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Saturday, May 19, 2007

FA Cup Final

Chelsea 1 Manchester United 0 (after extra time)
FA Cup Final
Wembley Stadium, Wembley, Middlesex

FA Cup FinalMy second visit to English football's new home in the space of a week and today I had the privilege of attending the first FA Cup Final to be held at the new Wembley. Game aside (a stupendously tedious affair which you can read about elsewhere) this was a pretty special day out. My first FA Cup Final for 29 years (can you guess who won it then?). I remember being somewhat taken aback all those years ago at stumping up the fiver or whatever my ticket cost (1978: Ipswich 1 Arsenal 0, by the way), but not as taken aback as Mrs. Extreme Groundhopping was at my shelling out 80 quid today. I suspect a revenge shopping trip will be undertaken by my long suffering wife in the course of the next few weeks. I'll try not to go over ground I covered in last weeks report, so with that in mind here's my take on today's visit ...

FA Cup Final

Last week I was in row five behind the eastern goal, but today up with the Gods, seven rows back in the Upper Tier, level with the eastern goal line, on the opposite side from the Royal Box. Not a bad view it must be said although identifying a number of players proved to be difficult, as for reading the names on their backs - forget it. Entering through the Gate A turnstiles, stewards directed us towards the first of three shiny escalators (which are a total of 1310 feet in length) that take you up to the stadium's fifth level concourse (stairs are used to get punters down after the game).

FA Cup FinalNot as wide as it's counterpart at ground level - indeed it was quite congested as kick-off approached and also at the half-time break. Plenty of concession stands for food and drink (no sign of the mythical £8 burger) but toilets pretty packed out again and I managed to miss the opening exchanges of the second period while I patiently waited for a free urinal. The new stadium has apparently set a world record for the number of toilets in a public building - 2,618 of them. Where are they all?

Anyway. Seat definitely more comfortable than last week - something to do with the rake of the upper tier perhaps - giving a glorious view of the stadium, if not the players, and (contrary to what I had said last week about not being able to see the arch from inside the stadium) a fantastic view of the arch too (see panoramas). Also a closer hand view of the 7,000 ton roof structure - quite awesome. You really do have to be on the inside to appreciate the scale and magnitude of the place.

FA Cup Final

Pre-match entertainment included three huge balloons which floated over the pitch with acrobats suspended below. Names of all the previous winners of the world's most famous cup competition had been tastefully placed on hoardings at the front the upper tier, the first of three references to the Tractor Boys famous victory. The kit's of all the winning sides were also paraded around the pitch (by a group of school kids) while Kevin Beattie (the former Town and England international centre-back who played in Town's 1-0 triumph over the Gunners) was presented to the crowd along with other players who had competed in finals since the 1950's - a nice touch.

FA Cup Final

The acoustics of the stadium have been designed to cut down on sound pollution in the surrounding area so that the stadium "swallows" its own roar during matches. And that it does. The noise was quite incredible at some points during the game - despite the miserable fare being offered up on the pitch. There were periods in the second half when I thought my head was going to explode. The old Wembley roar, which was certainly up there decibel wise, has nothing on Wembley II.

FA Cup Final

Down below ninety minutes of the dullest football I've seen in quite sometime took place, followed by an extra thirty minutes of not quite such dull football, four minutes from the end of which the Premier League's leading marksman scored to give Chelsea a 1-0 victory. And the less said about all of that the better.

FA Cup Final

Both teams then did the 107 step climb up to the Royal Box (compared to 39 at the old place), to collect the silverware, with Chelsea following this up by bouncing up and down to loud music and fireworks on a stage to wrap up proceedings. The 107 steps are a bit of an oddity. The Royal Box is on the second tier so the stairs go up through the lower tier (either side of the fancy seats in the Corinthians Club area - which were by no means full today), the players then disappear for a few seconds while they zigzag up some internal steps, and then magically reappear on the walkway in front of the Royals (Prince Willy on show today) and VIP's to collect their medals and the cup. It takes some time to do this so by the time Chelsea got round to going up, coming down and walking across to the stage over toward the far touchline, the Manchester United end was pretty empty. Whatever happened to the simple medal and cup presentation and the lap of honour!

