As Greenhalgh looked like a denser Ronaldo, so the other players at Champion Hill were squarer imitations of elite players: shrouded in the myths of their talent, top-level footballers seem otherworldly in the flesh, an impossible combination of muscularity and lightness. These players looked as if they’ve been diagonally expanded on a computer to fill a template more suited to the roughness of sport at this level.
And they needed to be robust for this match. Several players looked uncomfortable in possession, but all were uncompromising in the tackle. The ball spent a lot of time in the air. The home team had the better of the play, and their forward duo of Dylan Kearney and Danny Mills, a rangy tangle of limbs, caused problems for the Tonbridge centre backs. Somehow Dulwich missed from a yard out. After about twenty minutes, the game began to slow and fragment, as both teams committed fouls to catch their breath. From then on, urgency was expressed in how hard the players lobbied the referee for decisions, as much as in the pace of the play.
The match was as much a distraction as a centrepiece. In the first half, the queue for the bar stretched around half of the ground. In the second half, the queue for the loo stretched around the other half. Dulwich and their fans are known for their commitment to recycling.
The members of the Rabble who were not in the queue for the loo or the bar began to chant louder as the game moved from the first half to second half. And what a rabble it was! The dogs on show suggested that this was a mixed congregation: pitbulls, bulldogs, poodles, spaniels and dachshunds mingled freely. Middle-class women joked with seasoned non-league boozers. As they posed for a photo, two men kissed. Stood next to them, two older Tonbridge fans, dressed head-to-toe in club merchandise, intensely discussed their team’s tactics. Their parallel devotions are equally accepted at Dulwich.