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Cheer when an opponent shows skill

Jim Spence | 17:24 UK time, Friday, 24 April 2009

In a week dominated by talk of football finance and the Old Firm heading to England to maximise their revenue, I met two great Glasgow football fans who lifted my spirits and made me remember what it is I love about the beautiful game.

Brothers Davie and Ronnie Jackson from Rutherglen are probably heading towards bus pass age, but their joy and fervour for football shone as brightly as mine the first time I was lifted over the turnstiles.

Both are Clyde fans. Both had chucked an old rucksack over their shoulders and took a cheap day ticket to Dundee to have a gander at the two football grounds, because that's what football fans do.

Dundee's Ian Ure closes in on Third Lanark's Alex Harley

I'd just interviewed United chairman Stephen Thompson, when I bumped into the "boys".

Strolling up to Dens and Tannadice on spec, they'd been given a guided tour of each ground. At Tannadice, Ken Nicol, who among other jobs holds the fort occasionally at the reception desk, had shown them round and treated them to lunch on the club.

The three of us got talking and they regaled me with tales of football old and new, but mostly old.

Because although their hearts lie with the Bully Wee, they are of a vintage like our grandfathers, fathers and uncles. It is the game and the game's great players they love over and above one football club.

As laddies when the cost of following Clyde away from home was out of the question, they high-tailed it to Cathkin Park on a Saturday to see Third Lanark (now defunct from the senior game but making a comeback as a Glasgow amateur side).

They talked glowingly of the greats like Goodfellow, Hilley, Harley, Gray and McInnes as though they were fans of the Hi Hi and not the side from Shawfield.

And, in truth, they were. They were of a generation that loved football for its own sake and for the joy of watching great players, regardless of the team.

Fittingly, given that we stood in the corridor at Tannadice, they reminisced about seeing Dundee United as an old second division side and waxed lyrically about a man who is a hero for both Clyde and the Arabs, Johnny Coyle, whose goal won the Scottish Cup for Clyde in 1958 against the Hibs at Hampden.

Names like Harry Haddock, George Brown and Tommy Ring peppered their animated conversation as the great players of yesteryear tripped off their tongues the way you used to recite the times tables.

They glowingly recalled the Dundee side containing Cox Seith, Wishart, Gilzean and Ure which won the league in 1962 and set Europe alight, beating Cologne, Sporting Lisbon, and Anderlecht before falling to AC Milan in the semi-finals of the European Cup.

By the time they started on the joys of Hearts' terrible trio of Conn, Bauld and Wardhaugh and the Hibs Famous Five, memories of my own late dad were swimming round my head.

He too was like the Jacksons, regularly recalling with gusto great goals by a Billy Steel or a Laurie Reilly, or grimacing as he recalled a crunching tackle from Rangers' Willie Woodburn or the Dons' Davie Shaw.

The game was the thing for them, even over and above club loyalty.

They had, and have, a deep love and appreciation of genuine and committed talent irrespective of which shirt it wore.

Meeting the Jacksons made me think. How often do any of us these days put our hands together for a great goal or an inspired pass by the opposition?

Something, which if one of our own had done, would have us out of our seats and three feet in the air.

Maybe it's time to start celebrating the game the right way again.

We all want to see our teams win and prosper, but surely first and foremost we want to see the game played the right way, and can be big enough to show our appreciation when an opposing player does something out of the ordinary.

So come on. Whether you're a Hibee, a Jambo or a Dandy Don, whether you're a Sellick man or a Teddy Bear, go on, celebrate when you see genius in action.

When Sone Aluko leaves a trail of defenders gasping in his wake as he flies down the wing, when Andy Dorman drives past three defenders and lashes one into the top corner, and when Derek Riordan turns on a five pence piece and rifles one in from ten yards, forget the colours you're wearing for a brief minute, and put your hands together for the beautiful game.

Like me after meeting Davie and Ronnie Jackson, you'll feel the better for it.


  • Comment number 1.

    Nice article, Jim. This is one of the many ways in which I think football could learn a lot from rugby (the way refereeing is done is the other notable one which springs to mind, particularly the TV-audible referee microphone, video replays, and the general common-sense approach of the refs - but I digress).