FA Cup FinalTube organization and crowd marshalling both pre- and post-match was excellent - a very good natured crowd playing their part in the smooth running of all of this. We pulled out of Wembley Park tube on a Jubilee line train around 45 minutes after we had left the stadium, and when you consider that perhaps half the 90,000 crowd were all trying to do the same thing that's pretty good. So hat's off to Tfl and the Met Police. By 7:30pm we were flying up the A1(M), away from our parking spot in Borehamwood, listening to former England manager Graham Taylor complaining on 606 about how long it was going to take him to get away after he'd finished his gig for the BBC! Try public transport perhaps?

Match Number: 1375

posted by chevblue at 9:12 pm 2 comments


Friday, May 18, 2007

Wembley Panoramas

FA Vase Final

Following on from last Sunday's FA Vase Final post, two panoramas taken of the new Wembley can be found here and here.

posted by chevblue at 4:54 pm 2 comments


Sunday, May 13, 2007

FA Vase Final

AFC Totton 1 Truro City 3
FA Vase Final
Wembley Stadium, Wembley, Middlesex

FA Vase FinalAs a frequent spectator at Wessex League games this season, and last, as you will perhaps have gathered from this blog, today I was up in London to lend the full weight of my support behind this seasons Wessex Premier Division runners-up, AFC Totton, as they took on the Pride of Cornwall, and 2006-07 Western Division Champions, Truro City. I confess though that the main attraction for me today was the chance to watch a game inside the brand spanking new Wembley Stadium. But would it worth the seven yeat wait!

Journeying down from Suffolk I made my way across to King's Cross and out along the Metropolitan line towards Wembley Park Station. About a mile or so out from the later the new stadium looms into view on your left. And its big. The iconic arch is its main feature and at 400 feet high, and with a span of 1040 feet, dominates the skyline. The stadium underneath it is four times the height of the old Wembley.

FA Vase Final

The tube station itself has been completely revamped as part of a £38.2 Million project to improve the transport infrastructure around the stadium. £17.2 Million of which was stumped up by WNSL (Wembley National Stadium Ltd).

FA Vase FinalWembley Way is pretty much as it was, as is the two-pronged pedestrian ramp/bridge that takes you over the coach park onto the brand new concourse which allows you to walk around the full perimeter of the new Wembley - which I can't remember being able to do at the old one. The exterior of the stadium is faced with glass, steel and concrete - all to a high spec - lots to take pictures of, including the tasteful statue of Bobby Moore at the main entrance. Many liked minded soles were wandering around doing just that.

And then the sky's opened and it tipped it down, and so with an hour to go before kick-off I scurried for cover inside. Passing through the turnstiles you enter the main, and very spacious, concourse behind the lower level seating. Decorated with pictures of famous moments from the old stadium it has plenty of food, drink and merchandise outlets on either side. Minimal queuing. All very civilised

FA Vase Final

The stadium boasts 2,618 toilets, more than any other building in the world. Apparently. Not quite sure where they're all hidden as I still had to queue at half-time to use one, but it was a comparatively pleasant experience, certainly when compared to the old Wembley and its infamous plumbing problems. The WC was clean and tastefully decorated as much as a public lav can be (nice slate effect washstands btw!).

FA Vase FinalAnd now to the seating area and stadium proper. It may be brand new but oddly if has retained the feel of the old Wembley. It's cavernous (two rings of seating for the common man broken by two smaller rings of VIP and club seating) and very very red. The letters W-E-M-B-L-E-Y are picked out in black and white in the seating behind each goal in an identical style to that used in the old place. But all 89,900 of the remaining seats are bright bright red. Row upon undulating row of red plastic. In this modern age of commercialism, with the exception of pitch side hoardings, surprisingly no sign of a sponsors ad or logo anywhere.

I sat in row five right behind the eastern goal with the large Totton supporting contingent that had made the trek up from Hampshire. According to some blurb I read somewhere there is more leg room in every seat than in the Royal Box at the old stadium. At 6' 6" plus I was more than comfortable although a bit more space on either side wouldn't have gone a miss. Overall though, pretty comfortable.

FA Vase Final

Be warned. Just because there is a roof capable of covering the entire stadium doesn't mean it will be closed for an event or that the 11 acres of it (four of which are retractable) will protect you from the rain if you have seats in first few rows. Those who those sat in rows 1 and 2 today looked a bit wet to me. Oddly, the stadium's arch or "tiara" (as principal architect Norman Fosters refers to it) can't be seen from inside the stadium - or at least not from my view point.

