Five things from…..Ivory Coast 2 Japan 1

Are there any sane people still awake? It is a real case of after The Lord Mayor’s show for ITV as they have the job of picking up the nation after the pain of an England defeat. It wasn’t that we deserved to lose – we played well in places – but it was that same sinking feeling that we would just pile on the “England expects” pressure onto the next “must win” game. In all of my prediction competitions, I had us losing to Italy, drawing with Uruguay and beating Costa Rica to go through. That was still a possibility. We were also flat because we had endured 90 minutes of Phil Neville, a voice that makes Noddy Holder’s sound interesting. I’d lost the will to drink anymore as well, with a bottle of Asahi Export and a Guinness Export in the fridge ready for this tie of Asia v Africa. Perhaps the second half would see me get a second wind.

photo (1)1. Japanese socks – I know I keep banging on about socks but they have been a disappointment so far in the tournament.  And then along comes the Japanese offering….BOOM.  Who doesn’t love those multi-coloured beauties.  The World Cup is alive and kicking.  Perhaps a little Japanese flag on the back or even NIPPON written down the back of the calf?  Or am I asking too much?

2. Make your mind up! – So is it Yaya Toure or Toure Yaya?  Wilfred Bony or B. Wilfred?  What are the rules on this?  Does Rooney feel left out that he can’t have “Wayne” on his shirt?  FIFA are too busy looking for corruption in Qatar to care about such important issues I bet!

3. Identikit – Having watched every game so far, the stadiums all look the same at pitch level.  The camera-facing stands are set about 8ft above pitch level, the stewards seem the same, the TV cameraman look the same, they just shuffle the good-looking fans in the front row. I’m sure they all look outstanding in the flesh, but from a TV camera point of view it could all be in the same stadium, in any corner of the world.

4. Noise – Ten seconds into the game and the noise started. A constant piston-like sound that continued throughout the whole game. “You can hear the sound of the African drums tonight” commented the ITV commentator.  At that moment you could just see the England band throw their instruments at the TV screens, knowing that they had been lied to.  “Yeah, we asked FIFA and they said No”, so the FA told the band.  Now they know that it was a cheap trick to stop them playing.

5. The New Rainham Steel – Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Sony, Emirates…check…#Allornothing – nice use of social media hash-tags.  But Yingli Solar?  Ever heard of them?  No, neither have we.  But they must have deep pockets or a Marketing Manager who is the best salesperson in the world.  “Hey boss, what about we advertise our solar panels on TV?”. “Great idea Dave…what’s the cost?”.  “A bargain at $500 million*”…”Wow, that means we would only have to sell 10 billion units to get our return on investment.  Great work Dave.” Rainham Steel must be very jealous that someone else has claimed their mantle of “Company that everyone knows their name but no one knows what they do.”

Beer World Cup

2am is probably not the time to be tucking into Guinness Extra Strong Export but as it was for research we indulged.  After a brief half-time snooze we couldn’t face the rest of the heavy stout so we moved onto the crisp Asahi.  No surprises who won this battle…

Ivory Coast 1 Japan 3

The Kit World Cup – Day Three

Puma – 9pts
Nike -6
adidas – 6
Lotto – 3

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

Early doors

And so 7 years and 3 weeks since we were awarded the games, the London Olympics is upon us. How could anyone in Great Britain not be excited by the next 18 days featuring the world’s greatest athletes? And here we were, ready to experience the opening events. Whisper it quietly, but the London Olympics didn’t start with the multi-million pound opening ceremony in the Olympic Stadium, but actually started on Wednesday in Cardiff when Team GB ladies took on New Zealand. Even the official Olympic website suggests the games start on the 27th July – as if someone is embarrassed by the fact that football even exists in the games.

It has hardly been a surprise that virtually every game outside of London or not featuring Team GB has struggled to sell tickets. I have argued on these very pages about the logic in using such big stadiums in the far flung areas of the United Kingdom. Those romantic few told me that the residents of Glasgow and Cardiff would flock to watch the likes of Honduras, Morocco, Belarus and Gabon because it was “the Olympics”. Last week, LOGOC took the decision to remove over 500,000 unsold tickets for the football tournament from sale and simply close down parts of the stadiums, obviously making sure that the TV facing seats were full.

