Getting the horn

After a long overdue absence from these pages, our Englishman in New York, Luge Pravda is BACK.  And when we say BACK we really mean BACK.  Whilst the Guinness International Champions Cup is talking taking place across the States, we wanted Luge to experience REAL US soccer and tell us had the World Cup effect kicked in yet.  Miami, Seattle, Columbus Ohio?  Nope.  Somewhere even better than that….

IMG_0212Two weeks ago I was supposed to be in Rochester, NY for a client meeting. For those not well versed in non-big US city geography, think upstate New York, near Niagara, next to Canada and you’re getting very warm. Unfortunately, a massive storm put pay to my flight (as I was in a cab on the way to the airport, such is the glamor of business travel) so Rochester and I would have to wait to become acquainted. Fast forward two weeks and I had a rearranged meeting on a Monday. Not wanting to cancel a second time I sacrificed my Sunday to fly up at lunch time and make an afternoon/evening of it. Of course my flight was delayed an hour or so, so by the time I arrived in my hotel in downtown Rochester it was too late to do what I originally planned – hire a bike – so I did what any discerning business traveler does, I reached for the local guide magazine on the desk. Which as usual, was pretty useless, all adverts for golf courses and wedding locations. Unperturbed, I carried on my search and quite fortuitously stumbled upon a soccer (sorry, I have lived here too long, football) match. When I originally told The Ball is Round I think he imagined I was wandering the streets; sorry, stumbled as in web search. Anyway, the Rochester Rhinos were playing the Orlando City Lions, in a USL Pro match. The USL being the third tier of US soccer, below the NASL and the top-of-the-pyramid MLS above it.

The time was 3:15pm. The match started at 4:05pm (of course – and something that causes endless amusement to The Ball is Round himself – US matches never start on the hour, unless they involve the US national team in the small matter of a World Cup for instance, and all because of TV advertising). With no cycling on my horizon, and less than favorable reviews for a local brewery on Yelp, panic set in: I didn’t have a car, didn’t have time to Google local public transport options, so had to hope the stadium wasn’t miles away somewhere. Little did I know I could actually see the floodlights from my hotel room if I looked in the right direction: Google maps confirmed a 35 minute walk (and we all know it assumes you walk at your dear old granny’s pace).

IMG_0213So I set off. My walk took me through a very dead quiet downtown Rochester. Like many US cities, not much goes on downtown as people tend to live in the suburbs. Imagine Brighton being like a ghost town on a Sunday? Exactly, it always strikes me as strange and somewhat eerie. I did, however, walk past a prescription drug deal going down outside a derelict ‘adult’ DVD store though. With a spring in my step – I’m not in the market for painkillers thank you very much – I turned a corner and saw the giant Kodak building looming large in the skyline.

Rochester is/was famous for being home to a select group of companies – not for nothing was it known as the ‘World’s Image Center’ – namely, Kodak Eastman, Bausch & Lomb and Xerox. Of course the smartphone all but killed off Kodak many years ago but subletting their old parking lot, in the shadows of the Kodak building sits the Frontier Field, the home of Triple A Baseball team, the Rochester Redwings. This was a good sign as Google maps was telling me Sahlen’s Stadium, the Rhino’s home, was just behind it.

I got to my hotel room at 3pm. At 3.50pm I was sat in the bleachers with a beer in hand waiting for a team I never even knew existed some 35 minutes earlier. I had a feeling The Ball is Round would be proud of me.

6 things about Rochester Rhinos vs. Orlando City Lions

IMG_0216* All US sports events are proceeded by a rendition of the national anthem. This was one of the best I’ve heard. A young local lass, I’m sure she’ll go far on X-Factor someday. (If you want to hear a bad, and I mean BAD, national anthem rendition, check this one out).

* One player out of 22, the Orlando Number 16 had black boots. The majority wore lime green or orange but fortunately no mixing of the two.

* The hardcore are called the Oak Street Brigade and sit in section 101. There are about 30 of them. They sing the ubiquitous ‘Lets’s go <insert team name>‘. ‘Let’s go Rhino’s’. Original.

IMG_1790* I was not the only Englishman in attendance, 100% guaranteed. Ex Toffee Adrian Heath was here in his capacity as manager of Orlando. American life seems to have treated him well (but at least he was wearing trousers, a shirt and smart shoes. Are you listening ‘Big Phil’ Scolari?)