FA Vase FinalThere are two huge scoreboards/video screens at each end. These showed replay's of goal mouth action during the game and ads and assorted stuff before kick-off and at half-time. An FA video that was screened before the match purported to be highlights of famous games at the old stadium but curiously finished with Beckham scoring "that" free kick against the Greeks at Old Trafford in 2003.

The 15,000 "Stags" fans, along with a slightly lesser number of Cornish supporters, in the 27,000 crowd created a fun and festive atmosphere with Mexicans waves, flag waving, etc., etc., giving the gangs of hired security personal, or "Response Teams" resplendant in Sky Blue bib's, who patrolled both inside and out very little to do although they were quick to act at even the slightest hint of trouble which included confiscating Klaxon horns from a group of Totton youngsters.

FA Vase Final

There was also a high profile Police presence - lots of bobby's on the way to, around and inside the stadium. Many on horse back too with their mounts providing numerous fecal obstacles on the way back to Wembley Park tube post match. Clearly yesterday's FA Trophy final and today's Vase match are seen by WNSL, the FA, and other interested parties as Dress Rehearsal's for the main event next Saturday, and while it was all good natured today it will be a tad bit more tense, I suspect, next weekend when Manchester United take on Chelsea in the first FA Cup Final to be held in London since 2000!

FA Vase FinalOops, almost forgot the game but you can read about that here, here and here.

So was it worth the £798 Million and the prolonged wait? Well it has certainly won me over.

Wem-ber-ley, Wem-ber-ley!

Match Number: 1374

posted by chevblue at 11:35 pm 0 comments


Saturday, May 12, 2007

New Stadium for Portsmouth

New home for Pompey

At the end of April Portsmouth announced plans for a “spectacular new £600million waterfront football stadium and residential development on reclaimed land in the city's dockyard and at Fratton Park”. By sheer coincidence earlier this year one of Ms Extreme Groundhopping’s first assignments, in her three year Architectural Degree course, was to put together a proposal for the redevelopment of the very area that Pompey plan to use. She's pretty sure that had she suggested building a 36,000 all-seater stadium in between Portsmouth Harbour Station and the Historic Dock Yard (above) as part of the revamp she would probably have got an “F”.

posted by chevblue at 10:21 am 0 comments


Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Russell Cotes Cup Final

Gosport Borough 0 Fleet Town 2
Russell Cotes Cup Final
Privett Park, Gosport, Hampshire

Russell Cotes Cup Final

A toss of a coin at the Hampshire FA gave Gosport Borough home advantage in tonight’s Russell Cotes Cup Final against Ryman League side Fleet Town and sees yours truly return to Privett Park for one last time this season.

Gosport Borough, holders of the trophy, saw tonight as the chance to rounded off an excellent season, they clinched the Wessex League title and promotion to the British Gas Southern League on April 28th, by retaining the trophy, but it would all prove to be a bit of an anti-climax. Michael White, Boro captain, proudly displayed the Wessex Championship Trophy to rapturous applause before the game (their first league trophy of any description since 1978) but in an evening punctuated by showers, from a home supporters perspective, that’s as good as it would get.

Russell Cotes Cup FinalWill Salmon netted for the visitors after eleven minutes and Tony Reid added a second just before the break - capitalizing on a howler of a back pass by Adam Camfield - to record a thoroughly deserved victory. The win will go some way toward making up for a week of disappointment for Fleet Town (the starting eleven are pictured above being introduced to officials from the Hampshire FA). They lost out in the Ryman League league playoffs to Tooting and Mitcham on May 1st and suffered a 2-1 to Conference side Aldershot Town in the Hampshire Senior Cup final on Saturday.

