-five minutes ends 0-0. But I can’t be sad, because three out of four ain’t bad.

Inside the fans have gathered for halftime. The fact that all the fans in attendance could comfortably fit in a quarter of the stand’s concession stand concourse says a lot. I grab a canned gin and tonic and a hot dog wrapped in filo dough as a snack. Most of the people around me—including two very attractive girls my age—are drinking tea or coffee to warm up—like normal people. The “ultras”, for their part, are double-fisting beers—like all of us slightly abnormal people who call ourselves football fans. I hear the whistle blow for the start of the second half, take one more longing look at the two girls, and head out into the sub-zero (Celsius) temperatures with my gin and tonic in hand prepared to freeze my ass off.

Mid-way through the second half the ball rolls to my feet where I’m standing in the front row. The ball boys are busy racing one another along the sideline, oblivious to the stoppage in play. I put my gin down and throw the ball into the arms of the waiting Narva Trans player, who gives me a nod as thanks. I welcome the chance to move, since I’m freezing my ass off.  I look behind me, a few kids are racing one another up the seats from bottom to top and back down again. Even they aren’t interested in the play on the field.

Just as I start thinking that I’m freezing my ass off for a boring draw Flora Tallinn’s Suma heads over an on-rushing goalkeeper right in front of me, nine minutes from full time its 1-0. Five minutes later Albert Prosa adds a second and it is 2-0. As the final whistle sounds, it is a fitting result for Flora Tallinn, the team that I fondly remember from my childhood as perennial champions of Estonia, the team that taught me where Estonia was in fifth-grade geography. The team that taught me—in no uncertain terms—that early fall really means early winter in Estonia. I am freezing my ass off.

On a cold fall night in Tallinn the stands were again left empty, more pictures are here:

IMG_0269

Advertisements