Timing is everything and so as soon as the referee halted proceedings in Natal I was hot-footing it up Borough High Street with a San Miguel in one hand and a Heineken in the other. This one would be a difficult one to call both on pitch and on my sofa. The first clash of the titans. To me, it would all come down to the socks, and I have to say, Spain were the pre-match favourites in terms of lower leg wear but were torn to shreds in a second half when the rain fell and the Heineken kept its head right to the bottom of the glass.
1. Change kits – Spain – Red, Netherlands – Orange…kit clash. But why do they both have to play in their away kits? What is wrong with Spain in white, Netherlands in Orange? Or Spain in Red, Netherlands in Blue….Or is it blue? My daughter Lolly says it is “Hard Lilac”. All those Dutch fans in the crowd who had bought up every orange item in every shop in Brazil and the team can’t even be bothered to wear their proper kit.
2. Arjen Robben – Unbelievable he is only 30 years old. He seems to have looked near retirement for a decade. He is either having a tantrum or is the best player in the world. Tonight he was like a petulant child for 50 minutes and then BOSH…the best player in the world. Granted Casillas was having a Robert Green Day but even so…still didn’t see many of his team mates celebrate the first with him…Far too many tantrums in big games – you can see when he retires he will be trying to blag his way into restaraunts with a “Don’t you know I once scored two goals against the World Champions?” A great player when he can be bothered, but some of the time he just seems to piss off his team mates.
3. Assistant to the Assistant referee – A brief glimpse of the Spanish bench and you had Vincente del Bosque and Jose Antonio Grande looking very smart in their white shirts and red ties. But next to them they appear to have two referees. That’s just cheating. No wonder they are World Champions.
4. Brilliant head gear – Alonso steps up, slots it into the corner of the net and immediately runs over to celebrate with three chaps in the crowd, face painted, wearing hats made of a green cardboard square with two little goals on and a little bull on the top with a ball. Pure class from the Spanish proving you don’t have to be young, female and just wearing bodypaint to get on TV. However, the Dutch response of the chaps wearing Orange airline pilot outfits restored the equilibrium in terms of strange outfits.
5. Blue Transit van – At the end to the right there was a blue transit van parked at an angle in the gap between the stands. It could have been an ambulance but it didn’t have any windows or lights. So perhaps it was just the builders van, still there waiting for the tarmac on the drive to dry. Can’t believe that a sponsor somewhere hadn’t whacked a logo on it.
Beer World Cup
A real humdinger with a final sip win for the Dutch after the Spanish had taken a first half pint lead but were ultimately thrashed by the Dutch brew that kept its head (to seal in the freshness the Heineken master brewer once told me) until the final whistle.
San Miguel 2 Heineken 3
Three weeks ago the European footballing world officially welcomed its 54th member when Gibraltar were included in the draw for the 2016 European Championship qualifying. Their journey for acceptance on the world footballing stage has been a tortuous one, filled with inconsistencies and back-stabbing that has dogged the governing bodies for years. Despite not being “at war” or even military-ready against any other nation, it has taken longer for Gibraltar to be allowed to compete than the former Balkan states, Armenia-Azerbaijan, Russia and Georgia or even Greece and Turkey. And that has been because one nation has disputed their authenticity to be considered an equal member. One against fifty-two other nations – no brainer? Well, it would be in most circumstances but when that nation is the most successful footballing country of the last fifty years then the rules change.
Formed in 1895 by British sailors, The Football Association of Gibraltar first applied to FIFA back in 1997 and despite not actually having a stadium capable of hosting an international game the Swiss big cheeses said a big Yes in 1999 and passed the manilla folder down the road to Nyon to UEFA. Immediately Spain started to throw their castanets out of the pram. Whilst the rest of Europe was moving to closer, forgiving not forgetting the conflicts of the past, Spain were creating a problem over a 2.3 square mile rock that they hadn’t owned for over 300 years ago. It seemed that their lobbying worked as in 2001 UEFA changed its statutes so that only associations in a country “recognised by the United Nations as an independent State” could become members. On such grounds, UEFA denied the Gibraltar’s application. Of course that ruling should have meant the immediate expulsion of England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales but that never happened. Whilst the rest of Europe started qualifying for the 2004 European Championships hosted by Portugal, Gibraltar consoled themselves with a trip to Guernsey to take part in the Island Games Tournament.
There was still a hope that FIFA would allow them to take part in qualifying for the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany. Other British Overseas Territories such as Bermuda, British Virgin Islands and Anguilla were allowed to line up in the qualifying tournament but the invite to Gibraltar got lost in the post it seemed. Instead of a shot at a trip to Bavaria to enjoy a month of football, Fräuleins and frikadellen, Gibraltar headed to the Shetland Islands for another shot at the Island Games title. Continue reading
Faced with another weekend of rain and cancellations, the Daggers Diary team headed to the Costa del Messi to do a scouting report on Manchester City’s next opponents.
In November 2012, Dagenham Dan, Neil and I were on our way back from a trip to Borussia Moenchengladbach, when the subject of Dan’s impending marriage to Aimee came up. Having wondered aloud about whether we would be able to continue our trips abroad for football, we had an idea as we made our way back to the hotel.
