Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Spain December 2010


Espanyol 1 Barcelona 5.


Masterclass.

In some ways you wish for a home goal to make the atmosphere even noisier but then again you can sit back and watch Barca play.
And so it was, they played.

The locals streets were crowded and the bars vibrant.
Inside they played their song and the fans displayed the blue and white colours.
Everyone was aware that Catalunya was more than one club.

Then you had to admire a Barca masterclass, of movement, speed and skill.

The visitors could afford to miss various chances, including a sitter by Lionel Messi.
But though he didn’t score Messi did supply three assists.
As Pedro and David Villa each got a couple of goals.

Osvaldo did score a excellent consolation for the home side but what can you do against probably the best team in the world at the moment ?

Not that too many locals enjoyed the result as they threw plenty of debris at the Barca players, with only Iniesta escaping the abuse.


Santa Andreu 1 Ontinyent 0 in Segunda B group 3.

Two games on the Sunday following the Barcelona derby.

Sant Andreu is a northern suburb of Barcelona and the local team have a decent sized inner city ground with a covered main stand plus open seating on the three other sides.

A few ultras brought some flags and a drum.

It was a game of few chances settled by substitute Blanco’s shot, at the second attempt, with about five minutes remaining.
Santa Andreu moved up to 6th with this win.

Barcelona B 1 Ponferradina 1 in the Segunda Division.

Played at the pleasant Mini Estadi within the shadow of the Camp Nou.

A couple of thousand turned out in the afternoon to watch Barca reserves.
They had few familiar names playing and despite showing typical passing skills were nothing like the ‘A’ team.
Although centre back Fontas did give a reasonable Pique impression.

The goals, both scored by substitutes, came close together in the final ten minutes with Barca guilty of losing concentration after they went ahead.

It got colder but nothing like wintry UK.

Some tapas and wine helped the mood.

more pics at http://www.photobox.co.uk/album/607137494

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Belgium/France December 2010

Tienen 0 Rupel Boom 2 in the Belgian 2nd Division.

I’d been fortified with scampi and chips plus a small carafe of red before watching this one.

The game itself didn’t produce so much quality but when it came it was the visitors who
delivered.
Two similar goals from close range headers sealed the away win.

Tienen’s cause wasn’t helped by having their goalie sent off late on but they never really found the final ball.
A decent number from Boom made the trip to a typical smallish ground, of low level seats/terrace with the usual abundance of adverts.

I caught the late train back to Brussels.

Paris FC 4 Magenta (New Caledonia) 0 in the French Cup.

From Brussels to Paris using the fast but costly Thalys train.

Paris play at the Stade Charlety , in the south of the city, the home of the rugby team Stade Francais.
The match was played in a somewhat surreal atmosphere with only around 200 present in a 20,000 capacity, modern styled stadium.

But it’s not every day you see a team from New Caledonia (from the South Pacific) so there was a certain fascination in watching Magenta.
They even had some fans though whether they had all made such a trip was perhaps unlikely.

Within a couple of minutes it was clear there would be no extra time as Vincent scored from 20yds and the home side drove through the visitors defence almost at will.
Further goals followed a regular intervals and the only curiosity was whether Magenta could conjure up a goal.
Some shots , yes and the odd chance but no goals for the sympathetic ‘crowd’ to cheer.

It got colder and I made a brisk exit passing some puzzled Parisiens wondering what was going on in the stadium.
Via the metro and the fast train back to Brussels and then the local train to Denderleeuw.

Dender 2 Leuven 1 in the Belgian 2nd Division.

Another smallish ground, covered, with an unused terrace at one end.
Some 2,000 turned out on this coldish Saturday night, including the Dender ‘ultras’ behind the goal.
Both teams are near the top and battling for promotion.

The goals came in the first half, firstly from a penalty driven home by the Dender goalie followed by a second from their forward Jorgo Waeghe.
Leuven replied soon after when the excellent Harbaoui converted a cross.

Both teams had a man dismissed just before half-time.
And in the second period Leuven pushed their hosts back but failed to create much and Dender held out for the win.

Kortrijk 3 Lierse 1 in the Belgian ‘Premier’.

Its about an hour and a half by train from Brussels to Kortrijk.

I arrived in time to enjoy a late lunchtime meal in one of the many restaurants in the pleasant central area of town. Many others were doing the same.

Later that evening I was amongst the 5,760 who watched a decent match between mid-table Kortrijk and lowly Lierse (just one win all season)
Their, larger, ground is near the river which contributed to making it a very cold night.
Maybe I should have joined the packed end terrace rather than having a seat in the stands.

