Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Sevilla vs Real Betis September 2006

Andalucia in September is still hot. Seville was 33 degrees at times & most people tried to avoid the sun. The city centre's narrow streets gave some shade but also a sense of claustrophobia.
Similarly if you were a Real Betis supporter around the Sanchez Pizjuan stadium for the Derby you probably felt a sense of being hemmed-in & intimidation & some beer might well be directed towards you.
Inside the stadium it seemed a little like a smaller (though less intense of course) version of the Monumental in B Aires - the red & white , the curve of the stands & watching the away support arrive in a segment of the higher tier.
Los Biris (Sevilla ultras) had prepared their presentation based on 'Victoria' later accompanied by red smoke & as the kick-off neared the rest of the stadium joined in with their white/red flags.
Except the 500 or so Betis fans who missed the first 20 minutes of the game - because of security reasons or maybe they didn't want to see the display ?
Betis tends to represent the poorer areas of this city - they also showed the Spanish flag whereas Sevilla had the Andalucian flag prominent.
Sevilla, with recent European successes, were also on a high.

Though victory ('victoria') did happen it was not easy in an at times pulsating Derby.
With Rafael Sobis , recent Copa Libertadores winner, scoring two well taken goals Betis for a while anyway seemed like they might spoil the party.
But Kanoute with a Kanu-esque style also scored a couple & (another) Brazilian Renato struck the winner following a dribble & decisive finish with 5 minutes to go.
Expect Sobis (given the opportunities) & Sevilla's Jesus Navas (who at times terrorised the Betis defence) to be stars of the upcoming season in Spain.

A Derby with atmosphere & also a memorable game.
And with a 9pm finish you only had an hour or so to wait before the local restaurants would open.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Macedonia v England September 2006

Kosovo was hot , maybe 33 degrees , so drinking water was essential & Bill needed to keep hydrated. Buying some bottled water from a nearby kiosk the vendor showed three fingers - Bill pulled out his change & offered one euro - the vendor shook his head - Bill jumped to 3 euros.
The local smiled before searching the handful of coins & taking 30 cents (c. 20p)
Skopje is also cheap.
It offers a pleasant ambience , surrounded by mountains, with an (inland) holiday location feel.
Plenty of (often) well dressed locals strolling around in the hot weather enjoying the nice restaurants & bars in the city centre.
The locals seemed friendly enough - with no evidence whatsover of any previous hostilities.
And in particular the taxi drivers can usually converse about the game ('why is Beckham not playing', 'I support Albania' etc)

Kosovo(Pristina) is quite near but a 2.5 hour bus journey (no trains) , with half an hour taken up by customs checks, sometimes thru hilly roads.
A not very appealing town with shops seemingly wedged in amongst the appartment blocks, Pristina showed no evidence of any troubles, Bill saw one or two Kfor vehicles but no other UN
presence. Graffiti was the only discordant note.

As to the game the result was all that mattered & one goal proved enough in a lively (but not very hostile) atmosphere. Once again it highlighted (amongst other things) the strength of Hargreaves in the holding role , Crouch's ability to score goals, that Phil Neville can still 'do a job' & that Defoe will soon get competition from Johnson & (later)Ashton.