By Tommie Collins
After a long trip to Nanning in March to see Wales play Uruguay in the China Cup I really didn’t fancy another long trek to Los Angeles to see Wales play a friendly against Mexico but, after negotiating time off work I managed to book a direct flight from Manchester – also the pull of the iconic Rose Bowl stadium was too much.
I’d visited America in 2003 for the friendly in San José where we lost 2-0 with Mathew Jones getting sent off. I’d missed the Mexico match in New York in 2012 due to putting club before country for a change – that’s another story.
I’m not that keen on America. I don’t like their policies and attitude – but hey ho I went to Israel for the qualifier. Anyway we shouldn’t mix politics with sport, should we?
Due to visiting San Francisco in 2003 I’d chosen to make a short four-night trip this time. I didn’t bother going to Hollywood, I mean why should I want to see some celebrities gate or house. I went to Venice beach which was a very dodgy place, Santa Monica was a nice place with a lovely beach and very clean. Downtown LA was ok; bars with live bands and a tad cheaper than Santa Monica and Pasadena.
The day of the game started with an early trek to Pasadena where the Rose Bowl is situated, a good decision I understand as the organised buses that were due to take Wales supporters to the match were late in arriving, with many fans missing kick off – they weren’t happy.
We drank in a couple of pubs owned by the chain called Lucky Baldwin’s, again very expensive – I honestly didn’t realise that it was so expensive, on average we were paying anything from $6 – $10 a pint, well less actually – it’s called a 16, a 22 was dearer. In one place in Santa Monica they charged $10 for a small can of Heineken, they wanted $18 for a pint, the exit door was found quickly: I despaired.
There were nearly 500 Welsh fans there and a few who lived over there were looking for tickets, most made a holiday of it combining Las Vegas or San Francisco. It was good to see kids out there, hopefully they’ve had the bug, and they are the future, also a few had managed to get some groundhopping in by seeing LA Galaxy and LAFC.
After negotiating the crazy traffic on the way to the game we finally arrived at the Rose Bowl. It was a sea of green with the Mexicans having taken up swathes of land with barbecues and music blaring out and beer everywhere. What a friendly bunch they are, wanting to take photos with us, amazed we’d travel all the way. Although they did have a brawl with each other during the game – club rivalry, perhaps?
There were security checks to go in but nothing too severe and beer was on sale inside the ground albeit at a ghastly price of $16, thanks but no thanks – I have my limits!
The stadium was impressive, a massive bowl, with great views, obviously quite far from the pitch but at least there were no obstructions. To be honest the atmosphere wasn’t great, the Mexicans were persistent with their now famous wave but the Welsh contingent wouldn’t play ball. Again the Mexicans were friendly, but I wonder how the yanks felt with 80,000 in their stadium. For a 0-0 draw it was a decent match, we had chances and considering we had Bale, Allen, Chester and Ampadu missing we did well and the youngsters who came on did ok.
To see Wales play in the Rose Bowl was another tick off the list but I wish it had been in the Azteca, Mexico City. FAW can you arrange? Next stop Aarhus.
For info – I’ve seen Wales play in 43 different countries and that was my 97th away game. Three more this year possibly to hit the magic 100?
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