Sunday, June 22, 2008

Latvia June 2008

Latvia - Riga (on the way home from the Euros)

Obviously a strong Soviet influence but the language (Germanic ) is at least readable, if not understandable.

The city has a pleasant centre though not as attractive as Tallinn.

You see trams, graffitti, girls , nice restaurants, some stag groups and a decent selection of museums (especially the Occupation Museum - Latvia has had its share)

Skonto Riga vs Vindava at the Skonto stadium in central Riga.

A 3-0 win for the home side before 100 people , just the main stand open - the standard of play is OK but its all very low key.
It was easy enough for Skonto - their handful of ultras were happy.

The other game is a 2nd level match between Metta LU Riga (Univ of Riga team) vs Zibens Zemessardze (0-3) played on an artficial training type pitch.
A very small 'stand' only - c. 30 around as the students lose.

A pleasant enough Latvian diversion in reasonable weather (some light rain)

No Starbucks but 'Double Coffee' everywhere.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Euros June 2008

1. Russia v Greece in Salzburg

A generally deserved victory by the Russians (should it have been England ?)
The Greeks were very limited, creating little despite having three men in attack. A goalie error decided the match though it seemed like it was only a matter of time before the Russians scored.

As was noticeable in all these games there were plenty of fans of both teams and seemingly few neutrals. This obviously produced a good atmosphere but anybody without a ticket could expect to pay big bucks - up to 500 euros. This could mean collecting hundreds of glasses at a return deposit of one euro per time to get back the cost.

To Salzburg the day after the game - a very pleasant historic centre with some Russians and a few Greeks around.

In the central area is the very impressive medium-size Salzburg museum full of the latest technology and providing superb presentations.

2. Croatia v Poland (1-0) in Klagenfurt

Red & white everywhere, except for the black-clad Croatian 'ultras' who provide a backdrop as in a System of a Down video.

Its hard to tell who had the most support (probably Croatia)
Sitting with Poland fans i had to feel for them - a limited team even against a mainly 'reserve' Croat side still couldn't get too close.

After his kidney transplant it was a great moment for Ivan Klasnic to score.

Both sets of fans certainly seem to rub along ok and mixed together in different areas of the stadium as well as outside.

3. Russia v Sweden (2-0)

Masses of yellow at one end and red/white/blue at the other in the best stadium for atmosphere of the four i visited.
The Russians were a revelationn - attacking from the start with star man Arshavin at the helm.

Whereas the Swedes were much too predictable & slow, with Ibrahimovic & Larsson ineffective.

Could Russia be the new Greece. ?

4. Germany 3 Portugal 2

The first of the Quarter Finals , in Basel.
I thought Portugal would do better but who can bet against the Germans - they showed power, strength and no little skill in getting two goals up , Portugal get one back but Ballack, with a push gets them 2 goals clear.

The stadium didnt 'work' so well especially with the UEFA style arrangements (cordons restricted walking around outside) making it a very inconvenient stadium being hemmed in by railway lines and the river.

And inside the distribution of fans didn't work well either - the main groups not being behind the goals unlike in (say) Innsbruck, thus making the colourful displays less effective.
Nevertheless an exciting game with Portugal always behind and coming up short.

Now it seems like its all set up for another German championship...

As for the cities of Basel and Innsbruck - I didn't see the centres at all - only the football grounds.

Overall 4 decent games watched by thousands of fans of all teams and significantly less neutrals than at the World cup.

for more pics see

Monday, June 09, 2008

USA & Trinidad May/June 2008

Major League Soccer

New England Revolution v DC United (2-2)

Some 8,000 or so watched this game in the 70,000 capacity Gillette stadium.

At least there was plenty of car parking space.

In a game of two halves DC take the first & Revolution the second.

New England Revolution 2 Dallas 1

played before the Brazil v Venezuela friendly , Revolution were quick out of the blocks , scoring early , consolidating their lead and tending to back off in the 2nd half . Dallas got one back but it was not enough.

Brazil v Venezuela (0-2)

The first ever win for Venezuela over Brazil. Not that they had too many fans inside the Gillette stadium to see their triumph as it was packed with yellow shirts - though probably not too many actuallly travelled from Brazil. This time we had an attendance of 54,000 and the traffic was horrendous.

For the first goal Venezuela broke the offside trap and Maldonaldo's neat chip did the rest. After a mistake by Hernandez of Brazil Vargas produced a trick and a decisive finish for a great 2nd goal. They hold on well enough in the second half. Brazil were moderate e.g. Adriano and Robinho not too involved.

and as an alternative sport ..... Baseball

New York Mets v LA Dodgers

As of next year the Mets will be playing next door as Shea Stadium is being replaced.
But for now over 52,000 turned out on this night to see them lose 9-5 to the Dodgers

Philadelphia Phillies v Cincinatti Reds

The third biggest ever crowd at this stadium, 45,492, saw the Phillies shutout (pitched by Cole Hamels) the Reds 5-0.
Most came to see if the Reds Ken Griffey Jr could reach the 600 home run milestone.

In the end he came close but had to wait.

Back to the Football..... Trinidad & Tobago v England (0-3)

A big event in T & T as the locals celebrated 100 years of football.
For Fabio Capello and England it was a competent enough performance and, importantly, no goals conceded.

The conditions were warm but not oppressive and didn't seem to affect our players.

Generally the locals took the comprehensive defeat well (T & T created little) and seemed to, at least, match our fans capacity for drink.

Aside from the football when the sun shined it was very hot.

Though the islands had a somewhat end-of-season feeling with the rainy season approaching it was a pleasant diversion to see the Caribbean. In particular a tour of Tobago with its impressive coastline and rain forest.

Naturally in the States there were no shortage of ...starbucks - that'll be a double decaf, no whip, vanilla. grande frapuccino (for Bill)

for more pics see