I knew I went to the best gym in London, but what happened on Wednesday 31st January 2019, confirmed it.
At first I thought it was someone trying to look like Mamadou Sakho. No, it was him. Just to be sure, I left the comfort of the spa pools and followed him into the sauna. Checking that it was still ante meridiem, as I pulled the door I chirped ‘Morning,’ as I looked him in the eye as he momentarily lifted his head. ‘Morning,’ he replied drowsily. I studied his head. That infamous bleached inch high Mohawk overshadowed the sophisticated tramlines, which could only be seen upon close proximity. It is him. I was sitting in the presence of greatness. I was suddenly lifted with a life affirming energy. It was boiling in the sauna; the gauge read 98 fahrenheit. Despite this oppressive heat, I was going nowhere. We were going to enjoy the sensation of the intense heat simultaneously. I was sitting in the presence of greatness and I was going to savour every moment. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. I wanted to tell him all the times I had rooted for him, praised him during his miraculous performances from the stands or from the comfort of my sofa or a pub chair. I didn’t, preferring to just use my grin as validation of his greatness. My energy grew.
He got up. Stood up. Enormous stature with his head levelling with the top of the doorway. Minutes later I left and returned to the spa pools walking on cloud nine.
Wilfred Zaha came out of the poolside shower, Zaha! Bleached locks, normally held in position by pins, flowed to just above his shoulders. Then Luka Milivojevic, Andros Townsend, Wayne Hennessy, Aaron Wan-Bassaka, Vicente Guaita, Patrick Van Aanholt and Jordan Ayew all followed him into the children’s pool. Their behaviour was apt for this space. Their sophisticated hairstyles, tattoos and demeanour suggested that there was something special about them.
An elderly lady, who normally uses the 3ft deep children’s pool as a way of exercising, walked down the poolside steps oblivious that she was in the pool full of greatness, only to walk out seconds later.
I felt like a kid in a sweet shop. Sakho stood poolside checking his phone, no doubt searching the latest updates as the deadline for transfer day loomed. Benteke and Bakary Sako arrive with what appears to one of their mum’s and enter the spa area to be greeted by comforting bubbles and a space to relax together. It was mesmerising and exhilarating watching my heroes be just like me.
Of the 12 or so members in the spa area no-one, and I mean no-one, invaded the team’s privacy. So maybe that elderly lady who walked down into the pool and shared that space with them for a few seconds did know, and like me, wanted a little bit of their energy and a close up encounter.
I continue on cloud nine; the energy that encounter created will last me a lifetime.
I don’t know why I had tear filled eyes when I watched Crystal Palace play from the sideline on Saturday against Fulham, but maybe something in me had shifted.