It is too late to argue the merits of using smaller grounds closer to London for the football (Reading, Southampton, Brighton for instance), but it still leaves a bad taste in the mouth that such a logical outcome was ignored. However, that hadn’t stopped me heading north of the border to notch up event one of ten I would be attending during the games. Hampden Park would be our destination for a double bill of Morocco v Honduras, and then a little throw-away tie between Spain and Japan. I mean, who would want to watch Spain these day? What have they ever won eh? Dull, negative football. Give me Allardyce route one anyday! Who wants to see the ball on the pitch. There is a million times more room to hoof it in the air….I’ll stop now.

Despite my frequent trips north of the border, Hampden Park has never featured on the TBIR radar for a game (great tour and even better museum) so when it was announced that games would be held in the Scottish National Stadium it was too good an opportunity to miss, especially as tickets to any events in the proper Olympic venues were impossible to get last year. One thing you could not complaint about was value for money – £61 for four tickets for a double-header of international football. Of course a year on and tickets can be acquired for just about any game – the football was to be the first of TEN events that we would see in a 12 day period during the games (and we will bring you action from all 10 right here). But confusingly, wherever you went, all the signs/websites/newspaper articles said the Olympic games was due to start on Friday 27th July with the opening ceremony. The website told us Big Ben was to chime 40 times on the first day (i.e Friday 27th); the countdown clock was to the 27th July and all of the official records say the games run from Friday 27th July to Sunday 12th August. Continue reading

Day 6: You can always rely on a Honda

While Dan and myself were doing our research for this trip, we both hunted around various bookshops (both actual shops and online) for guide books to the region, and in particular Doha & Qatar as a whole. I was quite surprised to find that there wasn’t a lot out there for this country, as there seemed to be a guide book for almost everywhere else on the planet. Dan eventually found a small guide book, but that was about it.

Now we know why. If you like shopping, then you will be fine. Prices out here are actually quite cheap compared to back home. For example, taxi fares are really quite inexpensive but agree a price before you get in, and even food and drink is quite reasonable. We have eaten in the hotel on one occasion, and that was expensive, but it was worth every penny. The big shopping malls (and they are big) will keep most keen shoppers entertained for several hours, which is lucky, as most stay open until mid-night. Try doing that at Lakeside.

However, if shopping is not your thing, then perhaps you are a beach person. Many hotels have a private beach, and so you spend your days getting a tan, or at least not doing very much. You may have to keep an eye out for jelly-fish, but there is generally a life guard on duty, and from our time here, the staff at our hotel are more than happy to assist in almost any way that they can. Continue reading

Day 2: Stoffers all over the world

Day two saw us watch one of the pre-tournament favourites, Japan and their opening game against Jordan. This shouldn’t have been a bad game, as it is 2nd v 11th in the Asian rankings. However, if we take the world rankings into account, then it is 29th v 104th, so there is a bit of a difference between the two teams. Japan are a known quantity; since hosting the World Cup in 2002, which was their second appearance in the finals, they have since appeared in 2006 and 2010, getting the group stage for the second time in their history last year. Japan have won this tournament three time in the past, and were semi-finalist four years ago. Jordan though, are a bit of a mystery to me, so I am going to be quite interested to see how they do. The Japanese though, have a few injury worries coming into this game, and almost all of them are in defence. This could be quite interesting.

For the second day, we have a new ground to visit. Today’s venue is the Qatar Sports Club which is, after last night’s problems, the nearest stadium to the hotel, and this is just a couple of miles away. This is also the site for the Qatar Open tennis, although they clearly don’t play on the same surface; that would be daft.

We picked up on this yesterday, but thought that it might just be an issue unique to the Al Gharafa Stadium, but it was the same today; there is no merchandise on sale. Continue reading