Match Number: 1373

posted by chevblue at 11:18 pm 0 comments


Sunday, May 06, 2007

Ipswich Town

Ipswich Town 3 Cardiff City 1
Coca-Cola Championship
Portman Road, Ipswich, Suffolk

Portman Road

Today’s win ensured that Town complete the season ahead of Norwich, which in seasons past would have confirmed the Blue’s title as the “Pride of Anglia”. But this seasons top boys are the surprise package from Layer Road, Colchester United, who finished 10th in the Championship proper, and top of the 4-team mini East Anglian League, thus:

            P W D L  F  A Pts  GD
Colchester 6 4 1 1 13 4 13 +9
Ipswich 6 3 1 2 10 8 10 +2
Southend 6 1 2 3 6 12 5 -6
Norwich 6 0 4 2 6 11 4 -5

Overall a disappointing season for the Blue’s although the last two months have shown some encouraging improvements including bowing out with a 3-1 home win over one-time league leaders Cardiff City today. Town hope to sign Francis Jeffers on a permanent deal in the next week or so. He scored a classic strikers goal to put Town ahead in the 4th minute, and with some solid performances elsewhere in the side signs are that 2007-08 will see an improvement on the bottom half finishes we’ve endured the past two years.

Match Number: 1372

posted by chevblue at 4:14 pm 0 comments


Saturday, May 05, 2007

Panorama Mania!

Elland Road

Over on our "big brother" site the collection of panoramas taken at football stadia across the UK and Europe is fast approaching the 100 mark. The latest additions to the collection include the Saunders Honda Stadium, Old Trafford, Vicarage Road, Olympiastadion (Berlin), Alte Försterei Stadion (Berlin) and from last weekend Elland Road. They can be viewed here.

posted by chevblue at 4:51 pm 0 comments


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Havant & Waterlooville

Havant & Waterlooville 1 Braintree Town 1
Nationwide Conference South Play-Off Semi-Final 1st Leg
West Leigh Park, Havant, Hampshire

 Havant & Waterlooville

The local papers warned beforehand of a potentially explosive game given the recent acrimonious exchanges between the two sides. Back in February, following a less than pleasant 1-1 draw between the Hawks and the Iron’s at West Leigh Park, the visitors decided to repay the Hawks hospitality by remodelling the away changing rooms. A fine for Braintree followed as did a war of words between their manager George Borg and Havant and ‘Looville boss Ian Baird.

Havant & WaterloovilleExplosive it wasn’t but niggly it was. The referee showing cards for a number of over zealous tackles, whilst the fourth assistant and linesman running the line in front of the home bench where the subject of a steady stream of abuse during the second half. Probably just as well the home and away dugouts at West Leigh Park are placed a good twenty feet apart with Baird doing his best to wind up his opposite number with some punchy one liners, for example: “George I thought you were better than this but your just Monkey’s”.

 Havant & Waterlooville

As a game it wasn’t a classic. James Baker putting the visitors ahead with a breakaway goal just seconds before the half-time whistle and the home side equalising two minutes from the end courtesy of a beautiful lob over the Braintree ‘keeper by Jefferson Louis. So all square going into Saturdays second leg up in Essex with a place in the place-off final at Stevenage Borough FC’s Broadhall Way awaiting the winners.

Match Number: 1371

posted by chevblue at 10:53 pm 0 comments






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Ground Visit Record

ENGLAND

AFC Bournemouth
(Fitness First Stadium)

AFC Portchester
(Wicor Recreation Ground)

AFC Sudbury
(King's Marsh Stadium)

AFC Totton
(Testwood Park)

Aldershot Town
(Recreation Ground)

Alton Town
(Alton (Bass) Sports Ground)

Arsenal
(Emirates)

Arsenal
(Highbury)

Aston Villa
(Villa Park)

Barnet
(Underhill)

Barnsley
(Oakwell)

Basildon United
(Gardiners Close)

Billericay Town
(New Lodge)

Birmingham City
(St Andrews)

Blackburn Rovers
(Ewood Park)

Blackpool
(Bloomfield Road)

Bolton Wanderers
(Reebok Stadium)

Bolton Wanderers
(Burnden Park)

Boston United
(York Street)

Bradford City
(Valley Parade)

Braintree Town
(Cressing Road)

Brantham Athletic
(Brantham Athletic Sports & Social Club)

Brentford
(Griffin Park)

Brighton & Hove Albion
(Withdean Stadium)

Brighton & Hove Albion
(Goldstone Ground)

Bristol City
(Ashton Gate)

Bristol Rovers
(Eastville)

Bromley
(Hayes Lane)

Burnley
(Turf Moor)

Bury
(Gigg Lane)

Bury Town
(Ram Meadow)