But the game itself was entertaining with the home side always troubling the visitors with their movement.
Lierse brought a lively few hundred and they saw their team go ahead against the run of play after 23 minutes as the home goalie was beaten to the ball.
Ten minutes later De Beule scored his first and just before half time he beat the offside trap to slot his second.

In the second half Lierse, though limited, were always in with a chance until M’Boyo put in the clincher near the end.

I needed quite a time to warm up.

more pics at http://photobox.co.uk/album/595657140.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Turkey October 2010


Bursaspor 1 Fenerbahce 1.

Green and white is everywhere in Bursa.
Flags, scarves and on the kerb stones.

The city has vibrant feel to it especially when a big team from Istanbul is in town

I took the ferry from Pendik, quite close to Sabiha Gokcen Istanbul airport, and then a bus, and another to get to the centre.

Along the way small dramas happen.
An elderly lady is ill on the ferry, a young boy is sick on the bus and, later, a cat runs across the pitch during the game.
Perhaps fortunately the cat was not black.

Bursaspor’s ground is centrally located, mainly covered, and it was close to capacity for this big match.
Inside the locals generated a warm welcome for Fenerbahce.

In the game Fenerbahce were better in possession with the orange-heeled boots and educated left foot of Emre prominent.

He would create the opening goal with a one-two and cross converted by Senturk.
Cue some aggression by the home ultras towards the away fans in their ‘cage’. The police soon stepped in.

The unbeaten home side equalised soon after the break, scoring from a corner.

As time progressed Fener continued to look more likely to win but Bursa had two good chances - both spurned by striker Sercan.
He would get a mixed reception when substituted.

So Bursaspor stay top of the Super League as they aim to retain their title.

I strolled back to my hotel via a typical local bar.
All male clientele, live Turkish music and everyone studiously ignoring the large no-smoking sign.

Eskisehirspor 0 Ankaragucu 0.

The bus from Bursa to Eskisehir takes well over 2 hours through valleys and mountainous areas.
Conveniently the stadium and train station are both close to the city centre.

And on this Saturday afternoon another good crowd, of around 15,000, turned out to watch this goalless draw between two mid-table teams.
No away ultras were present.

In an even contest the most interesting aspects (apart from the noise from the local ultras) were the long throws of Varol of Ankaragucu and the efforts of the big home striker, Karadeniz.

With some difficulty I’d eventually managed to get a ticket for the 18.00 train to Ankara which proved ideal timing.
The train, which can reach over 250 km/hour, was in the capital within an hour and a half.

Genclerbirligi 2 Manisaspor 0.

Ankara feels more like a ‘working’ city than Istanbul.
It doesn’t have the famous sites or the tourists, or indeed the hustlers.

But one place not to be missed is Ataturk’s mausoleum and the connected museum.
In it is described the history of modern Turkey and in particular the part played by its exceptional founder.

The 19 May (the date on which Ataturk began his campaign for Independence) Stadium
is easy enough to find being near the main train station and a large park.

Nearby a political rally was taking place.
Not too many from the rally went into the stadium to see the game.
Maybe they supported Ankaragucu, who share the ground.

So the 4,000 or so who did attend made it seem a low key affair.

The Manisaspor ultras did their best but their team, after the first 30 minutes, were second best.

Genclerbirligi scored through the German Calik in the first half and the Bosnian Zec, with a nice 20 yarder, in the second.

I took the metro back to my hotel and had some fısh and chips plus beer whilst watching Besiktas in the Sunday evening game.

No major drama as I was in Ankara when the bomb exploded in Taksim Square.



more pics at http://www.photobox.co.uk/album/536814857

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Ukraine/Poland October 2010



Karpaty Lviv 0 Sevilla 1 in the Europa League.

I took the flight to Rzeszow in Poland and then a train to Przemysl followed by a short taxi ride to the border.

You can then walk across to Ukraine and catch a minibus to Lviv.
This takes less than 2 hours for a cost of just over a pound.

On the way, along bumpy roads, we pass some signs of increasing prosperity with newly built houses and road works.

But it is cold. The severe wind chill making it feel even worse.

In the Ukraina stadium, an older, typically open ground with a partly covered main stand, I decided not to sit down and stood at the back to try to keep warm.

It helped that the stadium was full.

Sevilla brought about 30 or so fans presumably well wrapped up in the un-Seville like conditions.
They merged with the locals in the main stand (unlike the Borussia Dortmund fans who ‘merged’ in a different way with the Karpaty ultras)

Karpaty were lively at the start but Sevilla quietened the crowd and Freddy Kanoute was to head in the winner from a corner after about half an hour.
Sevilla generally looked a class above their opponents without being outstanding.

At the end I took a brisk walk back down the hill and a taxi back to the centre.

After beer, borscht and some vodka I had managed to warm up.

Korona Kielce 1 Legia Warsaw 4.