* The stadium announcer proclaimed 8 (eight) thousand people were in attendance. The place holds thirteen thousand apparently. I would be amazed if there were more than four thousand, maybe less. Look at those stands above!

* Certain parts of the bleachers seemed to go crazier for ‘Cotton Eyed Joe’ being played over the PA than some of the football on show. I put that down to being in upstate New York. In New York City it would be Jay-Z causing a merry fervor.

Oh, the match you ask? Well, the first shot on target in anger was in 18th min, with some of neat build up to be fair. Encouraging at this level, but equally the football was in the main also what you tend to get at this level: enthusiastic, probing, energetic, perhaps sometimes what English journalists might call ‘honest’. The match ended 1-0 to the Rhinos, after a 1st half goal. Which I missed – of course I did – as I was outside checking out with some interest precisely what the local legend Nick Tahou Hots food truck was serving called, wait for it, ‘Garbage Plates’. As seen on Adam Richman’s ‘Man vs Food’ a few years back a garbage plate, a local Rochester specialty, is a heart attack on a plate:

So what did I learn about the Rochester Rhinos? Not a great deal, but I will forever be in their debt: just when flying to a new city on a Sunday afternoon for a meeting the next morning looked like a sacrifice too far, up popped a random soccer team I had never heard of, to provide a few very pleasant hours in the sunshine watching a sport I love. I’ll be keeping my eyes on them Rhinos now for sure * (*I probably won’t but you get my drift).

As for the rescheduled meeting, it went very well, thank you. Unfortunately my flight on the Monday evening back to NYC was cancelled due to, once again, inclement weather. Shame the Rhinos weren’t playing back to back matches.

Five things from….Belgium 2 USA 1

Back by popular request for potentially his last run out in the World Cup is Andy Mack with his view from downtown Manhattan on the mood in the US Camp for their game against Belgium.

Many questions coming into this game needed to be answered:  How much time will Jozy Altidore play? (Zero.) How would the Belgian attack look? (Strong.)  Could the US see enough of the ball to pull off the upset? (Almost.) We would have our answers after a grueling 120 minute affair.

1. Tim Howard – How could we start with anyone else?  US goalkeeper Tim Howard gave one of the most courageous performances in World Cup history. Tim broke the record for most saves in a World Cup match with 16, and the US needed every one of them to stay in the match.  Howard was named Man of the Match, even in defeat.   To put things in perspective, Belgian defender and captain Vincent Kompany tweeted after the match   “Two Words.. Tim Howard #Respect #BelUSA”

2. Belgian Dominance –  The even possession numbers masked the fact that the Belgians seemed to have virtually all of the best chances to score throughout the match.  The last ten minutes of regulation time had the Americans holding on and hoping for extra time.  The insertion of Roman Lukaku into the Belgian attack provided the Red Devils the spark in the final third that impacted both goals.  The goals, and win, were well deserved.

photo 1 (28)3. Wondo…. OH NO – Many US fans knew that chances were going to be few and far between. The only path to victory was to take advantage of any scoring chances that the Belgians may concede. That single moment came in stoppage time when the ball came down on the foot of Chris Wondolowski in the 6 yard box with only the keeper to navigate.  With only charging keeper Thibaut Courtois to beat, Wondolowski skied the ball over the net. The way the game played out, you could feel that this would come back to haunt the US.

4. Klinsmann Making Great Moves – US coach Jurgen Klinsmann proved that he truly understands this team with impactful substitutions during the match. With Fabian Johnson forced to exit with what appeared to be a hamstring injury, Klinsmann looked to Deandre Yeldin. Yeldin’s speed proved to be menacing down the sideline, causing problems for the Belgian defense. With Chris Wondolowski having the chance to be a hero and Julian Green’s late goal, all three of Klinsmann’s substitutions were impactful.

5. Heads Held High – The US should walk away from this match with their heads held high.  This team proved to have the grit and guts that has been the staple of US soccer for decades.  Losing to a Belgian side (who, going into the tournament, was considered a dark horse to win it all) is not something to be ashamed of. The US will need to pair their resilient mentality with a better touch in the midfield in order to take the next step in their progression of becoming a top team.  Belgium will be moving on to face Argentina in the quarterfinals, which appears to be a matchup of two teams who have yet to fire on all cylinders.

The Beer World Cup
The beautifully crafted Delirium Tremens has the sophistication to edge out the bold, brash, Brooklyn Lager by the same score line.