Cambridge City
(Milton Road)

Cambridge United
(Abbey Stadium)

Charlton Athletic
(The Valley)

Chelmsford City
(New Writtle Street)

Chelmsford City
(Chelmsford Sport & Athletics Centre)

Chelsea
(Stamford Bridge)

Chester City
(Saunders Honda Stadium)

Colchester United
(Layer Road)

Cornard United
(Blackhouse Lane)

Coventry City
(Ricoh Arena)

Coventry City
(Highfield Road)

Crewe Alexandra
(Gresty Road)

Crystal Palace
(Selhurst Park)

Dagenham & Redbridge
(Victoria Road)

Dartford
(Watling Street)

Debenham Leisure Centre
(Maitlands)

Derby County
(Pride Park)

Derby County
(Baseball Ground)

Diss Town
(Brewers Green Lane)

Eastleigh
(Sparshatts Stadium)

Ely City
(Unwin Ground)

Everton
(Goodison Park)

Fareham Town
(Cams Alders)

FC Clacton
(Rush Green Bowl)

FC Fleetlands
(Lederle Lane)

Felixstowe & Walton United
(Dellwood Avenue)

Framlingham Town
(Sports Ground)

Fulham
(Craven Cottage)

Gillingham
(Priestfield)

Gorleston
(Emerald Park)

Gosport Borough
(Privett Park)

Great Yarmouth Town
(Wellesley Recreation Ground)

Grimsby Town
(Blundell Park)

Hadleigh United
(Millfield)

Halstead Town
(Rosemary Lane)

Hamble ASSC
(Follands Park)

Harwich & Parkeston
(Royal Oak)

Havant & Waterlooville
(West Leigh Park)

Heybridge Swifts
(Scraley Road)

Histon
(Glass World Stadium)

Horndean Town
(Five Heads Park)

Huddersfield Town
(Leeds Road)

Hull City
(KC Stadium)

Hull City
(Boothferry Park)

Ipswich Town
(Portman Road)

Ipswich Wanderers
(SEH Sports Ground )

Kingstonians
(Kingsmeadow)

Leeds United
(Elland Road)

Leicester City
(Walkers Stadium)

Leicester City
(Filbert Street)

Leiston
(Victory Road)

Leyton Orient
(Brisbane Road)

Lincoln City
(Cincil Bank)

Liverpool
(Anfield)

Long Melford
(Stoneylands)

Lowestoft Town
(Crown Meadows)

Luton Town
(Kenilworth Road)

Manchester City
(Maine Road)

Manchester United
(Old Trafford)

Middlesborough
(Ayresome Park)

Millwall
(The New Den)

Millwall
(The Den)

MK Dons
(National Hockey Stadium)

MK Dons
(stadium:mk)

Needham Market
(Bloomfields)

Netley Central Sports
(Station Road Recreation Ground)

Newcastle United
(St James' Park)

Newmarket Town
(Cricket Field Road)

Northampton Town
(County Ground)

Norwich City
(Carrow Road)

Nottingham Forest
(City Ground)

Notts County
(Meadow Lane)

Peterborough United
(London Road)

Petersfield Town
(Love Lane)

Plymouth Argyle
(Home Park)

Port Vale
(Vale Park)

Portsmouth
(Fratton Park)

Preston North End
(Deepdale)

Queens Park Rangers
(Loftus Road)

Reading
(Madejski Stadium)

Redbridge
(Oakside Stadium)

Romsey Town
(Bypass Ground)

Rotherham United
(Millmoor)

Saffron Walden Town
(Catons Lane)

Salisbury City
(Raymond McEnhill Stadium)

Scunthorpe United
(Glanford Park)

Sheffield United
(Bramall Lane)

Sheffield Wednesday
(Hillsborough)

Shrewsbury Town
(Gay Meadow)

Shrewsbury Town
(Prostar Stadium)

Soham Town Rangers
(Julius Martin Lane)

Southampton
(St Mary's)

Southampton
(The Dell)

Southend United
(Roots Hall)

St Albans City
(Clarence Park)

Stanway Rovers
(New Farm Road)

Stockport County
(Edgeley Park)

Stoke City
(Britannia Stadium)

Stoke City
(Victoria Ground)

Stowmarket Town
(Green Meadows Stadium)

Sunderland
(Stadium of Light)

