Day 22 20th June 2002
Mess around all day getting food, going to the Internet Café and looking around the town.
End the day with bathing and sauna Japanese style at the top of the hotel. Get our photos done with the hotel staff in our kimonos- what did we look like?!
Day 23 21st June 2002
The day of the big one- England V Brazil, World Cup 2002, Shizuoka- sounds massive doesn’t it!
Have to set off on an early train to Kakegawa as all the trains are booked up. We get into the non-reserved section - it’s a smokers carriage and they all chain smoke, making it very difficult to breathe. Still, as long as I’m still breathing by 15:30, that’s all that matters! There are a load of scummers on the train, all wearing smart club and country gear, wish they’d have done that at Bournemouth.
We drink about 4 tinnies outside the station waiting for the others to arrive. There’s a Japanese bloke with a ghetto blaster blasting out Oasis, which is wicked and makes us feel at home! When I go back in to the shop for tinnies I am gutted to find that they played somewhere in Japan two days ago- would have been amazing to have seen that!
All the usual singing with the St Georges ensues.
Do the off to the game. Know what to expect from the surroundings as we were here for the Belgium Russia game- the ground is in the middle of nowhere, although the path up to the ground gives it a ‘Wembley Way’ feel which is good.
The area is packed- people well desperate for ticket, but no-one seems to be selling today! Even the touts want to see this one rather than make a few hundred quid!
They let you in 3 hours prior to ko to put up your flags. Loads of English queue up then sprint as fast as they can through the security checks and concourse to get them up in prime position. It does look impressive though, with all the England flags up everywhere - I hope they’re all visible on the box back home! It’s also amazing the way that there are St Georges up at every other game in the tournament- even in Korea! Again it shows that we are the best supporters in the world, and not a load of hooligans as the authorities try to make out.
Right then, the small matter of the game. It’s very, very tense; a shed load of skill on both sides but the ball remains very much ensconced in the middle third of the pitch.
Owen takes the one chance we get superbly, leading to some of the most wild celebrations I’ve ever seen!
The next 20 minutes is an amazing atmosphere. None of that samba stuff, but all the old favourites- Dambusters, Great Escape, Engerland Engerland Engerland Engerland Engerland…… ENGERLAND!
Rivaldo equalises on the stroke of half time with an amazingly composed side-foot finish at our end of the 51,000 seater, rammed full stadium. If only Campbell had gambled and gone across that bit sooner.
Reflecting on it at half time, I realise you can’t help but think we’ve blown our chance. Yes, the game is 1-1 and I suppose there is no reason why we can’t come out in the 2nd half and blitz 3 goals like we did in Munich. But you just know that that isn’t going to happen today, I don’t know why, it’s just a feeling in the pit of the stomach.
It’s no disgrace losing to Brazil in the QF of the World Cup, but it’s extremely grating to lose when the Brazilians are time-wasting, play-acting and doing all the cocky things that just aren’t football.
Their goal from Ronaldinho is either the biggest fluke ever, or a quite outrageous and audacious piece of skill. Whatever it is, it doesn’t matter as we’re out, but how can Seaman let a shot in from 40 yards out on the wing? Ronaldinho must be an expert w***ker if he can lob Seaman from 40 yards!!!
Seaman and Beckham especially look inconsolable at the final whistle. As predicted before I came out here, I am quite reflective - I’ve spent nearly 4 weeks on the other side of the world, seen 8 games at the World Cup, made a hell of a lot of friends, travelled all around Japan, and it’s been amazing. So can’t complain really!
The worst thing is, unlike club football, you can’t put it right next week. You have to wait 4 whole years! I guess that’s what makes the World Cup so spectacularly popular all around the world though.
Rest of the day is just quiet. Food, mull the game over, then a couple of beers before bed.
No one could give a toss who wins the poxy tournament now (wait a minute, did I not just say the World Cup is one of the most popular things in the world a couple of sentences back?).
Day 24 22nd June 2002
Predictably enough, the day is just spent mulling around. Just want to go home now. Some of the others spend all day trying to bring their flights forward.
Watch Korea beat Spain to reach the semis on penalties in the hotel. I am a bit annoyed, as the Korean keeper is at least 3 yards off his line when the decisive kick is struck. I wanted Spain to win, as they have world class players and they’ve never won anything, which is quite harsh.
We go for a curry, then back to the hotel to watch the Michael Burkes (yes…the Turks) squeeze past Senegal, no thanks to Suker’s Heskey-like performance in the Senegal penalty box.
Get case packed ready to fly to Malaysia tomorrow morning. Wish we had a direct flight back, still, £530 return was an excellent price I suppose!
Day 25 23rd June 2002
Leave the hotel at 6.30am and travel to Narita airport in Tokyo.
Waste time at the airport buying postcards and crap like that. Our flight goes at 10:30.
Manage to get booked on a flight back to London tomorrow- originally we were scheduled for the day afterwards, so that’s a bit of a relief.
Six hour flight to Kuala Lumpur is ok. Despite being told that we can join a standby list for a flight at 23:00, to save messing around, we decide to get a hotel and wait for the flight in the morning. We did it through the airline- they get you a cab to and from the airport, then a room and brekkie for about £25 each, or whatever that was in Malaysian Ringits!
The hotel is nice, but it’s in the middle of nowhere. It’s Sunday and everything is closed. The area is desolate, they seem to be very poor round here. We go for a bit of a walk (It stinks- terrible sewerage system). Some kids are kicking an old football around in the street. My mate from Canvey Island boots their ball and it hits a poor beggar woman (who is sitting on the side of the road) square in the face!
We go back to the hotel, as there’s nothing else to do, and order room service food- very nice and unbelievably cheap!
Bedtime, then ready for the flight back to Heathrow in the morning.
Day 26 24th June 2002
Home time at long last. I can honestly say the 1-1 draw with Sweden seems like months and months ago. So much has happened since then!
On reflection, it’s got to be said that this has been an amazing experience. It’s cost a hell of a lot of Yen to do, but it’s been worth it without a doubt.
Prior to this I’d never even left Europe before, so at least I’ve seen more of the world now.
I’ve been to eight games at the World Cup, visited six different amazing stadiums, seen twelve different teams compete live, and made countless friends and have countless memories. Hopefully writing this will mean that my memories will be preserved, although I know I’ve missed loads out, but I didn’t want to spend the whole holiday writing!
Just being inside the grounds at the England games, knowing full well that millions and millions are watching back home, gives you a well big buzz! As for the atmosphere, well it’s electric - to think how many people travelled so far, for that amount of time, and at the extortionate cost of the tickets and living out there- it really is phenomenal. You can’t help but feel proud to be English and to have been there to support the lads.
If we could have sneaked past Brazil, I’m sure we would have gone on to win the darned thing, but that’s what supporting England is all about isn’t it? There’s only one time it’s been any different, and that was 1966!
What an amazing 26 days it’s been though, even if I am looking forward to going home now.