LONDON – They came in their thousands, resplendent in their claret-and-blue club replica jerseys determined to back their team to victory over Tottenham Hotspur.
But West Ham United fans are clearly not a faithful lot, for when their team conceded two goals within a space of four minutes late in the first half, they started making their way out of the stadium.
Unlike local fans back home who would have enthusiastically gesticulated with their hands to show that their team would stage a comeback or even call for the substitution of the player they felt was responsible for their team going down, the Hammers supporters who streamed out of the stadium seemed to see no hope for their side.
A pretty strange reaction actually from a group that had displayed such passion for their team prior to kick off, and even during the early exchange of a match that seemed delicately balanced until Harry Kane struck twice.
A couple of hours before the midday kickoff, they had milled around this magnificent arena that hosted both the 2012 Olympics, as well as this year’s IAAF World Championships – some spending time in the stadium shop to purchase club memorabilia and the match-day programme.
And when they finally got into the stadium, they sang the club’s song heartily; cheered with gusto at the mention of each of their player’s name as the stadium announcer read out the starting line-up, while jeering and booing those of the opposition.
Attempts by the Spurs fans to make their voices heard as they tried to sing proved in vain as the home crowd drowned them out in song.
Refereeing decisions that went against their club were met with derision, while positive moves from the likes of Chicarito got them on their feet cheering.
And then it all went pear-shaped as Kane slotted home the opener.
While they sat stony silenced after the first goal, the strike seemed to galvanise them to egg their players on some more.
The second, however, proved too much to take for many as they stood up – their faces dropped, some open-mouthed and others hands akimbo – and headed for the exit.
One father pulled his somewhat reluctant son by the hand down the stairs, while a group of fans who had earlier chanted with passion, shouted unprintables towards the pitch as they made their exit.
Suddenly, after the break, the arena that was fully packed had numerous patches of white all around in the stands as the seats that were hitherto occupied now stood empty.
The diehards who remained did their all to encourage their team to a comeback.
But it was all soon a no-contest as Christian Eriksen made it 3-0 and the Spurs fans broke into a song, telling their hosts “You are s***”.
Another exodus of the West Ham fans ensued and the 3 000 or so Spurs followers dominated the arena with song and applause.
Those who stayed behind were given something to cheer about, though, as Chicarito headed in a consolation goal, or was it the beginning of a great turnabout?
With about 25 minutes still to play, hope sprang eternal among the Hammers faithful.
And then Spurs’ Serge Aurier gets sent off for a second bookable offence to raise that hope a notch further up.
That the stadium did not crumble when Cheikhou Kouyate scored the second four minutes from time spoke volumes of the quality of the architecture here, the crowd’s foot stomping and excitement was that powerful.
But in the end, those early Kane goals had done the trick for Spurs.
Yet the West Ham faithful who stayed till the end left proud of their team’s fighting spirit, even in defeat.
Saturday’s Fixtures Now On SuperSport
Stoke v Chelsea (SS5); Leicester v Liverpool (6.30pm, SS3).
Sunday’s Fixture on SuperSport
Brighton v Newcastle (5pm, SS3).