    I was at the Scotland-Italy 6 Nations game this year, and the fans politely applauded when the opposing team notched some points up (thankfully, that wasn't too often this year). The stadium announcer also asked the fans not to boo while the opposite team's kicker was taking a penalty. The result? A nice, civilised, friendly atmosphere which still retained all the passion and excitement of a big sporting event.

    Of course, there's also an argument to be made that such good behaviour would be discarding an advantage for your team (witness the "12th man" effect enjoyed particularly by the Old Firm when at home), and the sad truth is that peer pressure will always win out in the stands (especially since non-segregated seating is a big no-no security-wise at many football matches). As a result, I think it's at best idealistic to expect many modern football fans to think this way, which is a shame IMHO.

  • Comment number 2.

    ah jim.this from a fellow see the thing is when we were wee you were excited by seeing world cups or maradona coming to play at hampden because you never saw the world class players on tv,so it was genuinly exciting to see a cruyff or a boniek or zico.i am afraid nowadays you can see any team in any country in the world and its very sad,therefore taking away some of the magic of these players you can see every champions league week

  • Comment number 3.

    Sorry Jim, i am hardly going to applaud Riordan when he is off-field and off-field behaviour is a disgrace.

  • Comment number 4.

    I remember the look my Dad gave me earlier this season when I applauded an ICT free kick at Tynie. He said he hadn't seen that for a long time. I enjoy the banter at football, and I am still going to boo if one of the opposition is running up for a goal kick, free kick or penalty, as I see it football is a game where the fans are more involved than in Rugby. We are not spectators, we are fans, and I feel there is a difference. If there wasn't then home and away form would be identical usually. That said, if I see a piece of magic, regardless of who it is (except the Hibs), I can still appreciate it!

  • Comment number 5.

    I'm a Rangers fan, but as I studied at the University of Dundee I lived in the city of Dundee for four years. Saturday afternoons are always idle for students without gainful part-time employment or who mistakenly ascertain that exams are decades away yet and hence need not be of any immediate concern, so I spent many an afternoon up at Tannadice watching the Craig Levein revolution unfold; it was (and remains) a joy to watch such honestly aggressive and direct football, which I feel is the manner in which the game should be played.

    Upon moving back to the west coast last year, you should have seen the looks of horror and dismay upon the faces of my fellow Rangers fans as I announced that I had been attending games in Dundee that didn't involve a visiting Rangers team!

    Perhaps football's motto should be "give credit where there is merit"?

  • Comment number 6.

    Very nice article.I agree that amazing,beautiful football should be applauded and supported.One game that I've attended that I saw this happen was at the Celtic vs Barcelona Champions League game last season where Henriy's goal was greeted by a scattering of applause from the home fans.

    However,when a team of Barcelona's calibre come to town you feel the need to applaud them for the sheer beauty of football on display.

    I'm not old enough to have seen the players you mentioned but with young players around today like Ronaldo,Messi and McGeady I find it hard not to applaud them and others like them when they work and weave their magic.So I would welcome more and more fans to cheer on impressive football.

  • Comment number 7.

    A timely article Jim to remind us of why we actually support the game of football. Not that long ago I used to stand at Easter Road and marvel at the great skills of the likes of Pat Stanton, Alex Cropley, Alex Edwards, Alan Gordon etc. My team - the Hearts would be playing away from home. There was no shame in doing that back in the 70's and 80's. And there should be no disgrace now. We are not not illiterate neanderthals after all?

  • Comment number 8.

    Football is a game of passion and skill. You cannot compare it to rugby, which to me doesn't represent either of those things.

    Everyone who supports their club with loyalty and emotion will not cheer on any player who represents their rivals.

    They may privately respect a great player who plays for a rival team, but I don't see any reason why they would cheer that player on.

    Do you expect Manchester United fans to chant the names of Torres and Steven Gerrard, or Liverpool fans to lead a chorus of 'There's Only One Ronaldo?' The fans of Manchester United's rivals loathe Ronaldo for all kinds of reasons, and the dislike is reciprocated.

    It may seem that this sporting tribalism is ignorant and undermines the 'game' but it is the soul of club football, 'us against them'. It's not a World Cup where your country hasn't qualified and you can watch games with an emotional detachment and applaud soullessly. It's not some tippy tappy exhibition game where egos are polished and meaningless tricks are displayed. This is the heart and soul of club football. This is what it's all about!