I retraced my route to the border.

This time it was a lot slower returning to Poland due to the large numbers travelling back and forth with their alcohol and cigarettes.
Eventually, and with some help from the locals gently pushing me to the front once they realised I was English, I made it back across.

I’d missed the early train so had some time for a wander around Przemysl in cold but bright weather.

Then it was a train to Krakow and onward to Kielce.

I had time enough to book into the hotel and walk to the modern Kielc Arena for an 8pm kick off.

Its a new, stylish looking stadium that has been used by Poland for some international matches.

And a good crowd (14,479) turned out on this cold night with many queuing outside as kickoff time approached. However, like the trains, there was a delay.

They played the stirring music, the locals raised their red & yellow scarves and sang their song.
And the ultras kept up the noise throughout despite the result.

Legia started well with striker Kucharczyk’s early goal, Korona replied later in the half but then had their goalie dismissed.
Captain Vrdoljak scored from the resulting penalty.

In the second period the visitors kept on top and ran out comfortable winners.

Korona didn’t look like title contenders although they did play with ten men for a large part of the game.

Back at the hotel the vodka was on offer (9zl) so that was hard to resist.

Wisla Krakow 5 Lechia Gdansk 2.

This was a ‘friendly’ match as the respective fans have an amiable ‘partnership’.

The Wisla stadium is expected to be completed next year although delays continue, apparently connected with finance and politics.
Two sides were open and they were well filled.

I’m sure when they pack into four sides it will quite an atmosphere.

After the first twenty minutes of the match you would have expected Lechia to win as they had scored and missed some half chances.

But then Wisla took over scoring five times , including two from the Slovenian Andraz Kim..

Lechia allowed them too much space and paid the penalty.

Back at the hotel I watched some highlights of the other Polish league games.

Zaglebie Lubin 0 Ruch Chorzow 0.

To another newish stadium, this time with orange seats.

The ground was about half full (8,568) with a very noisy contingent from Chorzow.
The home ultras played their part as well.

But the game was generally poor with the teams tending to cancel each other out.

At least the ultras provided good entertainment.

I warmed up by jogging to the bus stop and getting a minibus back to Wroclaw (takes around an hour and a half)

Vodka and crisps to finish.

more pics at http://www.photobox.co.uk/album/528328923

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Brazil September 2010 part 2


Figueirense 1 Brasiliense 0 in Serie B.

The first of two games in Florianopolis - this one at the Orlando Scarpelli stadium on the mainland.
For once it was nice to see a game in the daylight.
The home side are challenging for promotion and their opponents battling against going down to Serie C.
Figueirense’s good form ensured a decent turnout of over 8,000 in mild cloudy weather.

They play in a cosy, medium sized ground with apartment blocks nearby.
The seats, mostly uncovered in uneven blocks, are painted in the club colours (green)

The game itself was watchable with Brasiliense starting well but unable to break through.
Urged on by the home fans Figueirense did better in the second period.

The winner came half way the 2nd half - headed in from a corner.

I took the bus back to the island for some sushi and later, alcohol.


Avai 5 Ceara 0.

I was taking the bus from the centre to the Ressacada stadium when some of the fans got quite impatient with the slow boarding (suggestion - get rid of those ridiculous turnstiles in the buses)

One of them kept shouting at the driver, the bus didn’t move, and eventually the driver had had enough. Fortunately a replacement quickly took over and off we went.

Quite a contrast for this second match in Florianopolis as it rained hard and was quite a lot cooler.
Before the match I visited the Avai trophy room, though nothing like Vasco’s, it did have some very interesting old photos and documents from their past.

The ground comprises two similar stands, part covered with uncovered smaller ends. Half the right end and some of the side were occupied by a reasonable number of away fans.

This time the seats were blue and not too many were filled in the main stand as the wind drove in the rain.
So we stood at the back.

To watch the home side cope much better with the surface water and the uncomfortable conditions
Judging by the lush scenery it rains a lot more in Florianopolis than (say) Fortaleza.

The first two goals were partly due to the atrocious condtions , the second resulting in a penalty.
The fans celebrated by singing ´oop avhay´.

The next three goals were all crackers including two great shots by Jeferson, one right, one left footed.
The scoring ended after 57 minutes.

After that Avai were content to hold Ceara and with about 10 miuntes to go the 4,000 crowd had seen enough, happy with the performance and glad to escape the rain.

I joined them on the bus - this time nobody shouted at the driver.

An early night and a reasonable sleep, helped by some earplugs to muffle the sound of the rain beating on the windows (Brazil eh !)

Parana 0 Sport Recife 2 in Serie B.

From Florianopolis to Curitiba, a five hour bus ride.

