Football, Futbol , Futebol


Football, Futbol , Futebol: Travels Around a few Football stadia in Buenos Aires , Montevideo and Rio de Janeiro. February 2009. By Paul Whitaker.

“Two English football supporters, twelve days, three South American countries, seven football matches, eleven stadiums and one Diego Maradona tour”.

Walking up Wembley Way with my mate and fellow England supporter Glenn Hinch, prior to the 2007 European championship qualifier match between England and Estonia, I did not know this would be my last England match attended as a supporter. After 15 years following ‘Ingerland’ to two World Cups, two European championships, Athens, Baku, Glasgow, Warsaw and many more European cities between, I was to sit through just another 60 minutes before coming to the conclusion that my match day experience on and off the pitch with England, was no longer an enjoyable one.

At first I thought I was just going through a sort of football-supporting mid-life crisis that seemed to afflict each generation of my family. My grandfather had apparently bemoaned England getting a footballing lesson from Puskas’ Hungary in 1953 and my father still gets misty eyed over Gunter Netzer’s Germany or Johan Cruyff’s Holland, rather than Kevin Keegan’s England in the 1970s. I thought the late, great Bobby Robson had the best teams and chances to reach a World Cup final, but was thwarted by the Argentinians and Germans in 1986 and 1990 respectively. OK, perhaps that was just misplaced nostalgia, but I was struggling to understand why English football had not moved on since Italia’90. Whilst German, French and Italian supporters had all watched their national teams lift the World Cup in recent years, I was watching the England team of 2007 put in yet another ‘laboured’ performance, this time against a poor Estonia team. We had the full repertoire of English fallibility on display, including poor movement off the ball, losing concentration in defence and my particular favourite, an inability to retain possession of the ball.

Now, bear in mind it was 15 years since the formation of the Premier League (best league in the world so Sky keep telling me!’), whose central aim was improve the technical skills of home grown players and so help the England national team compete more effectively against the French, Germans, Dutch and Italians. Yet, at a time when there has never been so much money in the English game, the pool of technically competent players, eligible to wear an England shirt, was actually diminishing and England seemed destined to continue being tournament quarter-finalists, at best. If that was not depressing enough, the 2007 ‘Golden Generation’ of players were showing that their loyalties were to the Premier League (best league in the world, remember) and club football, rather than the FA and England. They seemed as motivated to play in an England shirt as I was to part with £30 for a cheap seat in the upper tier “just for Estonia”, £5 for a match programme, £5 pound for a pint and £4.50 for a pie. Continue reading

Knees up beats the Brazilian Samba beat


The win against Brazil on Wednesday night had the country falling back into the Olympic spirit but was everyone happy?  Our resident Daggers Diary team headed up to Wembley to test the mood of the nation.

Last July, I gave up my membership of England fans. After six years, and having attended a decent number of games in that time, I figured that I wouldn’t be able to afford to go to Brazil for the world cup, and so I gave it all up.

So of course my exile lasted all of one game, before I gave in and attended the qualifying game against San Marino last October. While it was great going again, the one thing I didn’t relish was the queue to get back to wembley park station after the game. That has always been the one part of the experience that I wish could be changed. Sadly, it still seems to be the same even though the stadium is so much better than its historic predecessor.

100_5761I suppose the one thing I miss is the opportunity to go to away games, which were always good fun. But in the end, finances won, and I am a home England fan only. So obviously, I am back tonight, in the cold for the start of the 150th anniversary celebrations for the oldest football association in the world.

The visit of Brazil always brings memories of the great teams of the past, notably the 1958 world champions and the 1970 side which is still regarded by many as the finest national team ever. It also brings the obligatory shots of the Copacabana beach, as well as various carnival images and the cameraman trying to find the most attractive female Brazil fans in the crowd.

There have been a couple of other stories surrounding the game. The first is the approaching 100th England appearance of Ashley Cole. Probably not the most universally popular player ever to play for England, Cole has been good enough to become only the seventh player to get to the landmark century of caps. The performances have been highly consistent and (if you can get past the tabloid headlines about various bits of his personal and professional life), it certainly marks him out as one of the finest left back in our long history. It’s also arguable that a lack of decent competition has helped, but even so, you don’t get to 100 caps by only being average. Continue reading

Seven and the rampant tiger


I wasn’t the only person who threw myself head first into the Olympics and Paralympics, searching out daily availability for tickets and willing to see everything and anything.  Brian Parish, the brains behind the Daggers Diary went to almost an event a day.  One of these was the final of the 7-a-side football on the last day the Park was open.

After the excitement and drama of both the Olympic and Paralympic Games, arguably the best seven weeks of sports seen in this country draws to a close. Both events have created new heroes for the British sporting public to follow, admire and emulate, and after all of the fears about transport, security and almost everything else, I would say from what I have seen, that it seems to have gone fairly well.

From a British point of view, there have been new heroes created, some have re-enforced their higher status, and some have probably increased it. Expect an increase in the popularity of Bradley and Eleanor as babies names over the next year or so.

There were disappointments of course. The GB men’s football team suffered an entirely foreseeable exit on penalties, while the women’s team, having done the hard work by beating Brazil and topping their group, then blew their chance of a medal in the quarter final against Canada. Whether either GB side will appear again is a matter for much debate. Continue reading

The Olympics Diary – Day Four – Going Six Up


“Earls Court will be transformed into a spectacular venue for the hosting of the Olympic Volleyball competition”

After the excitement of the Beach Volleyball on Monday, I was unsure about going to watch the standard game. The game is essentially the same but with a few big differences, if that makes sense. Firstly, instead of having just two players per side on court at any one time there would be six. Secondly, in the beach variation the initial “block” is counted as one of the three shots and finally skimpy bikinis are frowned upon. It is similar to the reaction of the members to the MCC sitting in the pavilion at Lords watching a floodlight Twenty20 game.

I had seen impromptu games played all over the world, whether it be in swimming pools in the Costa del Sol (well, ok, Centerparcs) to Greenwich Park. With the only equipment needs a net and a ball it was hardly the most technical game to play. Oh how wrong I was. I mentioned the simplicity of the game to a chap at work. Forty five minutes later, with my cup of tea still in my hand now stone cold I managed to pretend my phone was ringing to escape the lecture. Continue reading

The Boys from Brazil – part 2


After the edge-of-your-seat excitement of the Blue Brazil yesterday in Scotland it was time for the second part of our Boys from Brazil weekend bonanza. A late night flight to Gatwick, followed by a crack-of-dawn flight back up the country to Manchester (I have planted a tree in my garden to make up for such air mile fuelled extravagance) was the plan of action.

The main event was obviously Brazil v Belarus at 2.45pm, the odds on favourites to take the Mens Gold Medal after the elimination of the Spanish  but before that we had a packed agenda. A trip to the National Football Museum at Urbis in the city centre was the first port of call, taking in the new permenant home of the history of our beautiful game. You could spend hours wandering around the (free) museum with its interactive displays, brilliant pictures and all sorts of momentos from around the world. Photos, did I mention photos? Well now you come to ask, yes I had a personal interest in them because a couple (well, OK 5) had been included in a section called “Fields of Dreams”. Those little snippets of life at Crawley Down (now with a Gatwick at the end), Hucknall Town, Ilkston, Beckenham Town and Chipstead all bring back memories for me and will hopefully evoke a tear or two in other peoples eyes. Alas, I am no Stuart Roy Clarke, the Daddy of football photography, and it is only good and proper that the exhibition features a collection of his work, but I can say to a small extent I have made it as a football photographer. Continue reading