Probably the best prize in the world.
Back in April I couldn’t believe it when I received an email from Greene King – I’d won their Facebook prize draw and would be presenting the Carlsberg Man of the Match Award after the England v Wales game in Lens. I was ecstatic – going to Euro2016 was top of my wishlist and being half Welsh, this was the match I was keen to see!
On Wednesday morning we hopped on the Eurostar for a short 90 minute journey to Lille with hundreds of other football fans. At our hotel we had welcome drinks (Carlsberg, of course) and special guest Ray Parlour told us some classic tales of his Arsenal days.
We were joined at our table by two hilarious blokes, Doncaster fan Mick and West Ham fan Barry, who soon became our new best mates…
In the evening we were all taken by bus to a restaurant called Mother (thankfully, nowhere near Lille station!) and served up burgers in blue buns. Later I realised they were probably meant to be Carlsberg green…
That evening, France were playing Albania and the bar slowly filled up with locals singing and cheering. After a lacklustre performance, suddenly France livened up, scoring two goals in the last six minutes of the game and everyone went nuts! What an atmosphere. Thousands of English, French and Welsh were partying in Lille, with just a few idiots spoiling it (the ones you saw on the news!)
Thursday was the main event; we collected our match tickets in the morning and were preparing to leave the hotel on the coach when we got a panicked phone call asking where we were and that our chauffeur was waiting. This really was the VIP treatment! We were driven to the Carlsberg Club on the outskirts of Lens, which was a bit like being the first guests at a wedding, as the staff bustled around getting everything ready and a French duo sang jazz versions of Creep and Tainted Love. Soon, hundreds of guests turned up – including lots of pub landlords – and were welcomed with yet more Carlsberg. The buffet included oysters and snails, although most people were happier to queue up for sausage and chips at the van outside!
Driving to Lens stadium in the sunshine it was great to see English and Welsh fans laughing and drinking together. At the stadium we were taken into the hospitality area where we met Louise, the Carlsberg rep who was looking after our VIP Experience. An hour before kick off we were taken onto the pitch for photos and got to wave the Man of the Match award about – yes, it’s exactly the same as a Carlsberg beer pump!
Back in the UEFA Club we squeezed in a glass of wine before taking our seats for the pre-match dancing and shenanigans on the pitch. Check out all the McDonalds Player escorts – I bet they loved the experience (that’s a prize I’d like to win for Ryland next time!)
Sitting on the second row behind the England dugout, we had the most incredible view of the game. The sun came out, the national anthems were spine-tingling and the atmosphere was fantastic.
I’m English but with a Welsh father so I can’t deny I felt a little excited when Gareth Bale scored and the Welsh contingency went wild. ‘One nil to the sheep shaggers!’ rang out round the stadium and I hoped Roy would make some big changes at half time – England had to win this! We were all excited to see Vardy on the pitch for the second half and score the equaliser. Game on!
We had to leave our seats in the 85th minute to make our way ‘backstage’ into the quiet press area, where we watched the final moments on TV, desperately trying not to scream when Sturridge scored a 91st minute goal. I practised posing with the Man of the Match trophy.
After the final whistle it was a flurry of activity. Thierry Henry wandered by, then the players all came through . The press interview area was actually three separate backdrops, right next to each other, with Coleman, Hodgson and Rooney all being interviewed simultaneously!
I was waiting with the legend Ian Rush, ready to present the Carlsberg Man of the Match Award to Kyle Walker, but as he was injured we spent a good half an hour or so watching the hustle and bustle. We had to laugh when Jack Wilshere wandered into the room bewilderedly asking ‘is this the exit?’. I cheekily told him ‘Sorry Jack, this is the man of the match presentation. Maybe next time!’
Finally, Kyle limped in and we did our presentation and photos. I planted a kiss on his cheek, then before we left we were introduced to the team’s lion mascot (complete with security pass!).
(photo courtesy of Carlsberg)
A quick glass of wine up in the hospitality area, and we were whisked off again by our chauffeur to Carlsberg Club for yet more free alcohol and food, and to celebrate Northern Ireland beating Ukraine. I was delighted to see that the rather dapper Chris Kamara had joined the party!
We enjoyed a wonderful bit of evening sunshine and more laughs with friends before heading back on the bus to Lille.
For our final day in rainy Lille yesterday we treated ourselves to a wonderful lunch at Aux Ephérites before posing for a few photos in the Fanzone and heading back home.
This experience is definitely up there with my best prizes ever. We were really spoilt and given the chance to see what goes on behind the scenes as well as meet some footballing heroes. A huge cheers to Carlsberg & Greene King for making our trip so special!
As part of our prize we received a pair of Carlsberg Euro2016 coolbags, bottle openers and of course the Euro2016 official souvenir guide, and I’d like to give away my set to a SuperLucky reader! If you’d like to win, simply leave a comment below telling me why you love the UEFA European Football Championship (no more than fifty words please!). Entries close at 11pm GMT on Monday 20th June and I’ll ask my son Ryland to help judge a winner based on originality! (Open to UK & ROI residents aged 16 and over, make sure you’re logged in before commenting as I’ll email the winner)