Belgium 2 US 1

Five things from….Germany 1 USA 0

Back for a third time, our resident Team USA expert, Andy Mack, tucks into the German beers in Manhattan and gauges the mood of the nation as they aim to reach the second round from the Group of Death.

1. Win or draw… or loss? – The US were in a solid position entering the day, knowing that any win or draw against a strong German side would be enough to advance.  There were also scenarios in which the US could lose a close match and still advance on goal differential.  Coming into the match, conservative analysis put the US’ chances of advancing at about 75%

2. German Possession – As expected, Germany controlled virtually all of the possession in the first few minutes. The meticulous probing by the German midfield had the back line of the US on their heels for the majority of the first half.  It felt as though it was only a matter of time before they would get their breakthrough goal, and Thomas Mueller provided it on a beautiful strike in the 55th minute from just outside the box.  The goal — and lead — was well-deserved.

14327452612_fda668a0aa_b3. Michael Bradley is not himself – Michael Bradley came into this tournament as one of three anchors of this US squad (Dempsey and Howard the others).  With successful spells in Europe and great form in qualifying, many expected Bradley to be a rock in the central midfield.  That has not been the case.  Bradley will need to show some signs of life early in the match against Belgium for Klinsmann to keep him in the match and not make a change.

4. Ronaldo – All eyes were watching the score in Brasilia, as Ghana tied up the match with Portugal right as the US conceded.  This meant that, with another Ghana goal, the US could be eliminated from the tournament. After providing the cross that crushed the US in their previous match, Cristiano Ronaldo was able to put in the winning goal for Portugal with about 10 minutes left in the match. That goal gave the US a several-goal cushion to work with, and the US knew that they could be through with a 1-0 defeat. The pace of play slowed down between the US and Germany, both knowing that they would both be through.

5. Belgium on deck – The only negative about the 1-0 German victory for the US was that they would be facing the Group H winner instead of the runner-up.  Belgium is up next for the US, with Germany facing Algeria. The Belgians could be one of the more talented teams in the entire tournament, but have yet to put together a convincing win in this tournament. Expect an even match with potential for an upset.

The Beer World Cup

Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier truly outclasses the cheaper imitation Blue Moon with a dominating performance of elegance and flavor.

Germany 3 US 0

Five things from….USA 2 Portugal 2

So popular was his update from last week that Mr. Team USA is back for his view of the game last night, live from New York, New York.

1. Achilles Heel – What worried all US fans coming into this tournament became a reality as the typical slow start was capped off by Geoff Cameron’s 6th minute miscue, with Nani calmly slotting home the game’s first goal. The team looked shaky and appeared to be on the ropes before being able to right the ship a few minutes after the goal.

photo 2 (30)2. Settling in nicely – Once the initial shock wore off, it felt as though the US was controlling the pace of play. With each minute that went by, it felt as though Klinsmann’s side was destined to find the next goal. That goal came on a cracker from Jermaine Jones about 25 yards out. Clint Dempsey once again showed why he is the player the US can rely on with his clutch goal in the 81st minute which felt like it could be the one to propel the team out of the group.

3. Michael Bradley – His performance has certainly left something to be desired. The US’s most skilled and important midfielder had a dreadful opening match against Ghana, which most fans wrote off because of the victory. The spotlight is firmly on Bradley after giving away the ball rather easily in the midfield in the final seconds of stoppage time. Which brings us to…..

4. Last gasp – For the entire match, one could see that Cristiano Ronaldo was not fit. Opportunities that he would normally put in the back of the net went sailing high. Ronaldo’s trademarked explosiveness and ability to take on defenders were limited due to a knee injury. But there are few players in the world that can change everything in one instant (See: Messi) and Cristiano took full advantage by sending a beautiful ball onto the head of Silvestre Varela. Valera’s goal was the latest goal ever scored in regulation in World Cup history. To say it hurt would be an understatement.

5. What does it mean? – The draw means that all four teams in Group G still have the ability to advance. With Germany and the US both needing a tie or win to go through, many are wondering if Klinsmann will have a gentlemen’s agreement with his home country, bringing many people back to 1982. With the US at 4 points and goal differential on their side, many sites have their chances of advancing anywhere between 75-85%. Portugal has put itself in a -4 goal differential hole, and will need something special on Thursday to have any dreams of advancing.

The Beer World Cup

The Sagres at Nando’s stands up tall, but could not compete with the Goose Island IPA.

