Day 1 30th May 2002
Can’t concentrate much on work as too excited! Spend all afternoon talking about the trip and frantically trying to get everything done by 5.30!
Check in at Heathrow at 19.00 for the 22.00 flight to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Well early as don’t want to take any chances with them selling seats twice! Am paranoid that I’ve forgotten something, so double check: passport, flight tickets, match tickets, FIFA Smartcard, about ten England tops, cacks, camera- what else could I need?! Loads of Irish round the airport. Go for a pint, can’t find the others- they’re not even in the bar! Go to check-in departure gate at 21.45- ask if the others have checked in and they have, so that’s something! Sit on the plane on my own for 15 minutes, then the fools saunter on- they’ve had 5 pints at the other end of the airport!
Day 2 31st May 2002
Day of travel. Malaysian Airlines, very good service- ply us with beer and wine that goes down very nicely! Get to Kuala Lumpur 17.30 local time. Never flown anywhere like this far before, but don’t feel too bad as I slept a lot. Played Tetris on the in-seat Nintendo system, which sent me to sleep.
Flight to Tokyo Narita leaves Kuala Lumpur at 23.30, so have some time to kill. Look at the Burberry gear there, but it’s well expensive! We decide to go for a beer or two as the France V Senegal game is about to start. Humidity is ridiculous! Beer’s about £5 a go, but we’re on holiday! Amazingly Senegal win and we have six or seven beers in the process!
23:15- ‘WAKE UP! YOUR FLIGHT LEAVES IN 10 MINUTES!’- We were dead to the world in the departure lounge! Sit next to some fat bloke on the flight, which makes getting out to go for a piss at 4am very difficult!
Day 3 1st June 2002
07:30- Arrive in the land of the rising sun! Get baggage ok then have to queue for ages to get my Japanese rail pass validated at the airport. Loads of Irish in front of us holding up the queue! Eventually get it done and book train tickets up to Sapporo from Tokyo for the Argie game- the journey will take 14 hours!
Narita Express train takes 50 minutes in to Tokyo. The cleanliness and efficiency of their transportation system really needs to be seen to be believed. Get out internet hotel booking- it’s in Ueno- 10 minutes by subway from Tokyo. Find it ok and the hotel is quite nice.
Watch Cameroon V Ireland on the box- can’t understand a word the commentator is saying, but he seemed to get quite excited when Matty scored- even more than me!
Spend the rest of the day eating and looking around, have a couple of beers then go to sleep. Don’t see that many other English around, but England fans and the FSA said it would be like that due to the layout of Japanese cities.
Day 4 2nd June 2002
Up early and buzzing- it’s the day of England V Sweden! The Saitama Stadium is reachable within an hour from Tokyo by subway. Guide-books warn us not to get there too early as there are no bars or anything to do near the ground- it’s in the middle of nowhere.
So, what do we do? Get there at 10:30- 8 hours before ko! Walk around, and yes, can confirm there is nothing there. Touts are selling for £300 and people seem to be willing to pay.
Eventually find a restaurant 20 minutes down a back street. Don’t order any food though, just have eight beers each! Decide I look very cool after eight pints in my new shades, although the Japanese are giving us very odd looks! No other English can be seen at all!
Get shuttle-bus at 18:00 and there are swarms and swarms of English everywhere- this is what it’s all about!! Am quite pissed by now and see more Bournemouth fans so start jumping around and singing etc! Drink more beer and meet all the usual lads.
Stadium is enormous and I have a wicked seat right at the front! Atmosphere is unbelievable- there must be at least 12,000 English behind the goal! Bournemouth Ron plonks himself down in the seat next to me- small world.
We play very well in the first half- Campbell powers home Beckham’s corner, and I jump up and down so much I jump out of my shorts! Luckily no one seems to notice I’m standing there in my cacks- everyone’s celebrating too much!
Second half- oh dear! We completely run out of steam. Alexandersson deservedly equalises mid-way through the half. If anyone’s going to win it, it’s them. On 88 Ashley Cole does a bit of an air shot and leaves Larsson clean through- luckily he hits it wide the stupid git.
then- at least we’re off the mark, but feel quite dejected.
Beckham was hopelessly unfit. Too many didn’t perform. Exempt from criticism: Rio, Campbell, Hargreaves and Vassell. Mills did ok too, apart from one costly error- that’s what international football is all about though! Means we really need to get something out of the Argie game- tall order perhaps.
Get back to the hotel knackered, it’s been a long day!
Day 5 3rd June 2002
Up at 7am for brekkie - body clock’s still in the process of adjustment!
We make our way to Niigata, 200 miles north of Tokyo, to watch Mexico V Croatia- might as well use the rail passes as much as we can! I pay £60 to an Irish tout outside for a seat on the top tier behind the goal- quite dear (but it’s only £15 above face value I tell myself as I sit there bored for 90 minutes!). But hey, it’s another ground and another World Cup match! Mexico win 1-0 with an Blanco penalty. The Croatians look poor- only half decent players are Prosinecki, Boksic and Suker, and let’s face it, they’re all past it now!
Have a wicked laugh on the train back with the Mexicans. They all want to swap their Mexico hats for my England one, but I resist- I remember how annoying they were on the Derby train to St Pancras last year! Fair play to them though, they like the English and they keep the supplies of Beer and Tequila flowing!
Finish the night off in the Irish pub at Ueno station- quite drunk by the end.
Check back soon for days 6-10 of Vinny's Diary of the World Cup, 2002.