Fast forward to the wedding last July, and Neil is making his best man speech at the aforementioned wedding. About half way through, Neil produces a copy of the contract written up in the back of the car from that Germany trip, which allows Dan to continue his trips abroad with certain conditions. One of these is that Aimee will continue to come along with us on a Barcelona trip at least once a season, but will have unfettered access to Dan’s credit card for the duration of the weekend. So, in front of all of the assembled guests, Aimee signed the contract, and so it is with this in mind, that we find ourselves here in Barcelona for the weekend.
It has been an interesting few weeks for Barca. There has been the announcement of the stadium redevelopment, in favour over a move to a new stadium; we’ve had the resignation of club president Sandro Rosell, over the Neymar transfer from last summer, as well as a home defeat by Valencia, and Dani Alves criticising fans for staying away from the home leg of the cup semi final against Real Sociedad, which to be fair did start at 10pm on a Wednesday night. Given that the game was also on local television, it’s probably why many stayed away, although an attendance of nearly forty thousand still wasn’t that bad.
Throughout the week leading up to this trip, the weather dominated the news programmes. Whether it be the flooding in Somerset, or the Thames lapping up against the western suburbs of London, it was the seemingly endless wind and rain that dominated the bulletins. Continue reading
Plymouth Argyle away on the cold and wet English Channel or Barcelona v Granada on the sunny Med? Difficult choice for the Daggers Diary team.
Today, the Daggers travel to Plymouth, hoping to maintain an impressive start to the season that has seen us in the dizzy heights of a play off spot. Given my pre-season pessimism, I would have said that would have been an insane thought had anyone bought up the possibility back in August.
Dagenham Dan and I though are not heading west. Instead, we are flying out from the Eddie Stobart Aerodrome (a.k.a. Southend Airport) for our first trip of the season to Barcelona.
Up until a couple of months ago, kick off times were not confirmed until around ten days before the game, meaning that booking flights was a nightmare. We could never be sure of when the game you were going to was going to start, meaning that we might be able to book an early flight for the Saturday, but would invariably end up coming back on the Monday. On our early trips to Spain, we would fly in and out of Girona, coming back on the first flight home on the Monday morning. This would mean getting to the bus station for 3am, for an hour’s journey to the airport. There were a couple of occasions where the game had finished around 11pm, so after just a couple of hours sleep, we were on our way home, bleary eyed and very tired. The sight of a conga of people waiting to board the plane back to Stansted in an otherwise deserted departure building is not one I wish to see for some time.
As these trips become more frequent though, the planning has got better. Now, we go for the home game preceding a Champions League fixture. In one of his less busy times, Dan went through the fixtures for the last few years and discovered that Barcelona almost always played on a Saturday before playing in Europe. That kind of detail has helped us out several times, and certainly it has done with this weekend, as we depart early Saturday, and return on Sunday evening. The schedule has us out of the country for about thirty six hours, which is plenty of time for three games. Continue reading
It’s not often you get the opportunity to travel from one end of the footballing spectrum to another in just a few hours. But today was one of those days. After the highs of Lewes’s win at Wingate & Finchley yesterday it was a rude awaking at 3am for the trip to Madrid, on the first flight out of Terminal 5 at Heathrow airport. So early was the departure that I had the BA lounge to myself for a good 15 minutes. Still no Marmite though, but that is another story. As the plane hugged the Atlantic coast of France I looked back on my previous trips to the Spanish capital, each memorable for different reasons.
In 1998, the Current Mrs Fuller and I made our first ever trip to Madrid on Debonair. Remember them? They flew from London Luton and went head to head with Easyjet for a number of years. We pitched up in the middle of the Summer, not realising how hot Madrid could be. A tour of the Bernabau raised temperatures even more, although the roof-top swimming pool of the Emperador was certainly a bonus (Madrid tip number 1: Not only an excellent rooftop pool but a huge buffet breakfast).
Two years later and we were back again. In lieu of Christmas presents to each other we had invested in four consecutive weekends in European destinations that just happened to have four of the biggest football teams in Europe. Milan, Madrid, Munich and Rome. What an outstanding month. Only it seemed such a good idea when we booked it in July. Come January time and CMF was “just” five months pregnant. Not handy for walking up to the top tier of the San Siro but she was a trooper and so I decided to treat her to a seat in the lower tier at the Bernabau. Oh how she enjoyed sitting in the Fondu Sur with flares for company. Nobody has ever mentioned that passive flare smoke is bad for unborn babies so that is OK. In those days the East side of the stadium only had three tiers, rather than the five elsewhere.
Four years later and I was back to help Spain celebrate their 500th fixture. And how were us party guests treated? With water cannons in the streets around the ground, unprovoked baton assaults on the fans in the stadium and the racial abuse of Ashley Cole and Shaun Wright-Phillips. The actions of the Spanish police went unpunished although their FA were fined $87,000 for failing to act on the abuse from the crowd. So that makes it all alright then. Continue reading