Parana play at the Estadio Durival Britto (or Vila Capanema), a stadium that was used during the 1950 World Cup.

Though it is reckoned to be able to hold 20,000 that would seem to be quite a tight squeeze.

Nothing like that number (actually 2,346) turned out on this night with maybe 30 or so from distant Recife.
The home ultras wore their trendy looking white jump suits.

Though one of the cooler evenings on this trip at 15 degrees there was little wind & so it did come as a surprise to see the no.9 for Sport wearing gloves.

For the away team, who had been relegated from the top level last season, it was a reasonably comfortable victory.

The first came from a penalty and the second from a free kick after a Parana defender had blocked a forward run (he would get sent off)

The locals voiced their disapproval and offered some advice as the players disappeared down the tunnel at half time.

During the second period Parana had some half chances but generally struggled.

As I’d found it an awkward walk from downtown to the stadium, being hemmed in by the old railway lines, I opted to take a taxi back to my hotel after the match (and also because the game didn’t finish until a quarter to midnight)

Palmeiras 2 Internacional 0 at the Barueri Arena.

And so to Sao Paulo, or rather Barueri and the very modern Arena.

Where Luiz Felipe Scolari’s Palmeiras played against the Copa Libertadores winners.

In Brazil a 7.30pm kickoff seems to be a tricky time as many were queuing outside.
That and having great difficulty getting a taxi in the notorious local traffic meant I missed the first five minutes of this one.

But once inside the atmosphere was excellent with the Palmeiras fans spread out over three stands generating some good noise.
As you would expect there was a much smaller group from Port Alegre, mostly in the lower tier behind the left hand goal.

Though a relatively new stadium it does have very little cover and many got wet during a rain shower.
Two rocket free kicks from Marcos Assuncao decided the outcome in favour of Palmeiras.

Chilean Jorge Valdivia showed some tricky skills for the home side and he was well applauded when substituted near the end.

Inter ended frustrated and well held.

I disappeared into the Barueri night and happened to meet a couple of guys from my hotel on the way out of the ground. So we shared a taxi back to our hotel and I managed a few words of Portuguese.

Portuguesa 6 Parana 1 in Serie B.

I decided to extend my stay in Sao Paulo for a couple of days to take in this game and especially to see Corinthians on the Saturday.

Portuguesa’s Candide stadium is close to the ‘marginal’ the main highway that leads out towards Guarulhos airport. It is also quite close to the main bus station.

It’s a 20,000 capacity ground with a covered main stand and open seats opposite and curved ends. Not that anywhere near 20,000 attended on this Friday night.

The home ultras had their flag turned upside down.
But they had to be happy with this performance.

Their team went 3-0 up after 30 minutes and held that until half time.
Parana did somewhat better in the second period and managed to get a goal back early in the half.

However in the end Portuguesa stopped any comeback with a fourth and then two late efforts
sealed the victory.

Next time the ultras should display their flag the right way up.

With help from a local I negotiated my way back to the Armenia metro and was back in Avenida Paulista for a caipirinha nightcap by 11.45pm.

Corinthians 2 Avai 2.

Thirteenth and last game of this visit to Brazil.

The Pacaembu stadium has the advantage of being walkable from the western end of Avenida Paulista (Sao Paulo’s most famous street)
I did the journey twice having forgot to bring my camera.
Fortunately I initially left early to go the football museum. That was closed, predictable I guess with a game being played, but it gave me enough time to trek up the hill to my hotel and back again.

It was hot and humid.
Despite the sweat I had that big game feeling as I joined the many Corinthian fans making their way to their historic stadium, it being another that staged games at the 1950 World Cup.

For me any inner city ground is just more atmospheric and that certainly applies to the Pacaembu with apartment blocks nearby and the feeling of an ampitheatre.
Especially when packed with over 30,000 fans.

The ultras groups have their areas around the ground although most of the songs were started by the Gavioes section to the left.

Corinthians are the best supported team in the Brasileiro, especially with Flamengo doing poorly this year.
But amazingly they do not currently have the best home support in Brazilian football as that honour to Santa Clara (over 30,000) in Serie D.
It makes you wonder if there are, or have been, any other countries where the top average attendance is from a team in the fourth level ?

Though many fans wore Ronaldo shirts the man himself didn’t play though another hero Roberto Carlos, now 37, and Edu , ex-Arsenal did start.

Ceara did their best to spoil the afternoon as they broke away to make it 1-0 in the first 15 minutes.
Corinthians were struggling and the fans complained about their finishing and it also didn’t help that title rivals Fluminense were winning.

As some light rain fell Ceara went 2-0 ahead following another breakaway.

It seemed like it wouldn’t be Corinthians match but with 20 minutes remaining Paulinho chipped it over the goalie and with Flu now drawing the mood changed as the noise was cranked up.