  • Comment number 9.

    subterranean there is a big flaw in your argument. 'applaud' an opponent for a moment of subliminal skill does not mean 'liverpool fans give a chorus of theres only one ronaldo'

    there is obviously a huge difference between showing appreciation for a rivals skill and showing support for them

    that said, i cant make up my mind who i agree with on this one. whoever said rugby does not represent passion and skill is right, rugby fans can argue all they want about the passion of the 6 nations etc but its never been on the same wavelength of football for support and passion.

    i dont think theres a clear line anywhere, it depends on the circumstance. i happily applauded the match produced by us and chelsea the other week even though i loathe most of their players including 2 of the goalscorers, but i could never applaud man utd for their comeback last night (even if it HAD been a penalty, which it wasnt), and i hate each club about the same so for me there doesnt seem to be a logical divide between being able to show appreciation for an opponent and being physically unable to do so

  • Comment number 10.

    To Rob LFC - the big flaw in my argument was perhaps me exaggerating the point, but I still believe the point stands.

    Did Liverpool fans stand up and applaud when Eric Cantona hit a crisp clean volley into the net to win the 1996 Cup Final? I don't think so.

    In fact, reading your post again I think it illustrates my point quite clearly. The rivalry between Liverpool and Chelsea is nowhere near as passionate or intense as the Man Utd-Liverpool rivalry. I think for you it's easier to applaud Chelsea players, even though you claim to hate both clubs the same.

    Anyway, to get away from the North-West England example, I think fans in general find it difficult to salute their rivals, even for great play. It's easier to admire teams abroad rather than at home, hence the admiration teams like Barcelona, Real Madrid and AC Milan have gained in Britain over recent years.

  • Comment number 11.

    it's an interesting point Jim. Football should be appreciated for what you see and not for just who you support. I think it will be hard for people to do so now especially the younger generation as they seem to be brought up to religiously follow 1 team.

    People are arguing here that no-one would applaude their main rivals if they produced a moment of magic. I think some would maybe want to but face the wrath of fellow fans if they did. I think i would find it hard to applaude a Hearts goal but if it was brilliant then i would maybe feel i would want to but i don't think there's anyway i could just for the reaction of fellow Hibs fans. It's funny though if your team has a comfortable lead and the opposition scores a good goal you will clap. In that 4-4 game with Dundee in Mowbray's first season with us, at 4-1 Dundee scored a very good goal and the whole stadium applauded it because at that point the Hibs fans still thought the game was safe.

    But rivals should maybe applaud. Ronaldinho scored 1 of the best goals i've seen at the Bernabau for Barca against Real Madrid and the whole stadium applauded the goal, and that was from Barca's fiercest rivals (Barca have no white in their badge or strip because it would represent Real, thats how bad it is).

    It's hard to judge compared to rugby, there is passion but the thing is, it's not full of hatred where as in football there is too much of it.

    Maybe football should applaud what they see for the passion of the game and not with the blinkers on with just the "passion" for 1 team.

  • Comment number 12. back your point up, I recommend folk hunt down the footage of Ronaldhino receiving not only applause, but a standing ovation at the Bernabeua after single handedly destroying Real (I think game finished 3-0, cant really remember). But this supports exactly what you say... two teams, great rivalry (sporting and indeed non-sporting) and believe me, he would've been booed nearly every time he touched the ball during game, as a sign of intimidation. However, when the Madrid fans put the rivalry aside, they couldnt help but admire the sheer class on show, and that kind of respect is what we need more of!

    I was at Parkhead a few seasons back and I was one of the first (of a reasonable sum in fairness) to rise to my feet to pay tribute to the same player when he was subbed late on...I taunted him all game, gave it the big "waaaaaaay" when one of his tricks didnt come off, and I cant remember if it was same time, but if Sebo was around for the Gers at that time then I most definetly would have bellowed that out as well... but class is class, whether its in hoops, stripes or national jersey.

    Having said that, I appreciate Gazza, Laudrup and Super Ally (hated when we had to play against him), but the division in our city is one that even skill cannot cross (if a bhoy or a ger dared applaud one of the "others", he'd get lynched by his own fans!)

  • Comment number 13.

