Luton locals take flight before Garth Brooks-style debasement and debauchery
Impromptu survey on the prospects for Roy Hodgson’s team draws strong reactions
England manager Roy Hodgson after the World Cup, Group D match at the Estadio Mineirao, Belo Horizonte. Photograph: Nick Potts/PA Wire.
For much of yesterday’s action I was in the (disputed) land of football’s origin with, ironically enough, limited access to any World Cup coverage.
In spite of this potential handicap to my commentary on yesterday’s proceedings I decided to embrace my surroundings and get a feel from the indigenous people their thoughts on the contest to date.
The exotic setting in which I found myself for the early games was Luton Airport and there you could cut the air with a knife, were they and similar sharp items not strictly prohibited.
Reactions to my questioning of the locals - or, at least, the bemused airport employees - as to whether they thought their beloved team England could go all the way to the final ranged from mild perturbment to outright hostility, and, in one particularly extreme case, physical violence.
There’s nothing quite like the raw fear of being pursued down a ramp by a rapidly accelerating sanitation vehicle mounted by a duo of tattooed, mop-waving cleaning staff to bring home the realities of the soccer hooliganism you so often hear about but rarely witness first hand.
Turns out local boys England were playing what would be their last game of the tournament, so understandably tensions were high. As it turned out much of the tension was in fact due to multiple flight delays and cancellations rather than the game itself.
Nevertheless, England got the send-off they deserved, with anything up to 15 people sort of watching a small screen outside Bar Des Voyageurs in the departure lounge, seemingly the sole outlet willing to broadcast the thing.
Win, lose, or draw against Costa Rica, England would lose this pointless, waste-of-everyone’s-time game, regardless of whether they won, lost, or drew. In the end there was no clear winner as the game’s literal and actual pointlessness was confirmed by a 0-0 draw which meant of course, under the circumstances, that England ultimately lost thus sending them home - to England.
After a media blackout (i.e. short haul flight flight with a budget airline and its accompanying whimsical pageant of human rights violations and interminable queueing) it was good to be back on home turf (full disclosure: I live in a bog) to catch up with whatever humdrum ball-related non-events occurred in my absence.
But wait! Seems the excitement factor went up a couple of notches as soon as I, eh, took my eye off the ball. Cranky managers! Sensual and innappropriately intimate massage! The chilling blood-lust of Nosferatu! Par for the course say, at a Garth Brooks concert but little did I know the beautiful game could get so ugly.
After nearly two weeks of Chinese takeaways in the Uruguayan camp, one lad cracked and demanded instead a bit of Italian.
He couldn’t wait for their Dominos order, so, seemingly oblivious to the fact that his actions were being filmed and photographed from every conceivable angle, he decided to get in a quick mouthful of Parma ham on the pitch to keep his energy levels up. I guess he suarez chance and just went for it.
Though an unconventional approach it was enough to send Italy home, so maybe this unorthadox tactic will become more commonplace in future games. After the match (and after an inexcusable and fruitless delivery wait time) the Italian manager said he’d go out and collect the grub himself but added that neither he nor the pizzas would be coming back.
Greece stayed true to their name in one horrific NSFW sequence where their goalie was greased up and rubbed down in a most off-putting fashion.
Despite, or perhaps because of this, the Ivory Coast managed to slip one past the oily keeper. 1-1 was the score at the 90 minute mark but that all changed less than 60 seconds into extra time (well, one digit of the score changed, the other remained in situ) as Greece got a last minute penalty.
Or, more accurately, a penultimate minute penalty. The penalty was something of a misnomer as it turned out - if anything, it could have been considered a bonus as it actually put them in the lead.
After the Greek celebrations subsided, Côte d’Ivoire were granted an ample 30 seconds or so to respond in kind but instead they squandered their time, settling for defeat.
It was an emotional moment seeing their dejected supporters hold the tricolour aloft (rotated by 180 degrees – oops!) in solidarity with their fallen Irish brothers but don’t write us off yet lads, there’s always next year!