The equaliser came from Argentinian substitute Defederico - a left footed free kick from the right that eluded everyone including the Ceara goalie.
Though it was a fairly frantic and very noisy last 10 minutes Corinthians coudln’t fashion a winner.
Nevertheless I was glad I had extended my visit to take in a big match at the Pacaembu.

This and the Vasco match were the only games at which I was given a conventional programme (20 pages in the case of Corinthians) though for some of the other matches there were newspaper style ‘journals’.

After the game I strolled back up the hill and later enjoyed a steak and some wine in an Avenida Paulista restaurant.


So I’d been to some new cities in this vast country.
From the beaches and sunshine of Natal and Fortaleza in the north to the rain of Florianopolis in the south.

Along the way you couldn’t avoid the election activity.

And I saw some excellent games in some fascinating stadiums.


more pictures at http://www.photobox.co.uk/album/510221175

Brazil September 2010 Part 1


Election time in Brazil and you can’t move for pictures of the candidates and people giving out leaflets.
There is a considerable amount of noise, flag waving and fireworks.

Much like the football really.

After an initial overnight stay in Rio I took a flight to Belo Horizonte and then a bus to Sete Lagoas (seven lakes) for Cruzeiros’ match against Guarani.

Cruzeiro 4 Guarani 2.

It was being played in Sete Lagoas, at the Arena do Jacare on the edge of town, because the stadium in Belo Horizonte is being updated for the World Cup.

The ground is of medium size with mostly open seating and, being fairly recently built, without a track.

It made for a good atmosphere.

And the game itself was an excellent, hectic encounter.

Three players stood out - speedy full backs Romulo (Cruzeiro) and Apodi (Guarani) plus Argentinian midfielder Montilla for Cruziero.

Cruzeiro went two nil ahead and then Guarani had a man sent off just before half time.

Although the away side fought back to make it 2-2 Cruzeiro forged ahead in the last fifteen minutes to send the 15,000 fans home to Belo Horizonte, happy.

Also a mention for the mascots, dressed as foxes, one very small, one larger.
Maybe it was just the adrenalin but I found them very entertaining.

I took the bus back to central Sete Lagoas and my hotel by one of the seven lakes.

Back to Rio.

Vasco da Gama 1 Avai 1.

Played in the superb Sao Janaurio.

There is much to admire in the (listed) external architecture and in the detail of a very old, three sided stadium.
And it also contains a mind boggling trophy room with the 1988 Copa Libertadores cup in pride of place near the entrance.

Vasco led , missed a penalty but could only manage a draw after the ten men of Avai equalised following a goalie error.
The home side pressed forward but found Avai difficult to break down, much to the crowd’s frustration.

At the end I jumped in a taxi, passed the ladies of the night and went back via the metro.

From Rio to Natal.

America (RN) 2 Icasa 0 in Serie B.

Surely nobody, now, would build a football stadium like this one - the Machadao in Natal.

It is somewhat like an elongated version of the Ullevi in Gothenburg only with worse sightlines.
Even being in the side, as I was, you are a considerable distance from the action.
Maybe people used to have better eyesight, or binoculars.

All this will change (I assume) when the ground is updated for the World Cup.

Whatever was going on in the next stadium, perhaps a concert, attracted a lot more people than the 1,500 or so that watched this game.

America scored early from a cross but then the visitors did get more play later in the first half.

But soon after the start of the second period the hosts went further ahead after which the away team (again) had a man sent off.
Despite some close efforts from Icasa America held on OK.

I walked back to the main street and got a taxi to the airport ready for my early morning (1.40 am) flight to Fortaleza.

Ceara 1 Goias 1.

From hot and breezy Natal to hot, breezy and noisy (even at 3am) Fortaleza.

Ceara share the Estadio Castelao with Fortaleza and it is a sizeable stadium reminiscent of a smaller version of the Maracana.

This time there was a much bigger crowd (22,000) and the home fans cranked up the noise to drive on their team, at least until they faded in the second half.

If Ceara do get ever close to the title there would be quite an atmosphere in the Castelao.

The home side led after 18 minutes. But Goias began a period of slow probing with some success.
Their possession football frustrated the home crowd.
Then out the blue Wellington Monteiro smashed in the deserved equaliser for 1-1.

The result helped Goias battle against relegation and dented Ceara´s hopes of a high finish in the Brasiliero.

I took a taxi back to the hotel, strolled along the beach market area, ate some ice cream and went to bed.

Brasiliense 0 Coritiba 1 in Serie B.

To Capital Federal.

A place apart, Brasilia.
Do you have a map ? a tourist office ?
No, but I can arrange a city tour.