    Manchester United fan here and I agree with your point you should aprieciate good football when you see, it's hard to admit it but I actualy aplauded a Liverpool goal (the one torres scored at Blackburn the other week) because it was just genius, but that doesn't mean I support them I still want every liverpool player to fall flat on his whenever they get the ball. I also remember when Real Madrid came to Old Trafford and Ronaldo (the brazilian one) scored a hat trick and recieved a standing ovation when he went off.

  • Comment number 14.

    I remember a game at the Vetch Field a few years ago - Lomana Lua-Lua - then the hot new thing at Colchester, and yet to go to the Toon - was on the receiving end of some horrible racist abuse and chants from a few dumb-heads on the North bank (don't get me wrong, I'm a north-banker myself) and responded the perfect way, by dribbling past 3 players and curling the ball into the top corner.
    And almost EVERY other Jack in the ground stood up and applauded. I felt so proud! I always felt that the vast majority of the Jacks really appreciate great football, and that moment held it for me, despite the (small) number of idiots present. Goddefgarwch am byth!

  • Comment number 15.

    Great article Jim. Although not a Scot, and frankly I'm thinking seriously of jacking in supporting top flight English football if the Old Firm are foisted on us (I'm sure we'll be asked - not!), I too come from a generation when there was, unlike today, quality top to bottom in the top level of English football, and not just in the 'big four'. People here mention the 'great names' of today, but pre 90's, even the lower half of the top flight in England, and back to the 70's, even Div.2 clubs had real stars, not just a 'select few'. An example? Leicester City in the mid 70's was bursting with top talent, including a healthy smattering of England internationals, yet in the current era a club of that stature can expect a few ageing Continentals or South Americans and young Africans that would not get a game for the top sides. It's a myth (as Old Firm fans may well soon be finding out) that the EPL is full of talent, and the 'best league in the World'. Those fans will see plenty of stars when Utd, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal come to town, but after that, well, the names trip off the tongue much less easily.

    That's not to say there isn't talent outside the big four, just the gulf between those clubs and the rest, as Martin O'neill (who the Scots know well enough) recently pointed out, has become pretty much unbridgeable. For my generation it's become a really worrying trend, that, as in politics, what has happened over the last thirty odd years has been increasingly glossed over, and real culprits for the games demise as an in depth, talent, or better still, merit driven sport have been allowed to point the finger of blame at everyone from hooligans to politicians, to media corporations.

    But in the end, really, we have only ourselves to blame. And that leads nicely back to Jim's point - the majority of fans now aren't 'football' fans but one eyed club fans. We've allowed the clubs to alienate and exclude large groups of fans by sneakily using a shocking disaster as an excuse to create all seat stadia and rack up prices. In both England and Scotland we've allowed the formation of greed driven, divisive, self serving 'Premier leagues', and we've allowed clubs to tear down perfectly good stadia and move lock stock and barrel to soulless, out of town 'multi mode media complexes'. We (in England) have a league full of mercenaries who never come even close to playing at a level which justifies their ludicrous wages. At any level. There are no excuses. We could have stood tall, like fans on the continent did, but instead we allowed them, and still do, to butcher the peoples game.

    Perhaps as Jim says, if we just stopped, and took time to applaud each others players when they play well, or they do something so good you should, never mind could applaud, then perhaps, just perhaps we could re-discover an element of the games past. Otherwise, just as in so many other things in life, that's all we might end up with, memories of 'better times'.

    That may well be a misplaced sentiment, in particular as 'better times' are highly subjective, but as a fan of some 30 years, in football terms, I am increasingly concerned that it's true.

    But it's not all doom and gloom. I stood there on Saturday at my local club while several hundred home fans applauded the away team and their fans as they celebrated surviving the drop after deservedly taking the point they needed. It's just that we need a lot more of that, and further up the footballing ladder, before we see ourselves as 'football fans' again, and not just 'club fans'. Because, as before, as long as that attitude remains, both on and off the field, the status quo will never be challenged.

  • Comment number 16.

    great article, fully agree that when an individual turns on the magic and/or scores a wonder goal , then yes we as spectators should show our appreciation but I also agree that a chorus of "there is only one Ronaldo" is going too far. For a terrific example of this try watching Ronaldinhos second goal against Real Madrid for Barcelona. If I had not witnessed it myself I would not have believed it for the entire Real Madrid supporters were on their feet applauding him, a Barca player no less!! hate to admit it but Celtic/Rangers fans will never show such appreciation,a real pity as these two teams without their rivalry would be nowhere near as great as they are.