USA 3 Portugal 1

Five things from….Ghana 1 USA 2

So what to do?  Flying over the Indian Ocean meant I couldn’t see this game, so eagerly anticipated after their warm up games last week. But I knew a man who could help so step forward Andy Mac writing live from NYC today….

14329334305_447f05bb3d_b1. Slow start no more! On a packed rooftop in NYC (with only domestic beers allowed) the stage was set for a very anxious first ten minutes.  The USA team is notorious for their slow starts, proven by Ghana’s 5th minute goal in the 2010 round of 16 match.  The sentiment of the crowd watching was, “if we can weather the first 15 minutes, we have a good chance.”  And then there was Dempsey. 30 seconds into the match, Duece proved he can be the leader we desperately needed.

2. Hamstrung by Altidore’s inury – What could go wrong with Klinsmann’s plan of leaving beloved Landon Donovan at home? If Jozy Altidore’s early first half hamstring injury keeps him out of the rest of the group stage, Jurgen is left with no proven forwards on the bench which could prove to be an issue, should the U.S. be fortunate enough to advance.

3. Ghana’s goal was well-deserved – The excitement of Dempsey’s goal quickly turned into anxiety as Ghana felt to be controlling 70% of possession for most of the match. Once Ghana figured out that sailing crosses into the box wasn’t the best game plan against a massive back line, Andre Anew slotted home a beautiful goal that had many U.S. fans now hoping to hold onto a draw.

4. John Brooks?  Just when things appeared bleak, John Brooks was able to power a beautiful header home from Graham Zusi’s corner.  Klinsmann proved to pull all the right strings, as both players came off the bench to provide the U.S. the spark it needed to survive.  John Brooks, who only has five caps for the U.S., told reporters that he had a dream in which he would score the game winner vs Ghana in the 88th minute. Can you even make this stuff up?

5. Timing is everything – With the US having survived, the door is now wide open for them to advance. The earlier Portugal/Germany match could not have played out any better for the U.S. Pepe’s red card, Ronaldo’s health, and a massive goal deficit have given Tim Howard and company an unbelievable spot heading into Sunday’s match against Portugal.  With the Germans likely having top of the group in their grasp (assuming a win against Ghana), the U.S. may even have hope for their last match should they need a point to advance. Timing is everything, and Jurgen Klinsmann’s team could not be happier with how the schedule has set them up.

The Beer World Cup

Budweiser? Miller? Coors? Pah!  The trend these days is for IPA craft beers and so the Thirsty Dog IPA from Ohio is the weapon of choice for this game and easily handles the challenge of Ghanaian Club Lager, which was too warm and looked passed its sell-by date.

USA 3 Ghana 0

The Kit World Cup – Day Five

adidas – 13pts
Nike – 12
Puma – 12
Lotto – 3
UhlSport – 1

Landon who?

Remember the media outcry back in the run up to the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa when Fabio Capello made it very clear that David Beckham wasn’t in his plans?  Well, take that and times that by a hundred for the mood in the US regarding coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s decision to drop Landon Donovan from his final squad of 23 to travel to Brazil.

14327452612_fda668a0aa_bWhilst Beckham was one of the biggest brands (since when did they stop being just players?) in world football in 2010, he had peaked as a player in 2010 and public sentiment was the main driver behind the emotion for his inclusion on his fourth World Cup.  However, in the case of Donovan, his impact on the US game can never be overlooked even today.  He’s got 156 caps, 57 international goals and has scored as often at World Cups as Ballon d’Or winners Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo combined, as FourFourTwo wrote.  There has been previous between Donovan and Klinsmann which stems from his unsuccessful spell playing for Bayern Munich when the German was in charge in 2009.  In his place, Klinsmann drafted in 19-year-old Julian Green who had been playing for the past few years for Bayern Munich reserves.  That’s, reserves…not first team. Armed with these facts you can perhaps understand the outcry even more.

As luck would have it (no, seriously it was a complete coincidence) I was in New York for work at the very time when the USA would be playing one of their final warm up games for Brazil.  The visitors, no doubt on a Nike-sponsored tour of America to do some shopping, see some sights and pretend to play 90 minutes of football were Turkey, ranked a rather harsh 39th in the latest Coca-Cola World Rankings (is nothing sacred from corporate sponsorship these days???).  Of course I wanted to go – it would be a travesty if I couldn’t get to the game, especially as it was just a 15 minute train ride away from my hotel in Lower Manhattan.  However, tickets apparently were like gold dust.  And here is one of those bizarre logics of football in the USA.