Instinctively I declined the offer.
Maybe I should have opted for the tour as the city is not really pedestrian friendly, especially in the hot conditions.

Anyway I embarked on a stroll along the ‘Monumental Axis’, one of the widest roads in the world.
Where you can see the ‘architecture of the future’ in a planned city celebrating 50 years as the capital of Brazil.

A world away from this is the suburb of Taguatinga where Brasiliense play.

I took the metro and once there checked with a security guy as to the correct exit for the ground.
He indicated the direction as well signalling that I should try to avoid being shot (I did)

Brasiliense is a very new club having being formed in 2000 and they wear slightly odd looking yellow colours.
They play at the uninviting Serejao, a 30,000 capacity stadium with a covered main stand and typically open seating all around.

In warm, dry conditions a smallish crowd, of about 2,000, turned out including a reasonable number from Curitiba no doubt encouraged by their high league position.

The local ultras provided some amusement with their antics, at least until they began throwing stones at the opposition fans.
Their counterparts, the Coritiba ultras, happened to arrive just before half time just in time to see the winning goal blasted in by the diminutive Rafinha from a left wing cross.
It was a bit hard on Brasiliense.

But Coritiba remained in control, with their goalie especially effective, to stay near the top of Serie B.

I negotiated the walk back and the metro and was back in the centre of Brasilia by midnight.

Goias 1 Atletico Goias 3.

A Goias clasico.

I took the three hour bus ride from Brasilia to Goiania.
And it was a contrast to be back in a typical Brazilian city after the planned expanse of Brasilia.

The Serra Dourada stadium is on a rise above the city.
It is another large elliptical ground with partial cover and a feeling of being well away from the pitch.

It was hot with little wind for this 7.30pm kick off.

Eventually over 11,000 attended with around three quarters of them supporting Goias.

As both teams are struggling at the wrong end of the table this would be a significant result for the ‘visitors’.

Atletico did deserve the win.
They led after Elias rifled in a left footer, got pegged back when Goias scored from a corner,
and then got the win with two second half goals.
This left most of the crowd very frustrated, many of whom drifted away before the finish.
Relegation could well be on the cards for Goias.

A clasico of sorts but probably not the biggest game in Goiania.

I took a taxi back to my ´palace´hotel (one of a number in Goiania) and chilled a little with the locals whilst watching Corinthians on TV.

Return to Rio.

Fluminense 5 Atletico Mineiro 1.

Played in the Engenhao (Botafogo’s ground) because the Maracana is now being prepared for renovation.

I chose the metro and walk option.

It was soon clear as you approached the ground that there was not going to be a big crowd (6,000) even though Flu are near the top.

Conditions were typically warm, dry and humid.

The pitch was showing signs of wear which is likely to get worse with the extra usage.

The Engenhao seems a lot more modern (European style) after seeing the other stadiums on this trip with its stylish roof, larger sides and small ends.

The Flu fans were at the left hand end and in the side and given their numbers they did produce plenty of noise.
Obviously the performance helped as did the sending off of two players from Atletico.

Fluminense, with Deco in their team, scored first after which Atletico equalised from a free kick and that was the high point for the visitors.

Carlinhos shot in from the left, the headline writers´dream, Gum, headed in for the third before Carlinhos got his second. Substitute Marquinho chipped in the final goal.

It was convincing enough but a harsh scoreline for the visitors.


more pictures at http://www.photobox.co.uk/album/510221175
Election time in Brazil and you can’t move for pictures of the candidates and people giving out leaflets.
ere is a considerable amount of noise, flag waving and fireworks.
the football really.



After an initial overnight stay in Rio I took a flight to Belo Horizonte and then a bus to Sete Lagoas (seven lakes) for Cruzeiros’ match against Guarani.

Cruzeiro 4 Guarani 2.

It was being played in Sete Lagoas, at the Arena do Jacare on the edge of town, because the stadium in Belo Horizonte is being updated for the World Cup.
The ground is of medium size with mostly open seating and, being fairly recently built, without a track.
It made for a good atmosphere.

And the game itself was an excellent, hectic encounter.

Three players stood out - speedy full backs Romulo (Cruzeiro) and Apodi (Guarani) plus Argentinian midfielder Montilla for Cruziero.

Cruzeiro went two nil ahead and then Guarani had a man sent off just before half time.

Although the away side fought back to make it 2-2 Cruzeiro forged ahead in the last fifteen minutes to send the 15,000 fans home to Belo Horizonte, happy.

Also a mention for the mascots, dressed as foxes, one very small, one larger.
Maybe it was just the adrenalin but I found them very entertaining.

I took the bus back to central Sete Lagoas and my hotel by one of the seven lakes.

Back to Rio.

Vasco da Gama 1 Avai 1.