  • Comment number 17.

    Great article Jim. I think a lot of people that have commented on this are missing the point. Its not about supporting your rivals its about appreciating the beauty of football at the highest level. Too many people these days blindly follow their team and don't ever take the time to appreciate what they are watching. Football is essentially a spectator sport, the reason people first started watching was because they wanted witness the tricks and skills that the players could perform with a ball at their feet, not because it would give them bragging rights over their neighbours if they won, although that was an added bonus. I think it would be nice if fans, when their team is playing away from home, went to other grounds just to see what's on offer, away from the mob mentality and partisan attitude that has enveloped football in the modern era. Perhaps then there would be a few more people who, when asked, wouldn't say I'm a Chelsea fan or I'm a Rangers fan but I'm a football fan.

  • Comment number 18.

    At 9:55pm on 24 Apr 2009, beavso2005 wrote:

    Before I start - #2 beavso2005 - I think you'll find the correct grammar is "when we were wee we were..." which is a great example of alliteration (in case anyone is looking for one).

    I remember my step father in the North Stand at Stamford Bridge in the late 60's at my first ever match (think Charlie Cooke...) teaching me to applaud the opposition. It was an FA cup game against Preston North End who were at least a division below and who comfortably held a 0-1 lead for most of the game, including hitting the bar , before Chelsea scored two very late goals in quick succession to a relieved and then jubliant crowd, many of whom were already outside the ground. My pained applause for Preston was at least rewarded. That game also taught me never to leave before the final whistle - a rule I've only ever broken once - which was at a game I took my wife too whilst on holiday in France some years ago - Souchaux against Montpellier. We left with 5 minutes to go at 2-1 to avoid the rush. The final score was 3-2.

    The main point of your blog is something I've often wondered about. We have fans that are bonded to one club for life. Many of those fans move away, but are stuck with the same team - hunting down snippets of information on the internet - like modern day trainspotters, their emotional well being dependent on something utterly removed from them in almost every way. I live in Melbourne and recently met a WBA supporter who has been here for years, and is enjoying the rare chance to see his team on TV before they fall back into relative obscurity. In paralle with this we have the vast majority of players moving around to follow fame and fortune - which is a real paradox. There are a few exceptions - Gerrard and Le Tissier are my favourites and both clearly put love before lust - if I can put it like that.

    From my point of view I've always followed the team I've lived closest to - and it has seen me, over the years, on the terraces at Chelsea, Fulham, York, Wimbledon (Alan Cork, Dennis Wise and others), Arsenal (Charlie Nicholas), Wycombe (Martin O'Neill as manager), Stockport, and Manchester United. More recently I have followed Melbourne Victory - but the easy access to EPL games has also made it possible to continue following United. I've had lots of grief from friends for switching allegience - but it has at least meant that I've enjoyed a much greater amount of live football (even though these days a lot of it is from the couch at 2 in the morning) than would otherwise have been the case.

  • Comment number 19.

    I did it once when Nathan Lowndes scored a raker at Tynecastle for St Johnstone a few years ago. It cost us three points as I recall and not many folk joined in.

  • Comment number 20.

    Here here!
    My father is Evertonian, but most of the stories I heard growing up seemed to detail Bobby Moore's time on the ball, Duncan Edward's prodigy in every facet of the game & The Wizard of Dribble weaving his magic. These are what I remember, nevermind those I don't recall.
    I do remember being at the opening game of 1991 World Youth Cup here Down Under, v Columbia. They opened with a thunderous strike & I felt guilty for jumping to my feet to exclaim the goal. That has since been conditioned out of my then-11 yr old self. I only wish my own team Newcastle had more for me to cheer about...

  • Comment number 21.

    Fantastic blog Jim!

    Wholeheartedly agree that we all get caught up in club loyalties at the
    expense of just appreciating good football.

  • Comment number 22.

    Just last weekend when Motherwell were failing miserably to secure 3 points against St Midden, it didn't stop me shouting "Oh Sh.." when Dorman score their second goal. It was closely followed by "Cracking goal though".

  • Comment number 23.