Swaffham Town
(Shoemakers Lane)

Swindon Town
(County Ground)

Thetford Town
(Mundford Road)

Tiptree United
(Chapel Road)

Tottenham Hotspurs
(White Hart Lane)

United Services Portsmouth
(Victory Stadium)

VT FC
(Vosper Thornycroft Sports Ground)

Walsall
(Bescot Stadium)

Walsall
(Fellows Park)

Walsham Le Willows
(Walsham Sports Club Ground)

Watford
(Vicarage Road)

Wembley Stadium
(Old)

Wembley Stadium
(New)

West Bromwich Albion
(The Hawthorns)

West Ham United
(Upton Park)

Whitton United
(King George V Playing Field )

Wigan Athletic
(JJB Stadium)

Wimbledon
(Plough Lane)

Winchester City
(Denplan City Ground)

Witham Town
(Spa Road)

Wivenhoe Town
(Broad Lane)

Woking
(Kingfield Stadium)

Wolverhampton Wanderers
(Molineux)

Woodbrige Town
(Notcutts Park)

Worcester City
(St. Georges Lane)

WALES

Cardiff City
(Ninian Park)

SCOTLAND

Aberdeen
(Pittodrie Stadium)

Heart of Midlothian
(Tynecastle Stadium)

AUSTRALIA

Northern Spirit
(North Sydney Oval)

AUSTRIA

SW Wacker Innsbruck
(Tivoli Stadion)

BELGIUM

RSC Anderlect
(Constant Vanden Stock Stadium)

FC Brugge
(Olympiastadion)

SV Zulte-Waregem
(Regenboogstadion)

DENMARK

FC Kobenhavn
(Gladsaxe Stadion)

Helsingor IF
(Helsingor Stadion)

ESTONIA

FC Flora
(Lillekula Stadium)

FINLAND

HJK Helsinki
(Finnair Stadium)

VPS
(Hietalahti Stadium)

Tampere United
(Tammelan Stadium)

FRANCE

St.Etienne
(G.Guichard Stadium)

GERMANY

1. FC Koeln
(Mungersdorfer Stadion)

Borussia Dortmund
(Westfalenstadion )

1. FC Union Berlin
(Stadion An der Alten Försterei)

HOLLAND

AZ Alkmaar
(Alkmaarder Hout)

AZ Alkmaar
(Olympic Stadium, Amsterdam)

FC Dordrecht
(GN Bouw Stadion)

FC Groningen
(Euroborg)

FC Utrecht
(Galgenwaard Stadion)

Feyenoord
(De Kuip)

NEC Nijmegen
(Goffert Stadium)

PEC Zwolle
(Oosterenkstadion)

PSV Eindhoven
(Philips Stadion)

SC Heerenveen
(Abe Lenstra Stadium)

Twente Enschede
(Arke Stadion)

Twente Enschede
(Diekman Stadion)

Vitesse Arnhem
(Gelredome)

Willem II
(Willem II Stadion)

IRELAND

Bray Wanderers
(Carlisle Grounds)

Dublin City
(Tolka Park)

ITALY

Inter Milan
(San Siro)

LUXEMBOURG

Avenir Beggen
(Stade Josy-Barthel)

NORWAY

Skeid Oslo
(Ulevall)

POLAND

Widzew Lodz
(Stadion LKS)

SPAIN

Barcelona
(Nou Camp)

Real Madrid
(San Bernabeu)

Valencia
(Luis Casanova)

SWEDEN

Orgryte IS
(Gamla Ullevi (Old))

Helsingborgs IF
(Olympia Stadium)

Landskrona Bois
(Idrottspark)

Malmo FF
(Malmo Stadion)

Mjallby AIF
(Strandvallen)

Trelleborgs FF
(Vangavallen)

IFK Goteborg
(Ullevi)

USA

Chicago Sting
(Comiskey Park I)

Chicago Sting
(Wrigley Field)

Chicago Sting
(Chicago Stadium)

Chicago Sting
(Rosemont Horizon)

Chicago Sting
(Rockford MetroCenter)

Chicago Vultures
(Odeum)

Milwaukee Bavarians
(Bavarian Center)

Schwaben AC
(Schwaben Center)

Tampa Bay Rowdies
(Tampa Bay Stadium)