Played in the superb Sao Janaurio.

There is much to admire in the (listed) external architecture and in the detail of a very old, three sided stadium.
And it also contains a mind boggling trophy room with the 1988 Copa Libertadores cup in pride of place near the entrance.

Vasco led , missed a penalty but could only manage a draw after the ten men of Avai equalised following a goalie error.
The home side pressed forward but found Avai difficult to break down, much to the crowd’s frustration.

At the end I jumped in a taxi, passed the ladies of the night and went back via the metro.

From Rio to Natal.

America (RN) 2 Icasa 0 in Serie B.

Surely nobody, now, would build a football stadium like this one - the Machadao in Natal.

It is somewhat like an elongated version of the Ullevi in Gothenburg only with worse sightlines.
Even being in the side, as I was, you are a considerable distance from the action.
Maybe people used to have better eyesight, or binoculars.

All this will change (I assume) when the ground is updated for the World Cup.

Whatever was going on in the next stadium, perhaps a concert, attracted a lot more people than the 1,500 or so that watched this game.

America scored early from a cross but then the visitors did get more play later in the first half.

But soon after the start of the second period the hosts went further ahead after which the away team (again) had a man sent off.
Despite some close efforts from Icasa America held on OK.

I walked back to the main street and got a taxi to the airport ready for my early morning (1.40 am) flight to Fortaleza.

Ceara 1 Goias 1.

From hot and breezy Natal to hot, breezy and noisy (even at 3am) Fortaleza.

Ceara share the Estadio Castelao with Fortaleza and it is a sizeable stadium reminiscent of a smaller version of the Maracana.

This time there was a much bigger crowd (22,000) and the home fans cranked up the noise to drive on their team, at least until they faded in the second half.

If Ceara do get ever close to the title there would be quite an atmosphere in the Castelao.

The home side led after 18 minutes. But Goias began a period of slow probing with some success.
Their possession football frustrated the home crowd.
Then out the blue Wellington Monteiro smashed in the deserved equaliser for 1-1.

The result helped Goias battle against relegation and dented Ceara´s hopes of a high finish in the Brasiliero.

I took a taxi back to the hotel, strolled along the beach market area, ate some ice cream and went to bed.

Brasiliense 0 Coritiba 1 in Serie B.

To Capital Federal.

A place apart, Brasilia.
Do you have a map ? a tourist office ?
No, but I can arrange a city tour.

Instinctively I declined the offer.
Maybe I should have opted for the tour as the city is not really pedestrian friendly, especially in the hot conditions.

Anyway I embarked on a stroll along the ‘Monumental Axis’, one of the widest roads in the world.
Where you can see the ‘architecture of the future’ in a planned city celebrating 50 years as the capital of Brazil.

A world away from this is the suburb of Taguatinga where Brasiliense play.

I took the metro and once there checked with a security guy as to the correct exit for the ground.
He indicated the direction as well signalling that I should try to avoid being shot (I did)

Brasiliense is a very new club having being formed in 2000 and they wear slightly odd looking yellow colours.
They play at the uninviting Serejao, a 30,000 capacity stadium with a covered main stand and typically open seating all around.

In warm, dry conditions a smallish crowd, of about 2,000, turned out including a reasonable number from Curitiba no doubt encouraged by their high league position.

The local ultras provided some amusement with their antics, at least until they began throwing stones at the opposition fans.
Their counterparts, the Coritiba ultras, happened to arrive just before half time just in time to see the winning goal blasted in by the diminutive Rafinha from a left wing cross.
It was a bit hard on Brasiliense.

But Coritiba remained in control, with their goalie especially effective, to stay near the top of Serie B.

I negotiated the walk back and the metro and was back in the centre of Brasilia by midnight.

Goias 1 Atletico Goias 3.

A Goias clasico.

I took the three hour bus ride from Brasilia to Goiania.
And it was a contrast to be back in a typical Brazilian city after the planned expanse of Brasilia.

The Serra Dourada stadium is on a rise above the city.
It is another large elliptical ground with partial cover and a feeling of being well away from the pitch.

It was hot with little wind for this 7.30pm kick off.

Eventually over 11,000 attended with around three quarters of them supporting Goias.

As both teams are struggling at the wrong end of the table this would be a significant result for the ‘visitors’.

Atletico did deserve the win.
They led after Elias rifled in a left footer, got pegged back when Goias scored from a corner,
and then got the win with two second half goals.
This left most of the crowd very frustrated, many of whom drifted away before the finish.
Relegation could well be on the cards for Goias.

A clasico of sorts but probably not the biggest game in Goiania.

I took a taxi back to my ´palace´hotel (one of a number in Goiania) and chilled a little with the locals whilst watching Corinthians on TV.

Return to Rio.