    This is a very good article and is very similar to me and my football shirts, I often get asked how (as a Man United and England Fan) I can possibly wear other team shirts like Brazil, Barca, Real, Holland, its because of the very same reason as these guys - I love football and appreciate other teams and their players its the best way to be, although it does get a bit confusing for my 5 year old son :-)

  • Comment number 24.

    I totally agree, and not just because as a Southampton fan I soon won't have a club or players to support. Good blog Jim, really enjoyed reading it

  • Comment number 25.

    I recall Ronaldo (R9) getting a standing ovation at Old Trafford when he scored a hat-trick in a champions league match that we lost on aggregate...maradonas 2nd goal in 1986 and brazil's goal in 1970 both against england but have to could also say its hard not to admire the german machine teams from 70s to early 90s or is that taking it too far ???

  • Comment number 26.

    Some interesting arguments on both sides here, but there are a lot of factors involved, usually dependent on context.

    For a Man United fan to cheer for a Liverpool talisman like Gerrard (given that a lot of United players don't follow England) or Liverpool fans to celebrate some trick or example of brilliance by Cristiano Ronaldo seems not only optimistic but unrealistic. As a United fan, I can appreciate brilliance in other teams. I think Cesc Fabregas looks like a future Paul Scholes and plays football how it should be played. I'm impressed by Torres' natural ability and back in the 2005 CL Final I had to put aside my prejudices and applaud Jamie Carragher's commitment and hard-work. But this changes when those players are against your own team. The idea that I could just shrug my shoulders after the 4-1 defeat at Old Trafford earlier this season and hand it to Liverpool is inconceivable. All I could concentrate on was our shortcomings; how much we need Vidic at his very best. When Nasri scored his sublime second goal against us at Emirates, I couldn't applaud it because it was contrary to what my team needed and, more importantly, I was sat with two Arsenal fans. There is a tribalism in football that doesn't exist in many other sports, but it is one of the same things that makes it so compelling.

    In essence, I fully support the universal appreciation of great football.
    If I see an impressive piece of technical football from someone wearing a Manchester City, Liverpool or Rangers top (my three most loathed teams), I might nod my head in acknowledgement. Any other team, I would quite happily make it known that I rate that player. It comes in degrees depending on the team and a Man City player would have to be pretty spectacular to get credit from me ;)

  • Comment number 27.

    No mention of 3rd. Lanark would be complete without a reference to Jimmy Mason. Along with Billy Steel he must rate as one of the best inside forwards to represent Scotland. The Wembley forward line of Waddell, Mason, Houliston,Steel & Reilly forever remains in my memory. Can anybody please fill me in on the details of the encounter ? I was a schoolboy at the time and am now OAP status !

  • Comment number 28.

    Hello, Jim, I'm of an age not far below your two friends, Davie and Ronnie. My introduction to football was at the time Dundee F.C. won the league in 1962. Quite a different prospect then than a kid being taken there for the first time today. Football has changed.

    My dad took me to Dens though he always claimed to be an Arab. With a family of 7 screaming bairns all Dundee fanatics, and mum on our side as well, I think he said it because he liked an argument. Thing is he was outnumbered and never won.

    That Dundee team was a treat to watch. I can still see them play if I close my eyes. So much better than today's sorry spectacle.

    The late Bob Crampsey said that Dundee team were the best football team Scotland had produced and he included the Celtic team that won the European Cup. Kenneth Wolstenholme, top English broadcaster of his day, said they were a joy to watch.

    I sometimes think we old timers who watched such glorious football are more inclined to applaud acts of brilliance even if performed by the opposition. Jimmy Johnstone was one such player. I hated him and loved him in one moment as he destroyed my beloved Dundee on many occasions. Hated him for obvious reasons, loved him for his genius. You held your breath when he was on the ball.

    Yes, I applaud a move of genius today and don't care what anyone round me says. Trouble is they are few and far between.

    One day in the distant future when the Old Firm are no longer with us Scottish football will rise up once more and fans will throng back to see their local teams with a real chance of winning something again.

    It's not all about winning, Jim, I know that, but it helps if you start the season on an equal footing. Just having a chance would bring the crowds back.

    In the meantime I'll just close my eyes and see Gillie, Yogi Ure, Andy Penman, Gordon Smith, Bobby Cox, etc., etc., in action.


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