World Cup Diary 2002 (Days 17-21)

Day 17 15th June 2002

Have an early start, something like 7am! Just in time for the only train that hadn’t sold out, even though ko wasn’t until 20:30! Get warned that there’s nothing to do in Niigata and we’ll probably ‘end up miserable sat under a tree in the rain drinking tinnies’ as one of the party advised.

We end up sat miserable under a tree in the rain drinking tinnies. We set up our own little den on some grass by the station with the AFCB flag tied across 2 trees. We drink lots of beer before some Chinese TV interviews us for 10 minutes (against our wishes- this is all getting a bit much now!).

The train journey was funny though. We made up songs and the Japanese joined in, even though they didn’t know what they were singing! They all explain that they are security officials and tell us we are hooligans! We explain though that we are just ‘fooligans’! We then have our photos taken together in Niigata station- was all a good laugh!

We then end up playing 4v4 against some Japanese kids. They’re not too bad, got quite a nice touch, but they always lay the ball square, they don’t spot the killer ball like the midfield maestro Goodfield does. They actually end up beating us 10-8, but that was only because we can’t be arsed anymore! Then make loads more Japanese friends kicking the ball around with little kids. Hope the media back home have highlighted all the friends we’ve made. They probably won’t though.

Anyway, on to the game. Piece of piss! We steam roller them with first half efforts from Rio ‘I’m on my way to being as good as Bobby Moore’ Ferdinand, the Boy Owen, and ‘Oh my God he’s actually found the net’ Heskey. The second half is consequently just one massive party! The atmosphere we generate is absolutely amazing! Congas go on all round the stadium in different directions! Awesome! Regardless of how far we get in this tournament, we have the best fans by a long, long way!

Fall asleep on the train home. Relieved to hit the sack at last at 4am. Very tired, but very happy!

Day 18 16th June 2002

Wake up- wow, we’ve made the Quarter Finals! Sounds good! Will be against Belgium or Brazil, who play each other in Kobe on Monday night. Means we need to change our flights, as we originally thought we would only make the second round (or round of the last 16 as FIFA seem hellbent on calling it!). Woman at the travel desk says it’s a no-go today, as Malaysian Airline offices are shut on Sundays. We want to act sharp, however, so get the express train to the airport, presuming they won’t be shut there.

Meet Patrick Barclay (the Telegraph journalist) on the train, ‘You’re not going home now are you lads- surely not!’. We explain that we’re not. He has quite a good chat actually for such a well known hack- usually they treat the fans with contempt. He really thinks we could go all the way. He reckons Brazil could edge us out, but says we are the most difficult team to beat and are very resilient under Eriksson.

No joy at Narita Airport though. They give us the Malaysian Airlines reservation line to try at 9am tomorrow morning. That was a waste of 3 hours then!

Get back to Dog’s Bollocks hotel. We are due to book out of there now. We tried extending our stay, but it would cost £100 each per night (18,000 Yen), without the discount rate we had before.

Eventually wind up in Ikebukero, 16 minutes north of Tokyo on the subway (Maranouchi line). We book a hotel for 7 nights- will either take us to potential home time, or preparation for the semi finals!

Go to an Italian restaurant nearby, order margherita pizzas and spaghetti carbonara- it’s delicious (apparently the ham pizzas are a bit dodgy though).

Watch Ireland V Spain on the box. Feel sorry for Matty missing his spot kick, but don’t approve of him singing their anthem before the matches. Next plane home for the Irish it is then.

Day 19 17th June 2002

First thing to worry about is getting the flights changed, which turns out to be a far from easy task. Phone up many times and speak to different people.

1/ ‘You cannot change your flight sir- it is non-changeable’

2/ ‘You must come to the airport to make any changes, we cannot do it over the

phone’

3/ ‘Yes sir, of course you can change your flight. The next available flight you can book from Kuala Lumpur to London is July 17th!’

Bloody Hell! Imagine having to stay for another month! Think I’d go insane, and I’d be unemployed! Leaves us, then, with 2 options - go home tomorrow on the flight we booked (and miss the Brazil game- no way!) or buy a whole new flight at £700!

So, go to the airport and sweet talk the woman on the desk- we are now provisionally flying home 2 days after the Brazil game, with 2 days in Malaysia, much better! Hopefully we’ll need to change it all again when we beat Brazil!

Come back and watch Mexico V USA. Even the Yanks are getting good at this silly sport called ‘soccer’!

Day 20 18th June 2002

There are 3 full days to kill now before the Brazil game. To be honest we’re all pretty knackered and running out of money, so we just want to get the days over with.

Pass the time by going for pizzas in Akasaka, going to the Internet Café and watching footy on TV - although Wednesday and Thursday will be rest days without any footy - how will we survive?!

We end up in a Japanese bar that we have reserved spots in to watch the Japan V Turkey game, which is being played in Miyagi. Japan must be the only place in the world where you can reserve spots in a bar.

We stagger in at 1am having had a right session- in the same bar for 9 hours! Turkey beat Japan 1-0 (as I predicted in our competition- big odds for a correct score!) so the Japanese are a bit deflated now. You can’t question they’re enthusiasm for the game, but will it last or is it just for the World Cup? All the Japanese in the bar were singing England songs and feeding us with their chopsticks- we were too pissed to even try using them by then!

Day 21 19th June 2002

Slight hangover- not too bad.

Boring, cheap (beer free) day. Bed ‘til midday. Food. Internet. Reading. Food. TV. Take the piss out of the others who have been to see some stupid waterfall. Bed.