Fluminense 5 Atletico Mineiro 1.

Played in the Engenhao (Botafogo’s ground) because the Maracana is now being prepared for renovation.

I chose the metro and walk option.

It was soon clear as you approached the ground that there was not going to be a big crowd (6,000) even though Flu are near the top.

Conditions were typically warm, dry and humid.

The pitch was showing signs of wear which is likely to get worse with the extra usage.

The Engenhao seems a lot more modern (European style) after seeing the other stadiums on this trip with its stylish roof, larger sides and small ends.

The Flu fans were at the left hand end and in the side and given their numbers they did produce plenty of noise.
Obviously the performance helped as did the sending off of two players from Atletico.

Fluminense, with Deco in their team, scored first after which Atletico equalised from a free kick and that was the high point for the visitors.

Carlinhos shot in from the left, the headline writers´dream, Gum, headed in for the third before Carlinhos got his second. Substitute Marquinho chipped in the final goal.

It was convincing enough but a harsh scoreline for the visitors.



more pictures at http://www.photobox.co.uk/album/510221175

Friday, September 10, 2010

Switzerland v England in Basel September 2010


Switzerland 1 England 3 in Basel, September 2010.

Enter Shaqiri.

Getting in to the stadium, later than usual, was like the old days with lots of pushing and shoving in the teeming rain.
Beforehand the Swiss waved their flags and some of our lot shook the fencing behind the goal.

Meanwhile the England team were excellent and well in control in the first half though somewhat less secure in the second period.

For goalie Hart it was more of a test and he looked nervy for a time but survived.
Not many would have stopped Shaqiri’s superb left foot effort even though Hart was unprepared for that quality of shot.

Both full backs made significant contributions to the victory.
Glen Johnson made the first goal for Rooney and Ashley Cole, who was a consistent threat, provided the pass for substitute Darren Bent to score England’s clinching third goal.

Milner, who didn’t have his best game, did force Lichtsteiner to be sent off thus making the game more open.

Though the home side did develop some pressure they left gaps at the back and another sub, Adam Johnson, rounded the goalkeeper for our second goal. He looks the part.

So perhaps a surprisingly easy away win although there were lessons to be learnt for some of the less experienced players.

At the end the rain had stopped and I took a tram back to the centre of Basel and another one to the French border from where I could walk across to my hotel for a nightcap.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Sweden August 2010


Gefle IF 3 Mjallby AIF 3

End to End.

The first of three games in the Swedish Premier.

It was cloudy, overcast but mild in Gavle, 100km north of Uppsala.

Gefle were second from bottom and Mjallby were 5th before this 20th league game of the season.

The match was played on an artificial pitch, watched by a small contingent of away fans and over 5,000 locals

The ground has open temporary seats/standing at each end with more open seating along the side.
And there is an old style main stand complete with numerous posts providing nostalgia but with an obscured view.

The game itself was a great watch with plenty of open play and goalmouth action.

Moroccan Mostapha El Kadir scored two in the first period for Mjallby who had better possession and looked well placed to win.

But Gefle improved in the second half with Jakob Orlov also getting a double helping them into a 3-2 lead.

That is until the last minutes of added time when a free kick reaches Robledo and he scores from close range to make it 3-3.

I drove back to my hotel in Uppsala via the (royal) burial grounds of Old Uppsala.


Kalmar FF 1 Atvidabergs FF 2

Deserved.

A valuable win for bottom team Atvidabergs.

The current Kalmar stadium is quaint, with two medium sized stands and 5 smaller temporary areas at either end.
One section of temporary standing housed the 50 or so away fans.

Again it was mild but overcast with rain earlier in the day.

This time the game was played on a real grass pitch which looked in good condition.

But it didn't help as the first half entertainment was only moderate with few shots and both sides struggled for rhythm.

Al least it got better after the break especially for the visitors who went ahead from a Moberg header.

Brazilian Sobralense smashed in the equaliser but Atvidabergs kept attacking and Moller shot in the winner with 15 minutes remaining.

Kalmar underperformed despite the urging of captain Henrik Rydstrom (all shaven head and wrist bands) and the oldest cheerleader I've ever seen.

Sushi on the way home and Lord of the Rings on TV.


Orebro SK 1 AIK 0

Undeserved.

A bigger crowd in a more modern stadium, an arena no less.

And a very vociferous group of fans supporting AIK.

They kept up the noise throughout as their team, surprisingly near the foot of the table, held the home side reasonably comfortably.

Until the very last minute of injury time when Bosnian Gerzic clipped a free kick over the wall for the winner.

It was very hard on AIK for whom Bangoura was prominent.

Surely they can't be relegated ?


more pictures at http://www.photobox.co.uk/album/465171668