The RedBull Arena is a tidy, if a little “unfinished” in design, 25,000 all seater stadium.  Perfectly adequate for the home team, the New York RedBulls (don’t get me started on the fact they don’t play in either New York as a city or as a state!) average around 19,000 each week, although on my last visit in September 2012 I could almost count the crowd on one hand, but wasn’t it lacking a bit in ambition not to host this game just a few miles north at the 82,000 capacity MetLife stadium?  That was a question for debate for Andy Mack, Mr Team Sport USA and procurer of the Willy Wonka Golden tickets for this sell out game.

14142706160_eaa4b590d8_b“Hmm…well if you held it there then you’d perhaps get 40,000” was his initial answer.  Surely that is dependent on the ticket pricing?  Our seats for this game were $51 each, some of the cheapest on offer in the top tier in the corner.  Perhaps if ticket prices were lowered, then they would sell more and could justify moving it to a much bigger stadium?  My pricing theory once again raises it’s head – “no football tickets should cost more than 4 x the average pint of beer in a pub in the city centre” – so whilst drinking a very pleasant Union Jack IPA in the Rattle ‘n’ Hum on 34th Street I calculated that this was $36.  The one thing that the FA should be applauded for (and there aren’t many things) is keeping the cost of watching our national team at Wembley reasonable, if not a bargain when compared to watching a game at The Emirates or Stamford Bridge.

My plan had been simple.  Arrive in New York at 10.30am, taxi to hotel, walk across the street to the PATH train at the World Trade Center, 15 minutes later I would be joining the American Outlaws at their tailgate party and march to the ground.  Simple.  Alas, two things got in the way.  Firstly, I was distracted by Nicole Sherzinger in the arrivals hall at JFK.  A baseball cap and dark sunglasses were supposed to dumb-down attention but the fact she was wearing what could only be described as a ripped body stocking only covered with a pair of hot pants sort of gave the game away.  That and the fact she was with Lewis Hamilton.  A moment’s distraction caused me to miss my case going round the carousel, meaning by the time I got out of the terminal all the taxis were gone.  Finally I got to Manhattan, dropped my bag and went to the PATH.  No trains at the weekend.  WTF?  There’s a major sporting event on and one of the main transport links is closed for engineering work.  Obviously been taking lessons from London Underground on that score.

14306051276_7a50d03a24_bSo my plans for tailgating and marching were dashed.  Instead I met up with Luge and Andy for a swift beer in the shadow of the Empire State Building before getting a train from 33rd St.  We were joined en route by Andy’s mate Alexi who had come prepared for the short journey with a Starbucks cup full of Sambucus, as you do in these parts and were soon making the short walk from Harrison station to the RedBull Arena.  Now, I have been chastised in the past for being rude about Harrison, New Jersey, home of Daisy Fuentes, everyone’s favourite Cuban (or is it just me), but it really is a desperate place on the eye.  I’m sure it has some nice bits, but it’s no Hoboken.  For now it is simply the alighting point for thousands of football fans.

The fans were certainly out in force.  I was very disappointed not to see anyone dressed as Uncle Sam, Bill Clinton or The Statue of Liberty and as we entered the stadium nor being given big foam hands with “USA, Number 1” on.  Instead we were faced with queues a mile long for beer on the concourse.  The US population is wising up and their palette is maturing.  We could have bought our 2 pints of Coors Lite (with ID of course) without any queue at all but who wants that these days?  It’s all about Goose Island, Honkers Ale or Patriot Ale.  Twenty minutes later, and three Nathan’s hot dogs later we had our beers and headed up to the seats just in time to see the teams emerge at 2.03pm (once again, kick off time in the US simply means what time the teams may come out of the tunnel).

USA 2 Turkey 1 – RedBull Arena – Sunday 1st June 2014
In the grand scheme of events this was just a win in a friendly game against a team significantly lower in the FIFA rankings.  I’m sure Turkey fans or observers would point out it was the end of a long European season, it was a hot day and they had flown thousands of miles across the world to play three games, of which this was the last.  In other words, could Turkey actually be arsed?  But that would be disingenuous on the US who tried to take the game to the visitors but were often frustrated by their delaying and unsporting tactics.

