World Cup Final

Venice 2000

My first night evening in Venice,  and we’re enjoying one of the best pizza’s of our lives at a surprisingly swanky restaurant considering the prices. Suddenly the door to the kitchen bursts out, and out storm the staff, weaving their way through the tables of customers out into the street. followed swiftly by all the waiters. Naturally, we follow, to see what all the fuss is about. It soon becomes clear. The bar across the alley has a TV. The TV is showing the MATCH.

The Dutch, host of Euro 2000, are squared up against the Italians in the semi finals. Squandering numerous chances through the game, the Dutch are held nil – nil. Down to penalties.

History will tell you the Italians won. I got my first glimpse of the famous Italian passion and emotion, with grown men crying in the streets, hugging and kissing all and sundry as they celebrated their good fortune and the win. It felt like Venice boiled over that hot summer evening, and the passion of the Italian men and woman was sight to behold, and led to a very special first night in Venice.

Milan 2002

I’m catching the overnight train from Milan to Brussels, and find myself sharing the cheap seats with two Spanish  university students. Just weeks before, the Spanish had sent us tumbling out of the World Cup in Japan/South Korea, 3 – 2 if my memory serves correctly. I remember sneaking off work in the UK so that I could watch the game and suffer the anguish that South African sports fans know so well as we came so close, yet ultimately came up short. Yet for the two Spaniards, that game had been nothing special, just another minor obstacle on their way to bigger and better things later in the tournament. Hardly impartial, but I felt rather belittled the way they rather unceremoniously tossed my country to the soccer scrap heap.

On these two experiences alone, I make my decision. For inadvertently giving a youngster like me a most fantastic introduction to Venice, and all things passionate one summer night in 2000, I hope the Dutch emerge victorious on Sunday at Soccer City, Johannesburg, South Africa.

Bravo SA, you’ve done yourself and all your citizens proud over the last month. Lets finish this thing off with a bang.

Published in: on 08/07/2010 at 11:39 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Doosan Bears

I’ve always been a big sports fan, and for my money, there are few better places in terms of atmosphere and excitement than a live sports match.

Now, I imagine that, along with most of the western world, I grew up watching American movies and TV shows. And even though I’ve never particularly enjoyed the sport of baseball, watching the game live at a ballpark has alway appealed to me, and seeing baseball games on TV or the movies just served to cement that fact. Blue sky, green grass, cold beer, hotdogs, big foam fingers and baseball caps, it’s always been something I’ve wanted to experience. If I could be picky, it would be the Yankees  at Yankee stadium in the Bronx, or the Chicago White Sox in, well Chicago naturally.

Life, as usual, as other plans. It turns out I would break my baseball duck, not in the US of A, but in Korea instead. Now, as with most things American, Koreans have embraced baseball in its entirity. A few months ago, I went to go watch the Doosan Bears take on Busan in the Jamsil Stadium, on the banks of the Seoul River . With the grass-green and the sky blue, the baseball dream was looking promising. unfortunately, the Bears were taught a lesson, going down 15 -1 (if memory serves correctly) and the game as a spectacle was over early.

Jamsil Staduim

It did give us time to watch a few of the more ‘Korean’ aspects of the game. As with soccer games, organised cheers and noise makers, orchestrated by hand and flag signals are all the rage. Interestingly, each side is given a turn for a song or chant. There is no booing, hissing, or trying to drown the opposition side out. All very civilised. hotdogs were, unfortunately in short supply. Instead, a staple Korean snack, dried squid is all the rage in the stands. A little chewy, and with a distinctive aroma (or just downright smelly depending on the wind direction) it does not hold a candle to a decent hot dog.

Ona  positive note, the beer was cold, and the atmosphere was grand. And until I find myself in NY or Chicago, the Bears will do nicely. I only hope they can up their game as the season progresses.

Published in: on 06/07/2010 at 8:43 pm  Comments (3)  
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