14327579642_e43ba1bd30_bI have to say I was pleasantly surprised.  The US team had pace, played good football to feet and used the modest strengths of certain players.  None more so than Jozy Altidore up front who has had a relatively disappointing spell at Sunderland with just one goal in 30 performances yet put him in an US shirt and he is a world beater.  “Like a good Emile Heskey” suggested Andy Mack.  I’d probably not go that far but the Turkish defence had no idea how to handle him.  He had a goal disallowed for a non-existent foul on the keeper and created havoc when running at the defenders.

But it wasn’t the physical approach that led to the opening goal.  A smart one-two between Fabian Johnson and Michael Bradley in the 26th minute saw the ball bounce kindly to Johnson and he volleyed home.  Queue some wild celebrations, fist pumping and “Turkey, you suck my balls” shouts from the fans around us.

At the far end Everton’s Tim Howard was rarely troubled and had to deal with the continuing threat of Turkey players throwing themselves to the floor in the area rather than shots on target.  Before he collapsed with boredom he was replaced at half-time by Villa’s Brad Guzan.  At the other end, the Turkish keeper, Kivrak seemed to be flapping at everything and was at fault for the second in the 52nd minute when he failed to intercept a ball across the six yard box and the ball hit Dempsey rather than the other way round and rolled into the empty net.

We made the call to go and get a final beer.  Perhaps we delayed our venture downstairs by a minute too long because “beer marshals” had been deployed to stop anyone new joining the queue.  I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at the need to have such people.  I could rant on here about it is harder to buy a beer than a hand gun in some places but that’s not for this blog.

14327567922_5bf4f4f5b8_bTurkey did get themselves a consolation goal in the 90th minute although to me the decision to award a clear penalty for handball on the line by Cameron summed up the ridiculous performance by the referee.  Since when has deliberate handball on the goal line not been a sending off offence?  Since when did the line “well, it is only a friendly” been a new FIFA rule?  Denying a goal scoring opportunity is still a straight red card offence, yet it seemed the referee either didn’t know the rules or couldn’t be arsed.  That probably explains why he was refereeing this game and not on the plane to Brazil.  Inan converted the spot kick but it was too little, too late.

The crowd headed out into the scorching New Jersey sunshine pretty happy.  Two wins in a week, with one more to come before the team headed down to Brazil with their heads held high where they will be facing the small matter of Germany, Portugal and up first Ghana in what is seen as the must win game.  Will they proceed from the group?  Well, compare it to England’s group of Italy, Costa Rica and Uruguay and I think they are on a par.  There shouldn’t be any shame in coming home with a positive result against one of the European giants and with Klinsmann at the helm, they may just have enough direction to just do that.

My favourite shirt

“How take in steam
Recall your dream
Hey Camisas
Your favourite shirt is on the bed
Do a somersault on your head”

Favourite Shirts (Boy meets Girl) – Haircut 100 – 1981

I thought I would never get to mention Haircut 100 and football in the same post but earlier this week I thought I had lost my favourite football shirt.  We all have one don’t we? (worried look around the room), one that holds special memories for us, that we wear to remember a special moment or occasion.  It is like a comfort blanket, a superstitious chattel that only we know why we have kept it and what the rules are in terms of wearing it.

So back to my shirt.  My favourite shirt is a South Korean shirt.  It is a sort of pinkish/orange colour and was the exact shirt won by the Tigers in their 2002 World Cup campaign.  It is made of a starchy material, completely unlike the shirts of today but designed to repel the sweat from the near 100% humidity.  And the reason why it is my favourite?  Because how I came to get it.

Back in 2002 I was working for an American Internet company.  The pay was fantastic, the perks were brilliant and my travel was all Business Class.  With offices to look after in Frankfurt, Amsterdam and Paris I was raking up air miles like there was no tomorrow.  Alas, it appeared that the company was more concerned about the bonsai tree fridges for the 7th floor than paying people like the tax man and so on the last day of May 2002 they went bust, owing hundreds of millions of Euros.  We were all out of work, as we were told by the  administrators at 11am.  Was we upset?  A bit but we had the small matter of the World Cup due to start in a few minutes in the pub across the road.  Senegal v France, a few pints of Guinness and a full English and the world was alright.

I acted quick.  A couple of phone calls to competitors and I had sorted a new job by the time that Papa Bouba Diop had scored the opening goal.  The only downside was that I couldn’t start for 2 weeks.  What would I do? I called CMF and told her the news.  She jokingly said “why don’t you go to the World Cup”.  I laughed but then opened my wallet and that Lufthansa Miles and More card just smiled at me. Continue reading